Smaller retailers offer fantastic rug opportunities
Lissa Wyman -- Furniture Today, August 19, 2013
Everyone likes to aspire to bigger and better things. But sometimes you can get killed if you try to be the heavyweight champ when you're only a lightweight.
Top rug vendors have the resources to have a large design staff, develop products from the world's top licensing partners, ship directly from Chinese or Indian manufacturers to the stores' warehouses, drop ship to individual customers and dominate the rug business of Top 100 Furniture Stores and other big retailers.
There are perhaps 25 to 30 rug vendors who can do this successfully. Yet there are some 200 to 300 viable rug vendors operating in the U.S.
Some of the rug kids are fighting to get more market share and slap around the current big boys. But many of the smaller vendors or are whining about how there aren't any more fine rug stores, how the business has changed and blah-blah-boo-hoo. "There are too many markets!" they cry. "We can't afford the showrooms!"
But I haven't seen a lot of these moaners trying to change the way they do business. They just shake their heads and say, "The business has changed."
Let's face it, business ALWAYS changes. But there is still a vibrant retail scene that offers the rug industry fantastic opportunities.
It's true that the big-ass stores of all types dominate the retail market. But there are still lots of stores out that can be good, profitable partners. It's just not the same type of partners we were with for so many years.
According to The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, in 2010 there were 52,686 furniture and home furnishings stores in the U.S. and 12,312 floor covering and rug stores. There were also 25,783 gift, novelty and souvenir stores. What a super opportunity!
If this divergent rug industry is to survive, the smaller vendors must ride with smaller independent furniture and home stores. So if smaller suppliers give their best to the smaller stores, it could be a match made in heaven. Everybody could be happy and profitable.
After all, independent home furnishings and gift stores are probably not too thrilled with the dominance of the big stores and want unique products that can set them apart.
The small vendors understand how to send rugs out on a one-of-a kind basis (we call them onesies and a lot of big vendors sneer at them). They know that not every store wants a boatload of rugs dumped in its back yard. Small vendors like to get paid using cash, a factor or even a credit card. They don't understand mysterious charge-backs from big stores. Smaller vendors love to see their husband-and-wife customers at market and they often get to know them and their families.
It can be a good life, and it's not too different from the "old days." Only the friendly faces are different.