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11302017 Tapis Decor Scores Big Selling Rugs and Furniture to Designers

By Jessica Harlan

Jacqueline Cox of trade-only showroom, Tapis Décor, delivers a curated selection of rugs and home furnishings, along with top-notch service to Minneapolis designers.

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's no easy feat to take the reins of an established and well-respected business, but Jacqueline Cox has done so with aplomb, taking the helm at high-end rug and carpet showroom Weskuske in 2008, and transforming it into Tapis Décor, a thriving designer source for floor coverings and home furnishings.

Coming off two straight years of 26 percent sales growth, Cox sits down with and outlines strategies for product selection and merchandising that differentiate Tapis Décor in the marketplace. She also shares a commitment to customer service that has distinguished the company for decades, and was key to her successful expansion into total home. 

The floor covering division of Tapis Decor is housed in the original Minneapolis Design Center space occupied by rug dealership Weskuske for decades.

Cox started working as a salesperson for Wes Kuske's eponymous rug dealership, Weskuske, in 1999. The company was already about 25 years old at that point, and its showroom in International Market Square (Minneapolis' design center), was one of the first high-end carpet and rug showrooms in the Twin Cities. 

Kuske was, and still is, a well-known figure in the Minneapolis design scene, and mentored many of his staff members to go on and start their own businesses.
Cox also became his protégé, but instead of striking out on her own, she ended up taking over the business, purchasing it in 2008 as Kuske retired. "It was a natural transition for everyone in the industry," recalls Cox. 

Tapis Decor showcases rugs merchandised with furniture in a 3,600-foot to-the-trade showroom across the hall from its floor covering showroom.

Gradually, she began to put her own spin on Weskuske. She was interested in expanding into furniture and other home accessories, and in 2012, when she saw a showroom space open up across the hall she jumped at the chance to take it over. She headed straight to High Point Market and ordered case goods, upholstery, accent furniture, lighting, and decorative accessories to fill the space. At the same time, she rebranded everything to Tapis Décor. The name reflects the dual offerings of the company: Tapis is French for carpet. 

Transitional rugs sell best at Minneapolis-based Tapis Decor, and are displayed throughout the furniture and home accent showroom to create inspirational settings.

Commitment To-the-Trade

During the transition, Cox briefly considered opening a retail storefront instead of continuing to work solely with design professionals. After weighing the pros and cons, she didn't make the move. "One of the biggest driving factors was that the trade industry is a very relationship-based industry. I like that. It becomes shorthand -- I get to know their style, they get to know us and what we do.

"There's also less trial and error, less education. With consumer retail, you're educating someone every single time they walk through the door."

Rugs hand-picked to suit the tastes of Tapis Decor's designer clientele anchor settings of furniture, which now comprises 35% of the company's business.  

Cox prefers instead to immerse herself into building relationships with her designer clients, thinking long-term repeat business rather than just about a single sale. She is well-known for her sense of color, and she often will accompany designers to the project to evaluate the quality of light and other factors in order to find just the right area rug to fit the space. Her all-women staff has been trained by Cox herself, and shares her focus on developing relationships and unparalleled customer service.

The Right Mix

Today, broadloom carpet and area rugs still comprise the majority of the company's offerings, while roughly 35 percent is devoted to furniture and accessories. The original 1,700-square-foot showroom houses the floorcovering division. Area rugs are displayed in stacks, on walls and racks, while broadloom carpet is on swinging wings. 

At the Tapis Decor floorcovering showroom, designers have access to mid-to-high-end rugs and broadloom and lots of custom options.

Across the hall, the 3,600-foot furniture showroom is laid out in vignettes, complete with area rugs to finish the look. Typically, a few pieces of furniture are also brought into the floorcovering showroom for a vignette there as well. Cox prides herself on making her showrooms a welcoming setting. From the flattering lighting to the paint on the walls, the furniture and floorcoverings showroom have a bright, airy feel. 

Focus on Mid- to High-End

Cox still adheres to Kuske's original focus on mid- to high-end, handmade or hand-knotted area rugs, custom options, and predominantly wool carpet.
 "We've tried machine-made area rugs, but our client base, being interior designers, isn't coming to us looking for those kinds of carpets," says Cox. "If there's a need for it, we have it, but we don't stock anything that's machine made, and we don't feature it first. You have to distinguish yourself as your brand, and I want to make sure our brand stays mid- to high-end."

A choice of rug styles and colors emphasizes the range of options available to designers at Tapis Decor.

Nearly everything is private label. "The only brands we [promote] are ones that are higher end and have limited distribution, including Rosecore Carpet, Glenn Carpet. Co., and Savnik & Company,' notes Cox. When it comes to design, she says, "I'm picky at what I choose. I don't have a problem dropping a line that is not working for me."

What does work, however, is an emphasis on transitional designs, with a dabbling of both traditional and contemporary. Clients know, though, that if they don't see what they're looking for, it's likely that Cox can source a specific look from one of her suppliers, or make a custom rug to order through either the manufacturer, or a local workroom that she often relies on.

Differentiation in the marketplace comes from Tapis Decor's unique knowledge of trends in color and design.

Custom and Quick Ship

With the increase in interest in custom cut and sew orders, Cox has been appreciative of the improved delivery rates that many manufacturers are capable of. "Some of them are turning them around in a week and shipping them out," she marvels. "It's really good compared to what it used to be."

This sort of service is something that Cox has come to look for in a vendor. As she sees a change in the expectations of consumers, who want to receive their rugs as soon as possible, Cox particularly likes vendors who maintain deeper inventories and have state-of-the-art logistics to facilitate quick shipping.

A sophisticated designer studio ambiance features swatches as well as merchandise at Minneapolis-based trade-only showroom Tapis Decor.

Future Goals

Looking forward, Cox hopes to maintain the upward trajectory her sales have enjoyed since last year (company annual sales were not disclosed). In 2016 she saw around a 26 percent jump in sales, and was able to maintain that this year. To keep sales strong, she's hoping to bring in an outside salesperson who can help reach new clients. 

She also wants to update her digital presence, upgrading her equipment and technology so that designers and consumers can more easily find the products they're seeking, print tear sheets, and access other resources. And, of course, she'll continue providing the high-quality products and service that her clients have come to expect.

Luxurious settings add to the appeal at Tapis Decor.
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