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ABC Carpet Execs Unpack Strategies for Flagship, Omni Channel & Rugs: Part 1

ABC'S new flooring execs, Eileen Applebaum and Haynes Robinson, discuss iconic retailer's metamorphosis.

Lisa Vincenti
portrait of two ABC executives

NEW YORK -- As New York's iconic retailer ABC Carpet & Home readies for a public unveiling of its revamped flagship this spring, RugNews.com sits down with the executives charged with ushering the company's rug and carpet strategy into the 21st century. 

Named to their new posts at ABC last summer, Eileen Applebaum, senior vice president and general manager, carpet and rugs, and Haynes Robinson, senior vice president of product design and development, carpet and rugs, share their big plans -- not only for ABC's third floor rug and carpet department, but also its e-commerce strategy and plans to grow its to-the-trade and B2B businesses.

ABC Carpet & Home's flagship location at 888 Broadway is getting an update, expected to be complete sometime this spring.

The two, who report to CEO Aaron Rose, have deep roots in the floor covering world, including merchandising, sourcing and store operations. They met with RugNews.com to share their vision for transforming the company's 25,000 square foot third floor carpet and rug department, and also ABC's overall plans for its iconic Flatiron location at 888 Broadway, which is slated to undergo a final "metamorphosis" -- as the company has dubbed its revamping strategy which is expected to be completed in May.

In this exclusive three-part series, RugNews.com lays out ABC Carpet & Home's fine-tuned strategy for its physical stores, online presence, area rugs and its custom and design business. 

Next to the new elevator bank on the main floor, ABC Carpet showcases its signature rug style of colorful, hand-crafted area rugs.
The past several years have been fraught with change at the New York home retailer as it consolidated its operations, closing its space across the street at 881 Broadway, and shuttering its Bronx warehouse along with its Delray Beach, Florida, store. In addition, in 2018, the company sold four of its six floors at 888 Broadway, further shrinking its overall footprint to about 80,000 square feet in that building. 

For Applebaum and Robinson those changes translated to selling off an inventory of tens of thousands or area rugs to ready the third floor for their new vision of the rug and carpet business, one more in tune with modern shopping habits and tastes.

"No one anticipated how long it would take to move through that amount of inventory into a single location," Applebaum said. "It wasn't until we could clear out the inventory that we could plan out the renovation."

Adds Robinson, "We are in the middle of the Metamorphosis, it's continuing -- we started with an inventory from the Bronx, 881 and 888 Broadway, and Florida, and ran that inventory down because everything had to come into this building or our Brooklyn showroom. So we have been sifting through it."

The final result of that effort will be a renewed focus on what has become the brand's legacy in the carpet and rug business as a source for unexpected, artisanal hand-made pieces featuring the company's eclectic take. 

But it's more than that, Applebaum and Robinson, along with owner Paulette Cole and Aaron Rose, are setting the stage at ABC Carpet hoping to offer customers a more engaging experience, one that merges customer engagement and experiential shopping that is dubbed retail theater.

Above, the company's third floor rug department is set for an overhaul, which includes adding a staircase to the mezzanine. 

"There was a perception in the marketplace that it wasn't clear what was happening with ABC," Applebaum explained. "This metamorphosis really is reflective of what is happening ... what was really this dormancy of new voices and old voices partnering together to keep what is wonderful and amazing about this iconic brand and how to use modern technology in a way we never have -- of updating the physical space and activating e-commerce, and growing new pieces of the business but retaining the DNA and ethos of the brand that is known not only in New York but worldwide. So it has been an incubation period, planning all that out and now executing it."

ABC's 888 Broadway location reflects a smaller footprint that will be remodeled in the coming months.
The company's plans for its entire Broadway store are to amp up the customer experience through inspiring vignettes and products, and special experiences that can't be found anywhere else.

"We have 14,000 rugs and every single one of them has this unbelievable story," Applebaum said. "So how do we amplify that story through video, photography, copy? We are looking at VR, we are looking at so many different ways we can take the brand to a whole new audience nationally and re-engage the customer in New York, who has been wondering what's happening at ABC."

The goal is to inject the entire store, along with its website, with renewed energy that includes small touches such as music, and special experimental types of events from food and drinks to discussions with ABC's experts. "We want to engage customers and to make this a sensory experience and a story telling experience from when they walk in the door," Haynes explained.

ABC Carpet & Home plans for a complete overhaul of its 888 Broadway location, that will still offer its sense of discovery and the unexpected.
ABC Carpet's main entry to its Flatiron District store in New York City will get a make over as part of the store's renovation.


Part of that new focus is modernizing the company's technological capabilities, including a complete relaunch of the company's website in an effort to boost online sales and grow the company's reach, but to do so in a way that more closely aligns to the physical store.

"There was a lot of physical stuff that had to be done with the business," Robinson explained. "The brand is great, the product is great and what ABC represents in the market is a very unique artisanal culture and the support of artisans, and the way we do that is has a very specific place, an important place, in the market. But the systems to bring the company into the 21st century and to keep it as an ongoing concern are partly about structurally updating the company, from the physical space all the way to the IT infrastructure; the website and the whole online experience, which is so critical now to scaling companies.

"We have this great iconic flagship location and now are really developing the tools to create that experience you have in the physical store in the online world," Robinson continued. "We have the storytelling and the content: just by just doing what we do as a company, by developing product and by going out and working with these artisans, there is so much content, and in a lot of ways the online content will allow people to go deeper and go to go back into the supply chain to really see how ABC does what it does. That is entertaining and commerce all at the same time. It will be taking what we have here on the floor and translating that to the online world... It's "theatail" -- entertainment and shopping at the same time."

ABC Carpet & Home's Metamorphosis, symbolized by this butterfly graphic, includes selling off thousands of rugs, tweaking its assortment and re-launching its website.
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