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Retail, To The Trade

ABC Carpet Execs Unpack Strategies for Flagship, Omni Channel & Rugs: Part 3

Eyes growing its B2B and to-the-trade segments.

By Lisa Vincenti
2/23/2020
NEW YORK -- In this special three-part series, ABC Home's recently hired Eileen Applebaum and Haynes Robinson share their plans for refining the company's approach to area rugs and carpets. The pair have been working on an overhaul of not only the company's area rug strategy, but its custom, broadloom and wall-to-to wall categories as well.
 
Hired last summer to usher ABC's area rug and carpet assortment into the 21st century, Applebaum, senior vice president and general manager, and Robinson, senior vice president of product design and development, sit down with RugNews.com to discuss their strategies.
 
"When other retailers are going with 'safe', our homework assignment is to do the exact opposite." -- Eileen Applebaum, senior VP and general manager, carpet & rugs

In Part 3, we dive deep into the retailer's plan to focus on and re-invigorate its custom experience and growing its to-the-trade and B2B business.

A CUSTOM EXPERIENCE
 
ABC plans a complete makeover of its broadloom and custom departments, now located in a corner of the Broadway store's current third floor.

While the third floor currently has a dedicated carpet and broadloom department located in a corner accessed by a short flight of stairs down from the main floor, Applebaum and Robinson are reworking the space just outside the custom area and moving broadloom choices closer to the main rug assortment. "The trade space is going to be ABC's version of a trade showroom, so we are going to rework the area. We don't want it to feel like you went into a D&D [building] showroom, but instead like an ABC custom experience that will be a unique, a little bit more relaxed," Robinson said.

Noted Applebaum: "That incorporates surprise and delight -- to have more installations and to offer a bit more storytelling than a static swatch-like gallery."

The custom department at 888 Broadway is getting completely redone to offer designers and B2B customers a more inspiring shopping experience.
 
The company has thousands of custom options and wall-to-wall carpet choices, all of which will be re-merchandised and the assortment refined as part of the store's re-design. ABC's deep library of samples and swatches will constantly be rotated in the store to keep it fresh. "Even our broadloom assortment needs a face lift and we are going to start broadloom closer to the main floor to pick up more traffic. There will be a visual break into a new zone of the showroom where we house our custom products, which include carpet and custom rugs," Applebaum said.
 
Robinson added, "What is unique about ABC is that before you get back here to the custom area you are inspired by all the incredible one-of-a-kinds and the finds we produce. We want the designers and B2B clients to get inspired -- we are very good at taking that product and re-engineering it for a proper price point, proper application for a large project -- be it a large hotel, The Beekman, Four Seasons or Soho House. They come to us for this look and we make this look at the right price point for the right application."
 
ABC was recently tapped by the award-winning Beekman Hotel in NYC to supply all of the boutique hotel's rugs and carpets.

Because of its broad base of manufacturers, ABC is also able to translate any of its newly made one of a kinds to wall to wall carpet. "It's actually a very interesting niche that we are hoping to capture," Applebaum said. "We are attached to a retail store that is filled to the brim with gorgeous rugs, and if someone likes any of those designs, if it's newly made, we can duplicate it in production and install it as wall to wall. We can even replicate antiques. We have an unbelievable resource of manufacturers that we do retail business with, and can use that expertise."

EYE ON DESIGN BUSINESS
 
Since its inception, ABC has focused on brick and mortar sales, which account for the majority of its revenues, with around 80 percent to 90 percent of sales generated through its physical locations. The online component and its B2B and trade reach were a small, passive side business. "Previously we were always a retail store -- first and foremost our main channel of business," Applebaum said. "We are in the process of activating those other channels in a much more dynamic way, all while making sure we are taking very good care of the retail customer and not confusing our message to them. We are trying to find very distinct lanes to operate in that complement each other and are not in conflict."

A waterfall of custom swatches available through ABC's custom division, which will be adding a new online trade portal as part of the revamped program.

To that end, ABC is currently mapping out its B2B and trade approach, and how to directly target those market segments. "We are really formalizing our program around the design trade and how they should access the inventory here at ABC," she said. "There never has been a formal to-the-trade program at ABC and that is part pf what we are putting together now. We're letting the trade know that they are welcome and there will be advantages to working with us." Part of the trade strategy includes the launch of a to-the-trade portal on the company's website, which is expected to come online within the next few weeks.

"Historically and today, a very small portion of our business has been online. The website was used as a view into and teaser to come into the store. Now we are launching a new platform with improved functionality, and the content will be much more engaging with better photography and stories," Applebaum said."You come to ABC for color, unique, inspiration -- everybody comes here for inspiration. We want the designers to feel that way -- we want them to come here, and to really engage them." 

Applebaum anticipates a scenario where designers are called up and invited to come in to see the newest samples collected by Robinson after trips to ABC's partners in places including Nepal, Pakistan and India.

TAKING RISK

ABC's custom capabilities tap its global resources to create hand-made carpet and broadloom solutions for designers.

"One of the directives from our CEO is to create original product for ABC and that is one of the reasons I am here," Robinson said. "We want to continue that and expand upon it in a really deep, meaningful way to bring new looks to the market."

Applebaum continued, "When other retailers are going with 'safe', our homework assignment is to do the exact opposite of that -- to not be safe. Yes we make smart strategic choices, but ABC's DNA is always about surprise -- pushing the edge and pushing the customer where they haven't gone before -- to be a leader in design and development.

"We want everyone to fall in love with the product as much as we love it," Applebaum said. "We are going to share our passion of what we love and that is the process of making beautiful things."

"And, engaging the space in a really meaningful way," Robinson said of the upcoming finished store renovation and product. "Customers should expect an experience full of that search and find, the discovery aspect of ABC that everyone loves."

* Make sure you don't miss, Part 1, Retail Revamp, and Part 2, Rug Reform
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