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Retail

Flooring Retailers Expect Industry Surge to Continue in 2021

As retailers and manufacturers adjust to the COVID pandemic and changes in consumer buying, they anticipate sales of flooring products to continue to boom, following a year of surprises.

RugNews.com Editors
3/11/2021
collage of portraits of retail executives
Retail executives, from top left, clockwise: Gerry Yost, David Mink, Phil Koufidakis, Miriam Thompson, Rick Myers, Sam Presnell and Igor Yakovenko
 
SPECIAL REPORT -- With millions of Americans spending time at home, the demand for spaces that are inviting and capture the personality of the homeowner has risen dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic, and flooring executives, captured somewhat off guard initially by the boom in demand, expect the appetite for carpets and area rugs to continue to boom in 2021.

But it is not just about comfort and aesthetics. The added benefit of sound absorption -- which is becoming almost a necessity for people with home offices -- has been a catalyst for soft surfaces' rise, especially area rugs. 

In fact, sales of rugs -- including fabricated -- grew more than 10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to industry estimates, and that momentum has continued into the first quarter of 2021. What's more surveyed area rug and flooring retailers confirmed that the appetite for product took hold last summer and appears to show few signs of abating.

In fact, even retailers such as department stores, which had been struggling in recent years to compete with online retailers well before the pandemic struck, have seen that have seen sales of area rugs grow.


David Mink, CEO of Kenneth L. Mink & Sons, which manages the operations of Macy's Fine Rug Gallery, says business has been strong.

"Overall business has been strong and I expect that to continue through the upcoming months," David Mink, CEO of Kenneth L. Mink & Sons, which manages the operations of Macy's Fine Rug Gallery told RugNews.com in an exclusive interview. "With more and more people working and spending time at home, the more they are spending on their home. This is a benefit to the rug business."

Mink said that all price points sold well across the board, ranging from $999 to $2,499 in 8x11, with more modern and casual styles in grays and blues at the top of the list. "More and more of our business has shifted to machine-made, especially some of the higher end constructions coming out of Turkey and Egypt.

Mink, who plans to attend the August edition of Las Vegas Market, does however expect the surge in the home furnishings sales to taper off once people feel comfortable traveling and going away on vacation. "We will see a slowdown from what we have experienced over the course of the last year."

CONSUMERS HEAD TO STORES TO TOUCH & FEEL RUGS 


Phil Koufidakis, president of Baker Bros, saw rug sales pick up in the beginning of 2021, a trend that will continue.

At Arizona area rug and flooring retailer Baker Bros., which operates seven locations in the state, fall business was strong, President Phil Koufidakis told RugNews.com. "The fastest growing segment continues to be luxury vinyl plank. Area rugs lagged behind the rest of the flooring business for the fall, but that seems to have changed so far in 2021 and we are seeing a nice increase in rug sales with a strong double digit increase over same time last year," he said, adding that the company's top selling price category ranges from $799 to $1,299 and it's best-selling size today is 8x11. In addition, consumers have been moving back toward traditional looks in quality rugs during the past few months.

"The rug business will continue to be strong through 2021. We see area rugs as a strong sought after category, as this is an easy way to update a home and usually follows behind full flooring remodels." Koufidakis noted that clients are happy to be visit the store where they can not only look at area rugs but also feel them and quite often purchase them on the spot. "Having the inventory we do definitely makes the sale process just-in-time rewarding for the customer. Our customers really want that touchy feely experience."


Airbase Carpet & Tile's Igor Yakovenko reports that carpet and rug sales are up and expects more buyers to shop in stores during 2021.

The experience across the country at Mid-Atlantic flooring superstore Airbase Carpet & Tile Mart, based in New Castle, Delaware, has been similar to Baker Bros. At this chain of twelve locations, all categories of flooring took off mid-summer last year as people looked to spruce up their spaces, reports Igor Yakovenko. "Spring and early summer were definitely tough but around mid-July everything came back and started rocking again and we haven't stopped since."

While luxury vinyl tile continues to lead sales, carpets performed well in 2020, as did area rugs, which account for between 10 percent to 15 percent of annual revenues. "LVT blows all the doors off still, but carpet was very good too," he explained. "Rugs, through the initial downturn last year, were down quite a bit and we came out very strong in Q3 and Q4."

Yakovenko said that the company's best-selling price range is from $249-$349 in 5x8 and that his buyers are seeking mid-priced machine-mades that are fresh and going to last. "Our customers have expectations and they want area rugs to be reasonably priced, that will hold up and clean up."

What's more, he adds that many customers who stop by the store to shop area rugs have been dissatisfied with the quality of a past online rug purchases and now prefer to see product in person and feel it.


WFH HERE TO STAY FOR MANY


Miriam Thompson, co-owner of The Rug Rack,  has benefited from the Work From Home (WFH) trend with clients investing in those spaces.

Miriam Thompson, co-owner of The Rug Rack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said that during the early stages of the pandemic she started seeing an increase in home decorating, a trend that has picked up steam. "Rugs are being purchased for home offices and these have been more upscale in style design and price point," she said. "We have also been told by several clients purchasing these types of rugs that they will not be returning to their office outside the home."

That sentiment was echoed by other executives who suggest the work-from-home (WFH) movement is more than just a trend -- but a longer-term solution. They see sales of carpet and rugs continuing because soft surfaces provide sound absorption, which is critical in active households where home offices have been set up. 

Executives agreed that working from home and using video conferencing has proved to be a winning formula for rug sales as scores of people have set up offices in a bedroom so that it will be quiet enough to keep background distractions to a minimum. In many instances, bound rugs have provided a good solution to setting up a home office over a hard surface floor.

While there is no hard evidence on how many people are working from home, studies say it is working. According to McKinsey research, 80 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home, while 41 percent say that they are more productive than they had been before, and 28 percent that they are as productive.


Sam Presnell, the owner of Ohio-based The Rug Gallery, expects rug sales to keep trending up in 2021.

Sam Presnell, owner of The Rug Gallery, Cincinnati, said he knows the work-from-home trend is alive and well because "our downtown is like a ghost town. At the same time, he added, "our business has been rolling lately. The big issue is the weather, but I am feeling very positive about this month [February]."
 
Other flooring retailers acknowledge that while their overall business has been good, the biggest surprise has been their soft surface sales.


Rick Myers of Myers Carpet Company said that September 2020 set an all time business record.
 
"Our September was the best single written business month of floor covering sales in our 63-year history,” said Rick Myers, owner of Myers Carpet Company, with three stores. "In my opinion, the fact that families have been confined to their homes because of the coronavirus, they took the time to look around and they invested in carpet/rugs, and other home improvements."


Avalon Flooring's Gerry Yost said carpet and cut and sew sales will keep growing in 2021 as constructions, designs and special features pique customer interest.

At Avalon Flooring, with 17 showrooms across New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, all categories performed well in 2020, according to Gerry Yost, director of residential carpet, area rugs and window treatments. While hard flooring continued to lead the way, the specialty retailer's carpet sales were up last year as well. "We will continue to see growth in carpet sales and the “custom” side of area rugs," he said.

"People are falling in love with carpet all over again! The mills have done a great job of not only making carpet durable -- they offer beautiful style and colors for any décor or price point. Plus the added benefits are warmth, sound absorption and on a basic level, hiding dust.

"Also with the increased awareness of fibers like SmartStrand and StainMaster Pet Protect, customers feel they can add carpet and it will hold up to pets, kids and husbands," he noted.

Executives point to another factor helping fuel rug sales: a strong housing market, with new home construction and existing home sales trending ever higher in the last year and a half. Flooring replacement frequently occurs just before or after an existing home sale, and rugs are getting part of that spend.
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