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Mid-Year Report: Flooring/Rug Dealers See Spike in Activity

Brick and mortar specialty retailers report that sales in first half may have reversed the big box and online erosion.

RugNews.com Editors
a man fabricating an off white rug with a diamond pattern

Sales of custom fabricated rugs from broadloom carpet have been off the charts at the Rug Gallery.


SPECIAL REPORT -- Despite spending many weeks with shuttered showrooms leading to meager sales in the early spring, flooring/rug dealers bounced back with a vengeance in May and June with robust activity.

To their surprise, customers returned with pent up interest to buy. At the Rug Rack & Home Décor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, May and June were prosperous months. "We have seen an uptick in traffic and people are ready to purchase," said owner Miriam Thompson. "Our hand-knotted sales have been very good over the last couple of months. People who put the brakes on prior to shutting down came back to us after we opened up, ready to complete their projects. The only negative has been some of the rugs that have been considered for customers and clients are on back order with very far out dates."


Miriam Thompson at the Rug Rack and her Capel sales representative pose wearing their Covid-19 mask sat the Chattanooga store.


Overall, however, Thompson said she is encouraged with what she is seeing and believes the third quarter will remain strong. "I am surprised as to how many people really do want a nice quality product for their home and are not interested in settling for a lower end product," she said. "As long as we can continue to keep getting what sells best in our market then I have no complaints."

For Sam Presnell, owner of the Rug Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, business is improving as well. "We have seen mostly a serious customer, he said"Our rug sales are down but our fabrications of rugs from carpet have been off the charts. There are many issues impacting this trend. Online sales, for one. Millennials are more custom-driven and carpet fills that need."

At the Rug Gallery's custom Tibetan Rug department, Beau Presnell matches color poms for a client's design.

A typical case in what has been an unprecedented 2020 was O'Krent Floors in San Antonio, Texas, which closed its doors on March 24 and reopened on May 1 and had banner sales in May and June. "We are definitely the beneficiaries of families sitting at home for extended periods of time while looking at their ugly floors," said Sam O’Krent, owner. "Couple that with the fact that they are also cancelling their vacations and summer plans; they have found themselves with some additional discretionary income."


In New Jersey, which was hit hard by the coronavirus in the early going, Avalon Flooring's rebound started slowly in May but picked up stream in June. "A lot of people were in their homes, and once they were released [from the lockdown] they aggressively got involved in their projects," said Gerry Yost, director of carpet, area rugs and window treatments for the 14-store chain, with locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.


On the rug side, Yost said most of the growth has occurred on the fabrication side. "Fabrication is growing really strong for us as there are people who are willing to spend more money; if they want a 9x9, they will get a 9x9. With the growth of hard surfaces, customers want more of a custom size rug to fit in these great rooms."


The New Normal

During the slowdown, many retailers limited the number of patrons allowed in their showroomsin some cases, they worked by appointment only. The Rug Gallery'Presnell said that one on one appointments were a godsend for his business; so much so that he would like to continue that practice. "We are going to be in this new retail environment for at least another six to12 months and maybe it will be different for us: small local [shopping]; customers involved in their communities. Hopefully, retailers will experience greater appreciation from informed, involved customers, and we may have reversed the big box and online erosion we have experienced. We need to believe in who we are and what we stand for."

At Flooring America's winter convention, buyers got a first look at Karastan's new digital kiosk replete with rug samples.

One 2020 introduction that has drawn raves is the new Karastan rug display featuring a user-friendly digital kioskThe display features 100 of the most popular rug styles and colors, while the kiosk allows customers to shop for options in a retail showroom. 

The Karastan display so impressed one retailer that he is now back in the rug business.  "For us, we had exited the stock area rug program and liquidated the 500 rugs we had, but this display is what got me extremely excited to sell area rugs again," said Ryan Commerce, owner of Indoor City, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "This is a neat way for people to shop. It makes me think of how showrooms can look over the next few years. Not only can you search for rugsbut you can touch and feel what the rugs are going to feel like; so it combines both attributes."

Other retailers cited new Karastan introductions from Surfaces. "We were totally impressed by their patterns and displays and have a few area rugs made up for display in our store," said Sherryl Farina, co-owner of Diverse Flooring, Maple Ridge, Canada, who added that she put Karastan rugs in her own condo.

Retailer Sherryl Farina, co-owner of Diverse Flooring in Canada, was so impressed with Karastan’s new rugs that she has them displayed in her condo.

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