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Retail

Top 10 Ways to Build Runner Sales at Retail

Shoppers are turning to area rug runners to solve design issues around the home, as both online and off-line choices expand -- and rug buyers should be taking note.

Carol Tisch, Lisa Vincenti
8/3/2020
image of a blue and ivory rug in contemporary kitchen

Momeni's Shilou rug was featured on boutique Lulu & Georgia's popular instagram page.
 
SPECIAL REPORT -- In Part 2 of this ongoing series exploring the increasing popularity of runners among shoppers, RugNews.com speaks with rug executives and uncovers the top reasons category sales are surging.

Long the home furnishings industry's category leader in e-commerce, area rug sales continue to grow year over year online - and so do sales of runners. Web shopping has attracted even more consumers during the pandemic, with new customers introduced to the ease and convenience of the process, as well as speed of deliveries (often free of charge).

But traditional brick and mortar rug stores, interior designers and even floor covering dealers are also cashing in on the trend, whether with e-comm components, curated one-of-a-kind collections, or personalized options which run the gamut from custom colors and sizes, to cut and sew runners from broadloom.

Below, we highlight the most important triggers to sales in the category.  And make sure to read Part 1, Runner Sales Are Taking Off, Rug Execs Explore the Trend.   

1. CREATE AN ONLINE 'ENDLESS AISLE'


Mohawk Home is offering area rug runners in more sizes online, increasing the options available to consumers.

Web sales of runners offer potential for plus business for traditional retailers who can't afford the space to display the category but can with the e-commerce endless aisle, while runners already represent growing add-on sales for online retailers.

"Runners are a little more difficult at brick and mortar retail because they take up a lot of space. There are a couple of challenges just in merchandising: you either have to roll them or lay them flat," said Bart Hill, senior vice president, Mohawk Home. "However, with consumers' increased comfort and familiarity with online shopping comes the ability of online retailers to showcase an expanded assortment of runner sizes, styles, constructions -- and categories from luxury to performance.

"We are seeing an increase in runners as we go online and in the digital component it is a very important size. Runners have emerged as a very good selling component of the online space. Primarily because of the endless aisle -- we can offer more links, more sizes, more functional pieces -- we can offer a 5-foot runner as we'll as a 10-foot runner," he says.


2. CAPITALIZE ON LOWER PRICES FOR IMPULSE PURCHASES

outdoor rug runner
Trans-Ocean by Liora Manne offers value price points and performance fibers along with designer fashion. Shown, Marina

"Historically, rug stores and furniture stores would invest in samples of major room sizes, so having runners available on websites has become an important driver for the category," said Stephen Hoberman, vice president product development, Trans-Ocean by Liora Manne. "When customers see runners as an option, usually at a lower cost than larger sizes, they find uses for them. As average prices for 5x8s have fallen, runner prices have decreased at the same rate and today are in impulse purchase ranges."

The same holds true for vintage and high-end programmed runners, which give consumers the opportunity to replicate the luxury looks seen in designer homes, albeit in runners at considerably lower price points than full size options. 

3. OFFER PERSONALIZATION/CUSTOMIZATION

image of Antelope like hall and stair runner
Couristan's Cape Town Antelope design makes a bold coordinated statement on a custom stair and hall installation.

One way brick and mortar stores and designers can corner their share of the runner business is by offering custom options tailored specifically to the customer. Kaleen, which has a broadloom custom cut and sew program, started to see runners take off in the early 2000s, senior vice president Blake Dennard told RugNews.com. "Our custom broadloom business has become very popular when it comes to stair runners and continues to grow year over year," he said, noting that Kaleen also offers program runners with nearly all of its area rug collections.


Kaleen's Peter Island Stripe in graphite was chosen for a stair installation. Image: the Carpet Workroom, Newton, Massachusetts

Couristan, which pioneered outdoor broadloom, is seeing an unexpected rise in sales for its application indoors. "Believe it or not, we are seeing more and more people using our indoor-outdoor broadloom for stairs and for bedrooms," said Larry Mahurter, VP of marketing and advertising. "With the advances of polypropylene -- its softness and how fine it being spun today, people like the comfort of it. We're seeing a lot of Instagram posts now with custom broadloom on stairs," Mahurter said. 

At Jaipur Living, which offers custom sizes and shapes on more than 600 rugs, director of digital marketing and brand, Carl Henrickson, said, "We have seen custom runner sales explode, along with our overall custom size program, and have seen an uptick in the popularity of runners, especially those that are wider, longer, or both, as customers began using them more in kitchens and bedrooms."



Jaipur Living has seen a boom in runner sales as its offering of longer and wider sizes grows. Shown, hand-loomed Satellite

4. DIFFERENTIATE WITH ONE OF A KINDS


Feizy's vintage hand-knot rugs and runners are trending with online consumers.

While traditionally sourced at brick and mortar retailers, one-of-a-kind rug sales are growing in popularity on e-commerce sites thanks to state of the art visuals and logistics provided by vendors. 

A big draw for designers shopping its High Point and Dallas showrooms, Feizy's OAKs were added to its e-commerce site in 2017 to much success. Likewise, at Surya, which included runners as part of its newer One of a Kind Collection, noted a piqued interest as well. "The collection is vintage, hand-knotted and really unique -- and they are trending with lots of our customers. These are investment pieces since they last for a lifetime," said Surya president Satya Tiwari. "They are also great conversation starters. Social media is helping to drive this as influencers feature content that shows the beauty and versatility that a runner can add."


Surya's new One of a Kind collections feature vintage hand-knotted rugs and runners hand-picked by the company in Turkey.

5. PROMOTE DESIGN COMPATIBILITY IN OPEN PLANS

floral design rug in living room

image of solid rug runner
An updated traditional design from Oriental Weavers’ Andorra collection can be color coordinated to its hardworking transitional Atlas collection runners.

As consumers began rethinking their homes and shifting to open concept kitchens and eating areas, their appetite for runners has also increased. "With open concept kitchens and eating areas, we saw a surge in consumers investing in these spaces, whether redecorating or remodeling," said Jay Dogan, co-principal at Tayse. "The runner has become an imperative piece that brings the room together."

In fact at Couristan, Larry Mahurter has been mining online chats with customers for feedback and trends: "As we read the transcripts of live chats with consumers on our website, they repeatedly bring up a desire for fluidness in their [open plan] homes. They want to make the connection from one room to another so they still have the same theme, the same genre or color story going through the home.  Runners have always made that connection."

Making it easy for retailers and consumers to connect the dots, Oriental Weavers led the trend to designing and merchandising collections so they could easily be coordinated for a cohesive look in the open plan home. OW's concept, dubbed the Compatibility Initiative, featured collections such as Andorra, Atlas and Evolution together in open plan room sets and showroom displays. With their color palettes as the common thread, compatible collections offer choices in texture, pattern and styling from traditional to transitional and contemporary, according to Andy Brumlow, OW's vice president of product development.

6. PLAY UP RUNNERS AS A FASHION STATEMENT


Momeni clients are getting creative with their stairs and using runners to add fashionable flair. Shown, kilim-style Isabel rug

"Runners are not only practical for family life because of their noise reduction properties and their non-slippery surface for kids, but they allow another opportunity of expressing one's style within the home," Reza Momeni of Momeni explains. "The category has gone through a tremendous wave of design trends and popularity. From thick durable pile, often intended for safety through high-traffic spaces in family homes with kids to the preppy flatware simple stripes running down the staircase. Now, we are also seeing our customers use multiple runners in the same color and style from top to bottom on their stairs. This works best with flatweaves and rugs without backings."

In fact, the category's versatility and affordability in part spurred Surya to launch runners-only collections, "We have even recently launched a few collections like the chenille-polyester printed Antiquity assortment, inspired by one-of-a-kind antique rugs, that consists exclusively of runners in order to take advantage of their increased popularity. Runners are a great way to update your space. They are budget friendly and provide an effortless way to enhance existing décor and brighten up an odd shaped space."

traditional rug runner
Surya rolled out the rug runner only Antiquity collection to cater to the size's increased popularity.

 
7. EDUCATE ON PERFORMANCE PRODUCTS


Tayse's popular Veranda collection offers a runner size and is popular with consumers looking for easy-care and durable rugs indoors and out.

While wool runners have historically been a hallway staple, new constructions and creativity with yarns are boosting the use of runners in other areas of the home. The growth in the performance rug category, with more fashion-forward styles, softer feel and easy cleanup has expanded the popularity of the category for indoor application.

Tayse's Dogan adds, "Runners have always been a consumer favorite but what changed has been the availability of new designs and different options in materials. The different types of constructions allow for a busy household to enjoy a durable and easy to clean yet stylish runner in uncommon places such as in the bedroom next to a bed, while indoor/outdoor runners are being utilized in mud and laundry rooms. Affordability and fresh fashion - color and design - inspire consumers to change things up," he continues.

8. SELL AS COUNTERPOINT TO HARD SURFACES/FLOORING

image of long runner in corridor
Kalaty's custom-installed Eclipse runner offers a soft, inviting touch in a long hallway with hard wood floors.

The shift in interiors away from wall to wall carpet and toward hard wood flooring and tiles over the past decade-plus, has homeowners rethinking their spaces and boosting runner category sales.

At Kalaty, which offers runners in a variety of its top-selling constructions, the size has been a consistent seller over the years. "Sales are showing increases, which can be attributed to the number of today’s homes with hard-surface floors," Ariel Kalaty said. "Now runners are for more than just hallways and entryways: Runners have become especially popular for use in kitchens and baths where hard-surface flooring such as hardwood, laminates and tile are most often found."

Dynamic Rugs also attributes the category growth to the prevalence of hard surfaces in the home. Says Matthew Rouhanian, founder, 
"There is a direct positive correlation with the runner sales and the increased popularity of getting wood floors in homes, including on staircases. The prevalence of  hardwood floors and staircases in homes has made runners more viable. And as a result, consumers, who want the motif or aesthetics of their homes to flow and the best way to do that is to have the run on the staircase to be a perfect match with the area rug."

room with gray and ivory rug


The Dynamic Rugs Alea collection by designer Angelo Surmelis features a complementary runner for each area rug design.

9. 
HIGHLIGHT RUNNERS AS PROBLEM SOLVERS


Kaleen's extra-long Herrera runner offers spacial definition in this open plan kitchen dining area. Image: @growing_days

"The trend of open concept floor plans is playing an essential part in runner sales," Kaleen's Dennard says. "Homeowners are using runners to define room shapes and wall-less hallways. Runners have also become more widely used as accents on decks and patios due to the increasing popularity of the outdoor living space.In recent years the appetite for longer runner options in the home has jumped and rug manufacturers are meeting demand by adding more lengths to their assortments."

Because of larger homes and open plan, Justin Yeck of Feizy, says consumers are paying more attention to the need for warmth in all their interior spaces. "I continue to see huge halls in homes as clients maximize their home's footprint to their spaces. A long hall looks bare and can be uninviting. Adding a runner warms the space and makes it another living space in the house. People now put as much thought into their halls as they do in their main living spaces," he reports.

And, adds Reza Momeni, "The shift has already begun to redesign our homes as a more functioning live/work/play/study/ spaces, and customers are much more creative about where to place the runner over less typical spots. For example, we are starting to see runners placed beside the bed instead of a larger rug to cover the entire bedroom floor. Office or study areas are becoming a growing necessity as the culture is shifting, using multiple work spaces and desks in one room. A long runner is a great choice to place under a row of desk chairs to protect the floors. Runners are great way to define spaces and “zones” within rooms that have multiple functions as our lifestyles change."



Feizy's Cadiz collection, available in programmed and custom sizes, features a dense machine-woven style.

10. HEIGHTEN SOCIAL MEDIA EFFORTS

rug runner in eat in kitchen
Loloi says that area rug runners are getting a boost as social media popularizes the category. Shown, Spectrum.

Savvy vendors and e-tailers use the popular platforms as a two-way street: to push their products and to get a pulse on trends via influencer posts and consumer photos of runners purchased for their homes.  

"The proliferation of social media has popularized the usage of runners now more than ever, especially in kitchens," explained Loloi principal Cyrus Loloi, "We've noticed an uptick in sales in the last couple of years, but it has always been a meaningful size."

Adds Jaipur's Henrickson, "Runners are versatile, and it helps that they look amazing on social media -- they make a great statement wherever they’re placed -- in an entry way, kitchen, bedroom or a bathroom."


In fact, when fashion-forward Dynamic Rugs added its licensed designer collection by TV personality Angelo Surmelis, it included a runner size for every design in the launch. Explains the designer, "A great runner offers the perfect buttoned up look to home. It's like the most stylish tie to a beautiful suit or that gorgeous necklace on an already fantastic dress. It elevates the whole look in the best possible way," Surmelis said.

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