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Big boxes, dept. stores slip on rugs

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, January 20, 2003

It was a long time in coming. At times it seemed like it never would happen. Yet looking back, it was almost a no-brainer. But few wanted to really dig in and make area rugs come anywhere near their potential.

The numbers from 2002 are not surprising. What is surprising is that it's taken ever so long to get there. And even now, the statistics are puny — a 12.5 percent increase. But at least it's going in the right direction.

When you look at the various distribution channels, one has to wonder why the big boxes took so long to figure out how to make the display presentation simple for them to operate and simple for customers to understand. It's not that the product wasn't there — it was the entire logistical mess behind the scenes and on the floor.

Then we have the department stores. They've been lobbing out product categories and departments over the last decade to a fare-thee-well. If gift — because of the sku count challenge, breakage and sales pace, were deemed passe — out they went. Same for lamps. I always found it amusing that a department store that still treasured its furniture department dropped lamps. And then there was that wonderful plane ride sometime back from High Point furniture market where the two guys in front of me were holding their sides from laughing. They had just bumped off Macy's East lamp department. Who were they? Home Depot.

And who is leading the pack in area rug business for 2002? None other than your home improvement folks like Home Depot, Lowe's and a couple of regionals.

They must have a clue as to what the customer wants as well as how best to show it, price it and service it. They also happened to pick up the biggest share increase of all distribution channels — some two percentage points.

Maybe it's time for a jeans and sweater walk-through of a couple of these stores rather than the usual suits and skirts parade.

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