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From Home Furnishing Business

EDITOR’S LETTER You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

It is accepted by all that 70-75% of all consumers visit the web before making the purchase with over half making the decision of who to shop on the web.  Now is the time to accept the opportunity to impress the consumer is on your website.

The buzz in the market created by the social media vendors is to create traffic to your website.  However, many retailers need to consider what the consumer will find when they get there.  Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Without a doubt, the challenges to keep product content current is there.  Many vendors are attempting to solve this issue.  Today, however, a simple smart phone picture uploaded is better than no image at all.

Your homepage is your front door.  Are the product images new?  Is the homepage cluttered by messages from all your vendors, as well as every department of your company?

While it is exciting to discuss virtual reality creating tools to allow consumers to visualize your furniture in their home, let’s get the basics done first.

The internet can be a great tool to communicate home furnishings to the consumer, but we must first make it work for us.  Remember your first competitor is all of the other areas a consumers’ disposable income could go.  As you can see, only 9.22% of consumer said furniture was the number 1:

A Healthy Housing Industry Emerging

After years of fighting back from the housing bubble pop, the Housing Industry is finally on the mend and appears to be getting healthier by the year. Although still shy of 2007 pre-recession levels, housing appears to be catching up fast despite a couple of stumbles last year. This article picks up from Statistically Speaking’s September 2015 article Housing’s Rebound

Although the rate of growth slowed for existing home sales last year, unit sales approached pre-recession levels. Meanwhile, new home sales, while still well below pre-recession numbers, are catching up to pent up demand as housing construction steadily increases its new single family homebuilding. Multi-family construction is the one area lagging in 2016, but starts are up in 2017.  With both rental and homeowner vacancies at their lowest, the Housing Market is, most assuredly, on an upswing. 

As shown in Table A, indexed growth for existing home sales in 2016 was only 3.6 percentage points shy of peak 2007 pre-recession sales. In 2016, 5.49 million existing homes were sold compared to 5.65 million in 2007. For new homes, the 559,000 units sold in 2016 were still 27.8 percent below the 769,000 sold in 2007. However, as construction has played catch-up to demand, new home sales have grown 82.7 percent since the recession bottom of 2011. 

New Home Sales

New home sales had a solid performance in 2016 – increasing 11.3 percent from 2015. However, sales are off to a slow start with January sales flat on a seasonally annualized basis (Table B).

Existing Home Sales

Despite dipping in 2014, existing home sales (Table C) have grown steadily in recent years – up 3.8 percent from 2015 to 2016 and another 4.4% jump into January of this year.

Existing home sales grew consistently throughout the country last year. The Northeast region, the smallest in terms of home sales, was the fastest growing last year – up 5.7 percent 2015 to 2016 to 740,000 units plus an 8.1 percent boost (seasonally annualized) to start off 2017. Increasing 2.8 percent from 2015 to 2016, the South still leads the pack with 2.2 million existing houses sold in 2016. The Midwest had a slight decline from 2016 to January 2017 – down 0.8 percent to 1.3 million annualized resales, while the West had the biggest leap into 2017 – increasing 8.4 percent in January to 1.29 million annualized units (Table D). 

New Housing Construction

Despite the growth in new and existing home sales last year, New Housing Construction, specifically, multi-unit apartment construction fell considerably. After solid gains since 2011, combined growth of single and multi-unit construction went negative last year – falling 0.5 percent to 1.17 million units. Due to booming housing starts in January of this year, 2017 began 9.6 percent higher with a seasonally annualized average of 1.29 million units (Tables E and F). 

As shown in Table G, single-family construction has maintained its upward trajectory since the Great Recession.  However, 2016 single- family units totaling 747,000 are still 23.1 percent below peak 2007 levels. Meanwhile multi-family construction at 392,000 units in 2016 is well below the 451,000 in 2015.

The flat growth in new construction was not a result of declining construction of single-family units (Table H). Growth has continued unstopped in recent years – increasing 7.5 percent from 2015 to 2016. Up 8.1 percent annualized, the first month of 2017 builds on the momentum. 

The slowdown of total new housing construction came solely on the shoulders of multi-family apartments and condominiums where construction fell by 13 percent in 2016. On a positive note, authorized permits for the first month of 2017 are up 13.7 percent (Table I).

Rental and Homeowner Vacancy Rates

Rental vacancy rates at 6.9 percent are at their lowest in over 30 years, giving way to high rents (Table J). Meanwhile homeowner unit vacancies have also continued to drop to 1.7 percent in 2016 – the lowest in over 10 years. 

The vacancy rate of rentals is lowest inside metro areas, both in principal cities and in the suburbs, compared to outside of metro areas. Inside metro areas for both urban (principal cities) and suburban areas have similar vacancy rates at 6.7 percent and 6.3 percent respectively.  These rates have continued to fall over the last seven years. Meanwhile, vacancies outside metropolitan areas are much higher at 9.4 percent last year and have shown little improvement over the last few years (Table K). 

For homeowner units, vacancy rates in the suburbs of metro areas are low at 1.5 percent in 2016 and only slightly higher at 1.9 percent in principal cities of metro areas.  Vacancy rates outside metro areas are higher at 2.3 percent (Table L). 

Pent up demand from Millennials aging into their prime homeownership years combined with low vacancy rates have set the stage for good housing growth in the near future.  And nothing spurs the home furnishings industry as much as home sales.

Streamlined Tax Refund Season Emerging as Major Advertising and Sales Opportunity

Many home furnishings advertising and sales events throughout the year focus either on a national holiday or “end of season” promotion. National holidays presumably give consumers an extra day to get out and shop and “end of season” events help retailers clear inventory off floors to make room for new merchandise. Only recently taking form across all consumer products is a sales event that focuses on when consumers actually have extra money to spend – Tax Refund season.

Thanks to the proliferation of efiling and the increased sophistication of IRS processing, last year $318 billion in tax refund dollars poured into direct deposit accounts and home mailboxes of 111 million tax filers earlier than ever before (Figure 1).

The earliest the IRS begins direct deposits or mails returns is around February 1. About 45 percent of last year’s tax refunds arrived in the month of February and an additional 22 percent were received in March. In the last two months of the first quarter of the year, consumers had $202 billion dollars of extra cash in their bank accounts. For the furniture and home furnishings industry, the question becomes, are retailers doing the right kind of advertising to steer these tax refund dollars toward their stores and products?

The growth of efiling

Efiling has revolutionized the way people get refunds. In fact, mailing in tax forms is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. As shown in Table A, the percentage of tax filers efiling tax returns has grown from 30.7 percent in 2001 to 91.0% in 2016 - a climb of 60.3 percentage points. With the IRS currently issuing refunds within 9 to 14 days after receipt of a tax file, filers can receive direct deposits as early as the first week of February.

2016 Filing Season Statistics

In the 2016 tax filing season, over 111 million tax filers received refunds out of the 152 million tax returns processed. At 82.7 percent in 2016, the vast majority of people filing in February are receiving refunds. Table B shows that 41.9 percent of the year’s filers or 46.5 million returns received refunds in February. Another 21.8 percent of filers received refunds in March and 16.2 percent in April with the remaining 20 percent getting money between May and December.

Almost half of the money paid out in tax refunds (44.7 percent) for the entire year occurred in February – $142 billion out of $318 billion (Table C). March accounted for 19.1 percent and April for 13.2 percent of total refund dollars. Less than one-quarter of refund dollars were paid in months May through December.

With an average refund of $2,860 during 2016, those filing early in February received refunds 6.8 percent higher at an average of $3,053. Both March and April were less – averaging $2,506 and $2,327. Surprisingly, those waiting to file later (between May and December), received an average of $3,271 per refund (Table D).

How do Consumers plan to spend refunds?

In a study last year, GOBankingRates.com conducted a Google consumer survey asking consumers if they received a refund and if so, how they plan to spend it. Based on the survey, 70 percent of consumers expected to receive a refund. Table E shows how those 70 percent plan to spend their money. The majority plan to either pay off debts or put the refund into savings. Almost 13 percent want to use their extra money for a vacation and roughly 13 percent plan to either make a major purchase such as a car or home or splurge on smaller purchases.

Younger consumers are more likely to both receive refunds (Table F) and also spend those refunds on consumer purchases as opposed to paying off debt or sticking in a savings account (Table G). For the key target groups for the Furniture Industry, 81.0 percent of older Millennials (25 to 34) and 73.3 percent of 35 to 44 year olds expect to receive a refund.

While the 13 percent of tax filers receiving a refund expect to spend this money on major or splurge purchases, this number goes up significantly to 17.1 percent for younger Millennials and down to 7 percent or less for consumers ages 55 and over (Table G).

How do the 13 percent translate into possible dollars for the furniture industry? Combining IRS statistics with the survey, Table H shows that in 2016, $18.26 billion was available for use on major purchases and splurge spending in February alone – 44.7 percent of the $40.82 billion for the year. An additional $22.6 billion is spread out over the following months – 19.1 percent in March and 13.2 percent in April.

Based on the $26 billion plus dollars up for grabs each first quarter, is the Home Furnishings Industry advertising correctly and planning the best sales events to attract the dollars from tax refunds? With enticing deals and strategic advertising, can more dollars be lured away from vacation spending or other purchases and into home furnishings purchases? Now that efiling has streamlined income tax filing into an easy and fast turnaround for over 90 percent of consumers, a definitive purchasing season has emerged and advertisers should take notice.

The State of Advertising

Developing furniture and bedding advertising was a relatively simple process for decades.   For retailers, it meant getting material for the upcoming weekend’s newspaper advertisement submitted on time, and possibly taping another radio or television spot to go with it.  Yes, there were direct-mail pieces and the occasional billboard to deal with, but for the most part, the biggest concern was what other newspaper ad or news story would get placed adjacent to the space purchased by the furniture or mattress retailer.

 For manufacturers, it meant checking insertion deadlines for their favorite shelter magazine, and touching base with key retail customers to do a deal on getting them co-op advertising dollars (that means the manufacturer foots some or all of the bill).

 But a few years ago – way back in the early 2000’s – consumers started yelping about late furniture deliveries, tweeting about their comfy new mattress, and pinning pictures of that cool living room makeover they saw on HGTV.  So much for those meetings with the ad salesman for the local newspaper.

 “What has happened is that the amount spent on print – except for circulars – has dropped significantly.” Said Steve Rotman, president and CEO of Rotmans Furniture in Worchester, MA.  “Radio and TV has dropped from what it used to be.  And the amount spent on (direct-mail) circulars has dropped, although we still do them.”

 No, Rotman and other furniture and bedding retailers like him haven’t cut back on advertising.  But their dollars are being re-directed in a big way to the digital realm, which includes everything from social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest to paid search programs such as Google AdWords to YouTube videos.

 What use to be simple in terms of communication has exploded into a multiplicity of ways to communicate with perspective furniture consumers.  Let’s start the discussion with how retailers are allocating their advertising budget.

 Print is definitely trending down with some larger retailers in larger markets moving entirely away from the medium even with substantial discounts and value added.  The fact is the consumer has moved away from the newspaper as a source for news reducing the impact of advertising.

Television which exploded on the scene more than a decade ago as the workhorse to attract potential customers to furniture retailers, is slowing.  The fact is that consumers are viewing less television and when they are viewing, they are doing so on devices that exclude advertising. 

 Even in instances where television is the centerpiece of a marketing and branding strategy, digital media plays a key supplemental role.  This is especially true with brand-building strategies by well-known manufacturers who advertise nationally such as La-Z-Boy, Ethan Allen and Tempur-Pedic.

 Internet is either the first or second step when the consumer decides to make a furniture purchase.

 As can been seen from Graphic B, 46.3% of consumers first visit the internet shopping various sites before selecting those 2-3 stores they will visit.  This is a devastating blow to the less dominant retailers in the market.  More retailers today have a web presence of some degree.  However, the challenge is the site management, populating the site with new products and current advertising are the basics.

 The other 38.8% visit the store first to scout out the retailers shopping environment.  This is a critical visit influenced by the retailers branding effort as well as the reputation in the market.  An important note is how the sales associate treats the scouting consumer.  A lack of interest by the sales associate because of a perceived “tire kicker” can result in no return visit.

 Of late, however, Rotman said his store’s most effective ads have been videos used as so-called “pre-rolls”, or short ads that run before a user can watch a selected video. He acknowledged that the click-through rate on such is small, but those who do click on the ad and visit Rotman’s website are much more likely to visit the store.

 “It has a positive effect on store traffic and sales because it drives people to the website”, he said of the pre-rolls.  “And, we’re finding that when website traffic goes up, store traffic goes up.  And there’s a direct relationship between store traffic and store sales.”

 He said that makes it critical to keep the website fresh and engaging so it accurately reflects what the in-store shopping experience is like.

 “We want to create value for each web visitor,” said Rotman.  “It has been very effective for us in terms of (an improved) closing rate and in terms of store sales.”

 Social Media still has the buzz to be the solution to the furniture retailers advertising problems.  Anecdotal research is the most often cited as reasons for pursuing this medium.

 As can be seen from Graphic C from the consumer research, social media is not the most effective method to inform the consumer.

Rotman and Julia Rosien, brand manager to bedding producer Restonic, agreed that the measure of social media and digital programs is very important, but they noted that the traditional advertising measure of gross ratings points is only a small part of the measurement puzzle.

 “At Restonic, we measure a wide variety of things – impressions, reach, engagement, and especially sentiment, which is very difficult to measure in traditional advertising,” Rosien said.  “There’s a misconception that a social media strategy is easy to develop and implement.  You can spend hours on social sites gathering and creating content, commenting on others content and sharing it all, and measuring the wrong thing. Valuable resources could be wasted on a vehicle that is not driving toward your goals.”

 Rotman likes to call it “web-oriented advertising.”  And he said, it now takes up about 40% of his annual advertising budget, and by next year, it probably will be 50% of the total.  Five years ago, it was barely 10%. “I don’t see that trend reversing itself,” Rotman said.

 Neither does Rosien who is an early proponent of a digital-heavy advertising and marketing strategy.  “The goal of any well-conceived digital campaign should be to improve the connection between the brand and its consumers – turning fans into ambassadors,” she explained.  “In this way, the sale becomes the by-product, but the community that drives engagement and love for the brand, that’s the sweet spot.”

 She said Restonic’s digital media strategy has become important for both a business-to-business and business-to-consumer standpoint.  Restonic dealers, for example, have access to a library of blog content they can incorporate on their own social media pages, while the company’s Facebook page now has more than 30,000 “likes” from consumers.

 “Brand awareness and growth have been phenomenal in the past few years,” Rosien said.  “Our blogger outreach campaigns have allowed us entry into groups and communities on social media that we wouldn’t have reached otherwise.” 

 She said the B2B side is important because retailers, especially smaller independent operations, often lack the time or staff expertise to execute the strategy.  “We know retailers struggle to produce content and our digital publishing program takes the burden from them,” she said.  “Social media is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a must have.”

 Rotman agreed, but said social media can be the classic double-edged sword if a retailer’s customer service or product quality consistently falls short of expectations.  That can result in numerous negative comments and harsh reviews on sites such as Yelp, which a retailer generally has no ability to remove.

 “If you have a lot of customer service issues, then it’s not a positive thing,” Rotman said.  “But, if you have good customer services, there’s no reason to be afraid of it.”

 Direct Mail, with the advent of computer graphics and digital printing, has evolved to the next level.  This process allows small-run quantities with the ability to change product shots to match the targeted consumer.  From the consumer’s perspective using more information/product shots makes the message more effective.  Graphic D illustrates. 

  Over the past two years the concept of magalogs has been introduced to the traditional retailer.  A combination of editorial content and product presentation devoid of a “sales pitch” has produced substantial results with 9%+ of existing customers and 4%+ of targeted potential customers visiting the store to make a purchase.  Lifestyle stores, such as Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware have used this approach instead of television advertising.

 The introduction of targeting the consumer “most likely to purchase” has more than doubled the response rate of direct mail.  The same targeting concept is now being applied to email transmissions.  This involves moving away from the weekly total emails to numerous emails to specific consumer targets with products that most likely would appeal to them in terms of style and purchase cycle.

 The focus going forward will be to direct a specific message to a potential customer incorporating a feedback loop for performance.

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WHO DOES THE TALKING?

Advertising is the communication from suppliers and retailers to persuade a consumer to purchase their product.  It is a simple statement but a difficult objective to accomplish, especially to quantify success.

 The starting point must be what influences the consumer purchase.  According to the latest buying process study conducted by Impact Consulting Services, parent company of Home Furnishings Business, price was obviously number one well down the list.  The graphic to the right illustrates all of the purchase motivators.

 Manufacturing Role to
Attract the Consumer

 In the past decade, the industry has lost many of its major brands or, of those that remain have muffled their voices.  The traditional role of the manufacturer was to create, in the minds of the consumer, an aspirational desire for the product.  The chief purveyor of this message was the “shelter” magazine.  Starting at the upper end with Architectural Digest and Elle Décor and moving down stream to Southern Living and Good Housekeeping.  If they still exist, there is little furniture advertising.  Interestingly, there are rugs and accessories advertising which could explain the increase in the consumer price index for these product categories (index at 93.8 compared to furniture/bedding at 71.9).

 There are brands that are the exception.  In our discussions with Eli Winkler, Vice-President of Digital Customer Experience and e-commerce, he shared the La-Z-Boy approach to advertising to the consumer.

 “La-Z-Boy’s hugely successful “Live Life Comfortably” effort, featuring actress Brooke Shields, wouldn’t be as effective without the benefit of digital media, despite the presence of her high-profile television and print ads,” said Winkler.

 “La-Z-Boy has an integrated media plan across numerous channels: print, TV, digital video, display, social and search engines,” Winkler said.  “It has been incredibly successful for us, garnered attention, and shifted people’s perceptions and knowledge of the brand based on our research findings. And, we have seen unprecedented sales growth.”

 He said a key goal of the branding strategy is to change the perception that La-Z-Boy only makes recliners – a view that persisted among consumers despite the company’s nearly 90-year history of making a variety of upholstery products.

 “We addressed the outdated associations head-on”, Winkler said.  “We used Brooke to capture consumer’s attention, and her welcoming personality and authentic charm helped communicate that La-Z-Boy offers a wide range of great looking furniture options that fit almost any lifestyle and home.  And, with Brooke in the furniture, customers took notice of our variety of stylish offerings.”

 In 2017, he said Shields’ (and La-Z-Boy’s) visibility will increase as her ads will be used more extensively online, and will move into prime time broadcast TV slots.  That’s in addition to the usual mix of non-prime broadcast and cable TV.

 “Our target is the woman who wants to create a great looking, comfortable home where she can relax and enjoy life; where both family and friend feel at home the second they walk in,” Winkler explained.  “She looks for quality and style that will stand the test of time and provide the functionality of her family needs, and is never interested in just following the newest trend.  Her home is a place she really lives, not just a showpiece meant to impress others.”

 Another successful brand-building effort built around TV and digital is found at Palliser, a Canadian upholstery producer who is wrapping up a national campaign in Canada and is planning to extend into the U.S. later this year.

 “The secret to our success is the Palliser brand reputation in the Canadian market,” said CEO Cary Benson.  “Palliser believes everyone deserves to have their home furnished exactly how they want it and when they want it. Their home furnishings reflect their personal style, color, comfort and function that matches their taste and lifestyle.”

 He said the most recent TV commercials aired during early morning and evening news shows, as well as several national entertainment and sports broadcasts.

 “We included a large hockey buy because, in Canada, female buyers are avid watchers of hockey broadcasts with an almost 50-50 split with men,” Benson said.  “In addition, we have been sponsoring nationally televised Winnipeg Jets games with signage on the rink boards” (Palliser is based in Winnipeg).

 He said the company currently is evaluating the best way to spend its media dollars in the U.S. market, but said the campaign will probably focus on digital and social media because national TV buys in the U.S. are not as cost effective as Canada.

 “Our goals with our advertising investments are to help educate consumers about our brand and attempt to develop brand preference for our products so a consumer will visit our website, learn about our products and visit one of our local retailer partners,” said Benson.

 Manufacturers acknowledge that some retailers are reluctant to promote a particular furniture brand – preferring instead to promote the store as a brand.  Rotman, however, said he’s fine with including both the store brand and the manufacturer’s brand in his advertising, since the combination can convey the message that the store carries quality products from reputable manufacturers.

 “The store brand is effective when it’s placed with the manufacturer’s brand,” he said, pointing out that some of Rotmans ads promote a particular category of furniture, such as solid wood and don’t mention any specific brands.  “In that case, it’s the store brand used with a phrase that signals quality to the consumer.”

Retailers Role to Attract Consumer

 The retailer’s role is to communicate price/value, selection and service.  However, this message has evolved to “you can afford it” a financing message.  The costs of this message, in addition to the medium used, is a hefty sum.  The following graphic compares traditional retailers to the lifestyle stores (retail verticals).

These expenditures are quite a bit out of the average gross margin 48.6% that can be achieved.  We should carefully understand the comparison to other distribution models such as lifestyle (retail verticals) brands Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn and others, as can be seen from the graphic.  An expenditure of half that amount by these retailers can be used to reduce margin targets or increase advertising.

 As traditional furniture retailing moves into the future, the role of the suppliers to this distribution channel must be better defined.  Suppliers are now comfortably selling other distribution channels, such as Etailers and Lifestyle stores as private labels. 

 Likewise, many retailers are directly importing using their brand.  However, the focus from the consumers perspective is not aspirational, but one of price.

 Without branding to the consumer of a product’s attributes, quality, design, etc… the product category will become a commodity.

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WHO ARE YOU SELLING?

There is an old adage that says, “I know 50% of my advertising is not effective. I just don’t know which 50%!” This is the challenge that must be addressed in order to reduce the cost and to improve the effectiveness of advertising. The foundation must be to know who you are selling at the most basic level of age and income. This is accomplished by appending — on an ongoing basis — the consumer demographics down to a product category level. Impact Consulting Services/FurnitureCore, the parent company of Home Furnishings Business, provides a Consumer Segmentation application that delivers this ongoing service. It is shown in the graphic above.

Comparing these findings to the consumers in your individual markets allows you to better understand your primary consumer. This information, when compared to the consumer you should be selling based upon your merchandise mix, gives direction to the buyers.

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TARGETING YOUR CUSTOMERS

One of your most valuable assets is your customer list complete with mailing addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers.  When this list is appended with basic demographic data and purchase history it allows you to use a “rifle approach” to targeting your consumers.  Impact Consulting Services/FurnitureCore, the parent company of Home Furnishings Business, maintains a subscription-based application that maintains your databases.  The targeting screen is shown in the the graphic above.

The application has a feedback loop to measure the results of direct mail campaigns as well as email campaigns. This provides the opportunity for you to communicate directly with your millennial customers (25-35 years old) about the targeted merchandise just purchased at Market or a special offer to your customers with available credit line or even the customer who has recently bought a bed, but not a new mattress, etc.  All of this allows a more targeted approach to advertising.  But most important, did it work?

Magic Carpet Ride Ahead?


By Larry Thomas

Continuing a pattern of slow, but steady growth, area rugs kept pace with nearly all other home furnishings categories last year amid the often turbulent election-year retail climate.

That wasn’t surprising since furniture and rug purchases often go hand-in-hand, but many rug company executives believe the bevy of products launched at January trade shows – particularly the Atlanta International Area Rug Market and the Las Vegas Market – could help send the category to new heights.

Executives say blues and neutrals remain the dominant colors – known as colorways in the rug world -- on most top-selling rugs, but rugs containing splashes of brighter colors have worked their way onto the best-seller lists of several vendors.

“Our hand-tufted and hand-knotted rugs continue to evolve with changing and modern color palettes, bringing an updated look and feel to traditional interiors and providing texture and sophistication to modern environments,” said Satya Tiwari, president of Surya.

However, he noted that modern color palettes are no longer limited to hand-made products, which typically carry a high retail price tag.

“With our new machine-made rugs, great ‘high-end’ design is within the reach of more people,” Tiwari said. “What’s possible in rug design continues to inspire us every day to create ever more relevant designs that are so well in tune with home design and color trends.”

Research by Impact Consulting Services, parent company of Home Furnishings Business, shows that retail sales of area rugs totaled an estimated $5.49 billion in 2016, a 3.7% increase from 2015. Furniture and bedding sales growth was slightly slower, rising 3.4% to an estimated $95.68 billion in 2016.

For the first three quarters of 2016, area rug sales growth outpaced furniture and bedding growth more significantly, rising 4.2% from the first three quarters of 2015. During that same period, furniture and bedding retail sales grew just 3.1%.

In fairness, the furniture and bedding figure was dragged down by bedding sales, which grew a meager 1.3% in the first three quarters of 2016, according to Impact Consulting research. When bedding is taken out of the mix, furniture retail sales were up 4.1%, just 0.1% below area rug growth in the first three quarters of 2016.

It’s Not All Blue and Neutral

Additional research by Impact Consulting, including a survey of consumers who recently purchased an area rug, bears out manufacturers’ focus on blue and neutral colorways – but indicates the door should be left open for some brighter hues. According to the survey, 36% said neutral was the dominant color of their new rug, while 24% said it was blue.

Interestingly, 24% also said red was the dominant color, but no other color was named by more than 8% of those surveyed.

The survey indicated design trends are not as clearly defined as color trends. Some 24% said geometric was the overall design element, but another 20% each said solid and contemporary print was the main element, and another 16% said it was a traditional print.

Florals and zig-zags garnered 8% each, while stripes were mentioned by just 4% of those surveyed.

If the increased interest in brighter colors and non-solid design patterns continues, executives say it wouldn’t be the first time for such an occurrence. Capel Rugs, for example, said they saw significant growth in those areas last year, and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year by bringing out two colorful collections inspired by products that were popular in the 1970s and 1980s.

One is a collection of braided rugs that gives “the original colonial design a modern spin,” while the other is based on a design that was selected for the World Floor Covering Assn. Hall of Fame in 1978.

“Our theme for the centennial celebration is ‘100 years of heritage in every rug’,” said Cameron Capel, vice president of national accounts. “One hundred years in business is a major milestone, and it underscores our long tradition of providing the very best quality, service and customer satisfaction.”

Who Needs the Internet?

Unlike furniture, where internet research is king, 40% of the recent rug purchasers surveyed said they did no internet research before making their purchase. Some 20% said they did one to two hours of internet research, while another 32% said they spent two to four hours.

The relative lack of internet research suggests an area rug is often purchased as an add-on during or shortly after a furniture purchase. Some 84% of those surveyed said they bought their rug after buying furniture, and another 4% said they bought the two together. Only 12% said they bought furniture after their rug purchase.

Another casualty of the lack of internet research (and quite possibly a lack of retail sales training) is basic product knowledge, the survey also suggests. A whopping 88% of those surveyed said they did not know the country of origin of their most recent rug purchase, while 52% said they did not know what their rug was made of (wool, natural fibers, synthetic fibers, etc.).

And not surprisingly, 40% said they did not know if their rug was machine-made or hand-made.

But the interest isn’t being totally dissed by consumers buying area rugs. The survey showed that 24% of recent purchasers bought their rug on the internet, while a solid 48% said they bought it at a mass merchant such as Target or Wal-Mart. Another 12% found it at a home improvement store such as Home Depot, and only 8% made the purchase at a traditional furniture store. The final 8% used a rug specialty store, according to the survey.

Regarding price, lower price points ruled the day, as some 80% said they paid $399 or less for their rug – 40% paid less than $100 and 40% paid $100 to $399. The next-highest price category was $800 to $1,499, which was paid by 8% of those surveyed. Just 4% each reported paying $400 to $799; $1,500 to $1,999; and $2,000 and above.

Loloi’s Anastasia

Ornate distressed traditionals are modernized by illuminating colorways in this collection. Power loomed in Egypt of polypropylene and polyester, the rug is durable and easy to care for, plus it gives the appearance of being a fine rug made by hand. The intricate detail, luster of colors, and unbeatable price point establish its value.

Safavieh’s Florida Shag

Detailed tropical patterns in warm, neutral colors bring Key West flair to this collection. The high and low pile of this shag floor covering accentuates the sculpted damask vines, colored in sandy beige, for a visual display with flowing dimension. It is machine-made using plush, durable synthetic yarns for added comfort and long-lasting beauty.

Couristan’s Madera

Made of 100% linen, this best-seller features cut pile accents over a sumac weave. Hand-made in India, it features soft, contemporary geometric patterns blended in a series of fresh, modern neutral colorways. Available in five sizes, it is shown here in a design that utilizes space-dyed yarns.

Tufan Rugs’ Vintage

This rug features a carving design that mimics a wear-off antique rug creating a “vintage” look, which makes it suitable for modern or classic settings. This luxurious rug is a combination of cotton and polyester and is hand-made in India. The collection comes in a variety of styles, designs and colors.

 

 

 

Jaipur Living’s Fables

Constructed of machine-tufted viscose and chenille, the Tria design brings any space to life with a fashion-forward color palette and a sophisticated, boldly-scaled contemporary pattern. The soft texture highlights the gardenia and pumice stone colorways.

Kaleen’s Weathered

This collection of indoor/outdoor rugs is hand-made of 100% PET polyester using a unique cross-tufting to create a distressed appearance. It is shown here in the popular blue/gray colorway.

Rizzy Home’s Dimension

Utilizing an innovative construction that combines a looped background with cut pile, this collection features a textured, striation appearance and a seamless blend of traditional and contemporary design elements. It is made of hand-tufted wool with a cotton/latex backing and is available in blue, gray and ivory colorways.

Orian Rugs’ Skyline

From the Next Generation collection, Skyline brings a casual look into the home with its exquisite details. The faded colors of cream and blue switch off to make an ocean tide theme. It is soft and durable and machine-made domestically. Suggested retail for a 5 x 8 rug is $375.

Surya’s Zahra

Hand-knotted in India, this 100% wool rug features a low-pile construction and is available in 10 colors. It comes in four standard sizes (2 x 3, 3 x 6, 5 x 8 and 8 x 11), but custom sizes also are available.

 

Nourison’s Twilight

A supernova takes shape in this rug as a spectrum of neutrals expands from the nucleus of rich platinum tones into an effusion of taupe rays on an ivory ground. With a burst of light, it brings dynamic radiance into the room. The hand-washed, hand-finished collection is machine-made of 40% wool and 60% Luxcelle.

Capel Rugs’ Simply Gabbeh

A traditional variety of the Persian carpet, tribal designs and geometric patterns are combined to create this colorful collection. It is hand-loomed in India of 100% wool and comes in four sizes.

Suggested retail for a 5 x 8 rug is $599.

Tayse Rugs’ Dakota

Part of the Festival collection, this versatile rug can be used with rustic or modern décor. Rich hues of brown, green, tan, red and blue are paired with a simple brushstroke pattern to make it suitable for virtually any room. It is machine-made with soft polypropylene fibers and jute backing.

Feizy’s Fiona

The Fiona collection is a dramatic grouping that interprets transitional designs in a bold palette of contrasting neutrals. Power loomed in art silk, the luminous sheen lends each piece a modern edge, while erased patterns impart a hint of vintage. It is shown here in dark gray.

Kas Rugs’ Artisan

Marketed as “artwork for your floors,” rugs from this transitional collection are hand-tufted and add an element of dimension to any room. Featuring a half-inch pile height, the collection is made in India of wool and viscose.

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