Checking in: A retail palace that serves up ideas

Home Editorials Checking in: A retail palace that serves up ideas

by Steve Feldman

Over the past 15 years I’ve found myself in some of this country’s most attractive retail floor covering showrooms. Lewis Floor and Home in Northbrook, Ill., comes to mind. So does Sam O’Krent’s place in San Antonio. The latest to join my list is the Abbey corporate store in Naples, Fla., the quintessential retail flooring showplace.

It would be easy for me to sit here and say every retailer should aspire to have this type of showroom. But I have not spent my life in a coma. Very few flooring retailers are afforded the benefit of a 28,000-square-foot space. Even fewer have the luxury of doing business in an area where $3 million to $10 million homes are the norm. But that doesn’t mean every retailer can’t learn something just by walking in the store, something they can take back to their own business.

For starters, the Abbey store is so clean you can eat off the floor—or off the $100-a –square-yard Nourison Wilton carpet that defines that department. The point here is that the carpet helps create an air of elegance, not to mention comfort. The next thing that is quickly apparent is no display is so high as to prevent the shopper from seeing every wall or window in the store. At any position, the consumer is given a panoramic view of every department in the store. That’s in response to research that reveals the female shopper does not want the displays to be taller than her so as to create a “boxed-in” feeling. The store is well lit with large windows allowing natural light to envelope the showroom. And most important, there is not an ounce of clutter anywhere. It’s a layout any store can adopt.

Now let’s talk about area rugs for a minute. Forget that this Abbey store, which admittedly caters to the affluent, displays plenty of expensive rugs. They key word here is “plenty.” More than 1,000 to be exact, priced anywhere from $149 to $20,000.

Two takeaways here: 1. Area rugs are still a perfect add-on to hard surface sales, and every retailer is leaving money on the table if he is not in the rug business. And 2. Retailers who have the most success selling rugs display a wide assortment of product. It’s the old adage: You have to show it to sell it. And the Abbey store shows it big: on 9 x 12 racks. Makes sense; as the homes in the area are large, consumers are covering the space with large rugs.

As for hardwood, any retailer can take a page out of this store’s book. Everything is well organized in consistent displays; some samples are private labeled others are manufacturer branded. There is a custom wood area. Bottom line: It facilitates the shopping experience because the customer shops for style and color, the primary drivers, without any distractions.

Last but not least is the baby grand piano in the center of the store. Aside from adding to the setting, it represents an example of cross merchandising. The piano store neighbors the Abbey store, and Abbey rugs can also be found in neighboring stores.

Again, this may be akin to going into a Beverly Hills mansion to get decorating ideas. You may not be able to afford what you see, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take away the concept.

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