By Ken Ryan
As hard surface has taken a larger share of the residential flooring space in homes, consumers are increasingly turning to rugs as a way to reduce noise and add a comfortable, warm surface underfoot. These days, more of these rugs originated as broadloom—fabricated into a rug either at the mill or by the retailer.
Why is this trending now? “The biggest factor driving broadloom to rugs is the dominance of hard surface in the flooring landscape,” said Lisa Lux, director of product development at Anderson Tuftex. “A floor is almost always dressed with a soft surface of some kind. Rugs are easy to design with; they don’t require much of a commitment. There’s the ease of installation—you can do it yourself and they are easily changed out if the homeowner wants to do a décor update. Just like the upholstered furnishings in the home, layering rugs can add visual interest and texture to a room.”
The majority of hard surface consumers will begin looking for a rug just days after their floors are installed, according to research compiled by Shaw Floors. The theory goes that as hard surface products continue to gain share in the home, rugs will continue to grow in popularity as well. “As a leader in hard and soft surface flooring, Shaw Floors has been following this trend for years with an intentional focus on creating innovative flooring solutions,” said Teresa Tran, vice president Shaw Floors’ retail channel. “Consumers are getting more personalized service at the independent retailer level, and we are committed to arming the retailer with tools to sell soft surfaces, whether it is wall-to-wall carpet or an accent rug.”
Jamie Welborn, vice president of product management for Mohawk, said flooring dealers and carpet manufacturers alike see this as an opportunity to turn broadloom into a rug sale and reduce remnant obsolescence at the same time. “In addition, tufting technology has improved so much that many patterned and multi-color broadloom make wonderful rugs,” he added.
As this trend takes shape, the average broadloom cut size has become smaller, executives say. “Not long ago, the average carpet cut would account for a full room installation, and now incoming orders are often less than 10 feet,” said Don Karlin, director of broadloom sales for Nourison. “Clearly, carpet dealers are fabricating their own rugs with these smaller cuts.”
Fabrication has taken off in the last few years. Nourison, for example, has a full staff of fabrication personnel that often work three shifts to keep up with the incoming orders for made-to-order custom rugs fabricated from broadloom. “Fabrication is a lot more than just making a cut and applying an edge finish,” Karlin explained. “A rug fabricated in the Nourison facility undergoes several steps. First, aligning the pattern so it is even on all four sides. Then, we square the rug in a process that requires the rug be stretched overnight. Finally, we apply the edge finish…binding, serging (by hand or by machine) or other applications. Then, to avoid freight damage in transit, each rug is capped with a corrugated end, and properly wrapped.”
Retailers have add-on opportunities
It has been well chronicled that flooring retailers have shied away from rugs in recent years given the space required to carry a sufficient inventory. What’s more, rug sales are increasingly moving from brick-and-mortar to online, with sites like Wayfair becoming wildly popular for online home furnishings and accessories.
Still, flooring dealers can profit from rugs and should not abandon the category. “When a consumer is in the store making that hard surface purchase, it’s a great time to offer an area rug to coordinate with her décor,” Anderson Tuftex’s Lux said. “We have over 150 styles to choose from. It’s as simple as taking them over to the display. With our rug program, the retailer has a nice advantage to offer something different and in addition to the hard surface purchase.”
Shaw Floors’ Tran said it is important for retailers to capture the consumer’s attention at the time of the sale so the RSA can provide a solution that works best for her home. She said retailers benefit significantly from the sale of a hard and soft surface product together because they are selling two floor coverings for the same space. “Utilizing broadloom carpet to create custom rugs as opposed to standard rugs gives retailers greater flexibility in sizing and customization,” she explained.
Mohawk’s Welborn agreed that retailers benefit because many of them actually do the hard surface sale, so it is a way for them to maximize their profitability. “In many cases, they may even make the rugs in their shop and utilize remnants off of a stocked product,” he said.
To that end, Mohawk has invested in technology and grown its pattern business so retailers have more choices for rugs than a solid colored cut pile. Karastan has a Cut Above Custom Rug Program available on all Karastan styles that can be placed through the dealer. It also offers an online instant quote on MohawkToday.com for its retailers for rectangular rugs and runners. Custom shapes are also available working with the Karastan team. As well, Karastan launched a retail rug display this past market that coordinates well with its new hard surface products.
Shaw Floors is touting its Custom Tailor Tuft Technology as taking rugs to the next level. This new tufting technology provides designers with creative possibilities and offers 3D effects for pattern enhancement and upgraded dyeing characteristics for sharp, vivid colors. In 2020, Shaw Floors paired its Gallery hardwood collection with the Caress carpet collection, a popular choice for rugs. The combination provides a modern, fresh and attainable lineup of designer-inspired rugs and timeless hardwood, according to Tran.
Anderson Tuftex was one of the few carpet manufacturers to start its own rug program. “It really made perfect sense as the hard surface trend took hold and our product portfolio shifted to more patterned styles,” Lux explained. “We offer a range of standard sizes with various binding options as well as custom sizes. This gives the consumer great flexibility to create the perfect look and size they need. We launched an easy to use rug calculator where one could pick her style, plug in the size needed and get a quick cost. Once the rug is ordered it’s shipped directly to her home.”
The Dixie Group (TDG) has a turnkey bound rug program for custom sizes and shapes using any of its tufted or woven broadloom carpet styles. “This is a great option for the retailer to sell the same square foot twice,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division of TDG. “Most of the time a customer that goes with hard surfaces ends up putting rugs throughout her home to help create the desired décor and atmosphere. I don’t think many consumers recognize the opportunity to turn any broadloom carpet into a custom area rug. This is a great opportunity.”