Awestruck from Shaw's Sutton Collection of residential carpet.

Despite all the hoopla in recent years regarding the increasing popularity of hard-surface floors, soft-surface products -- carpet in particular -- continue to reign supreme in terms of overall market share of the U.S. floor covering industry.

National Floor Trends’ just-released 2003 Carpet and Area Rugs Market Study brings into focus the prominent role carpet and -- to a lesser degree -- area rugs, cushion and rug underlays play in the businesses of the hundreds of specialty flooring dealers we surveyed. Seventy-six percent of respondents reported that they sell carpet, and 51 percent said they sell area rugs.

How important is carpet to the typical retailer? Based on the proportion of store floor space they devote to the product, carpet is a vital component of retailers’ floor covering offerings. Half of our survey participants devote 60 percent or more of their floor space to carpet (chart 1).

In contrast, retailers devote a fraction of that floor space figure to area rugs. Although many retailers maintain a substantial commitment to the product, slightly more than half of respondents said they allocate only 1 to 5 percent of their floor space to rugs. Taking into account all participants’ responses, retailers allocate an average of 10 percent of their floor space to rugs.

Even less floor space is devoted to carpet cushion and rug underlays. Half of respondents said they devote 2 percent or less of their floor space to cushion and underlays.

In what is practically a reflex action, retailers consistently recommend carpet and/or area rugs to their customers. Ninety-three percent reported that they always or often recommend the products to their clientele (chart 2).

And they do so for good reasons. Half of respondents said they post 30 or more carpet sales per month. Slightly more than one-quarter of surveyed retailers reported volume of more than 60 carpet sales on a monthly basis.

That translates into some serious dollars. Although 29 percent of participants reported more than $1 million in residential carpet sales annually, the average annual residential carpet sales volume among survey respondents is just slightly less than $850,000. Further analysis revealed that half of respondents log annual sales of $400,000 or more (chart 3).

In addition, half of the retailers surveyed said their average ticket per residential carpet sale is $1,500 or more. Seventeen percent of participants reported an average job ticket of $3,000 or more.

This year’s survey also asked retailers what their average square footage or square yardage was per residential carpet sale. Whether a statistical anomaly or not, those who sell carpet by the square yard sell more product per sale. The mean, or average, sale of respondents who sell carpet by the square foot came in at 392 square feet. Those who sell by the yard reported a per-sale average of 57 square yards -- the equivalent of 513 square feet, or roughly 30 percent more product per sale than reported by those who sell by the square foot.

Turning their attention to their main street commercial carpet business, survey participants reported an average dollar volume of $3,076 per ticket. Half said their average ticket was $2,000 or more.

As on the topic of residential carpet, retailers were asked to report the average size of their typical main street commercial sale. Once again, those who sell by the square yard tend to install more carpet per job. The square-yard retailers, as a whole, reported that they average 138 square yards -- equal to 1,242 square feet -- per sale. Those who sell by the square foot, in comparison, averaged 740 square feet per main street commercial sale.

When queried about their area rug sales volume, the largest proportion of retailers surveyed -- 31 percent -- said they monthly generate 1 or 2 rug sales. In terms of annual sales figures, the results were most heavily weighted at the bottom and top of the scale, with 26 percent reporting less than $5,000 in annual area rug sales and another 26 percent reporting annual volume of at least $50,000. Half of respondents said their yearly rug sales are $10,000 or more. The average ticket amount per area rug sale came in at $531 (chart 4).

Most retailers view cushion/rug underlays as critical components of the carpet sale. Seventy-two percent of participants strongly agreed that cushion/underlay is an important part of the sale, and 47 percent strongly agreed that it is a profitable aspect of the sale.

During the course of the typical residential carpet or area rug sale, 82 percent of respondents said they always recommend cushion/underlay and an additional 13 percent said they recommend it most of the time. For commercial sales, cushion/underlay is not as frequently recommended by retailers. Only 22 percent of survey participants said they always recommend the products for commercial applications, and 40 percent said they do so “sometimes” (chart 5).

According to our survey, the average ticket amount for cushion sold in a residential carpet sale is $372. Once again, retailers who sell cushion by the square yard outstrip those who opt for square-foot pricing. Respondents said the average square yardage of a typical residential cushion sale is 61 yards, the equivalent of 549 square feet. Square-foot retailers reported an average of 370 square feet of cushion per sale.

Paisley from Capel's Vente Classics area rug collection.
These are just a few highlights of the 2003 Carpet and Area Rugs Market Trends Study. Other areas of inquiry related to consumer response to carpet and/or rugs (chart 6), as well as their perceptions of carpet (chart 7) and area rugs (chart 8).

Also addressed were participants’ choices of the top-selling brands of commercial and residential carpet, area rugs and cushion/underlays. In addition, participating retailers identified the key issues that currently impact their carpet and area rug business. The unabridged report, which reveals all the specifics not covered in this article, is available for $225 each or $195 each per multiple copies.

Editor’s Note: National Floor Trends commissioned another in our ongoing series of market studies to help flooring retailers and contractors enhance the success and profitability of their businesses. Identifying current product and sales trends, and projecting the industry’s future direction, is vital to making strategic decisions that ensure growth and prosperity.

Our 2003 Carpet and Area Rug Market Study is based on responses from a representative cross-section of flooring retailers and contractors. The study was conducted by the market research department of Business News Publishing Co. in conjunction with the NFT editorial staff. A sample of 2,000 active, qualified floor covering dealers/contractors was selected on an Nth name basis from the domestic circulation list of NFT subscribers. The study had a 15 percent response rate.

Some, but by no means all, of the topics addressed are: the amount of floor space devoted to carpet, area rugs, and cushion/underlays; frequency of recommending carpet and/or area rugs; monthly carpet sales; residential vs. commercial carpet sales; expectations for residential carpet sales in 2003; consumer responsiveness to and perceptions of carpet and/or area rugs; factors influencing retailers in selling a particular brand or manufacturer; top selling brand of carpet, area rugs, carpet cushion, and rug underlays; and issues that presently impact the carpet/area rug business.