Area rugs, like these from Karastan, are perfect add ons for any hardwood sale.

The floor covering marketplace abounds with battles, if not all-out wars, over the consumer’s disposable income. In some cases, heavy artillery was deployed by both the carpet and resilient segments of the industry in an attempt to reverse the gains of other types of hard-surface flooring.

If honesty would truly prevail, most floor covering manufacturers would admit that the second quarter rain of slowing sales activity had definitely dampened the industry’s growth potential. Prudent manufacturers responded by cutting back on production to limit inventories and minimize their potential for losses.

Fortunately for the hardwood flooring segment of the floor covering industry, the impact of wavering consumer confidence has been minimal compared to the difficulties experienced by competing soft-surface manufacturers. Demand for hardwood floors remained fairly strong in mid- to upper-range housing developments and was even healthier in the remodel/replacement market.

Today’s savvy retailers and dealers/contractors fully realize that “add ons” within a sale have the potential to significantly increase the dollar value of the overall ticket. Thus, add-on items always play an extremely important role whenever the market experiences a decrease in total sales.

In reality, there are several “condiments” available to enhance a meaty serving of any hardwood flooring product. Even a basic “ground beef” entry-level hardwood order can be transformed into a “filet mignon” sale by a seasoned salesperson.

Thought-provoking displays of wood-related sundries should be arranged prominently and allow easy access to both the salesperson and potential customer. Traditionally, hardwood specialists are “naturals” when it comes to selling wood vents, medallions and borders. With today’s technology and assortment of multiple species, metal air vents are losing ground to the custom look of wood vents that require mere drop-in installation. By creating additional cash flow for the retailer, these vents have given a whole new meaning to the term “air movement.”

On the other hand, full-line retail flooring stores tend not to capitalize on the sales potential of such products and, in some cases, steer away from intricate add-on items due to their lack of knowledge and contacts where additional specialized installation labor is required.

However, one product category that many full-line dealers do address to great advantage is that of accent area rugs. This isn’t all that surprising given that area rug sales require no additional labor for installation and, perhaps even more important, the additional profits they generate are at fixed margins.

Suggestive selling should always be incorporated into any base product sales presentation. Far too often, retailers have tunnel vision when they consider additional products, such as wood air vents, that enhance hardwood installations. And the idea of promoting a rival flooring product, like an area rug, rubs against the grain of some hardwood professionals.

Let’s get one item straight: “double dipping” under these circumstances will never be considered a criminal offense. The only crime occurs when the hardwood floor retailer ignores the opportunity to secure additional profits. When you take advantage of selling add-on accent products, even if you are a diehard, dedicated hardwood flooring dealer or contractor, I promise you won’t receive a notice from our segment of the industry asking for your resignation from the hardwood club.

Properly selling and installing hardwood flooring products will always be the fundamental focus of this monthly column. However, it would be shortsighted on my part if I neglected to share with you the opportunities that exist in the real world.

For instance, I recently had the pleasure of traveling with one of my associate wood distributor representatives in northwestern Arkansas. Surprisingly, we called upon a Karastan Gallery rug dealer who had recently decided to display samples of prefinished hardwood flooring. I couldn’t help but ask this dealer why he decided to carry and display a hardwood flooring line. His response: “If I continued to ignore the fact that my specialty area rugs require hardwood floors as a foundation, I might as well hand out my competitor’s business card and only hope that they don’t sell area rugs.” Under these circumstances, the dealer determined — rightfully so — that both sales were at risk.

Let’s take this one step further. A hardwood specialty contractor in Omaha, Neb. who had focused predominately on installations of unfinished wood flooring (which, as we all know, requires job site sanding and finishing), now not only installs all types of hardwood (including prefinished) but has also decided to carry a line of area rugs to accommodate those one-stop shoppers.

I believe congratulations are in order.

If these two testimonials aren’t convincing enough, the following list of advantages may represent the determining factor in your decision to incorporate the concept in your own operation.

1. As we all know in selling against wall-to-wall installations of any soft surface product, colors that are in vogue today can be obsolete tomorrow. Area rugs are unattached and inexpensive compared to flooring products that require a professional and potentially permanent installation.

2. Hardwood floors require, at the very minimum, walk-off mats. A quality area rug doesn’t distract from the appearance of your hardwood flooring installation compared to a walk-off mat that will eventually fray and discolor in a relatively short period of time.

3. Area rugs can be sent out for professional cleaning when necessary and can also be oriented in various directions to minimize the development of traffic patterns that commonly appear in a wall-to-wall flooring installation.

These are just a few of the advantages that area rugs contribute to any hardwood floor installation. Wood or Wood Knot will always support you in your dedication to the hardwood flooring industry — so long as you understand that you don’t have to be a martyr in doing so.