Should You be Selling Carpet by the Square Foot, Square Yard or Both?

Chris Davis, the chief executive officer of the World Floor Covering Association, takes off the gloves in his recently written analysis of the square-foot pricing situation for carpet. Chris calls ’em as he sees ’em. He opens his discussion of the subject with the thorny problem confronting so many retailers today.

Chris put the root question right on the table: “Should you be selling carpet by the square foot, square yard or both? That’s a very real question for specialty floor covering retailers as they attempt to both satisfy their customers and comply with inconsistent regulations.”

Inconsistent regulations — that’s for sure. And who’s caught in the middle? The retailer! Anyway, read on. According to Chris, “Most other floor coverings are sold by the square foot, and there is very strong anecdotal evidence that when competing floor covering surfaces are compared on the same square-foot basis, it showcases the value of carpet. While there is very little proof that this has caused customers to switch from their preferred floor covering choice, it has clearly generated upgrades in purchases of carpet for those who were seeking carpet as a replacement flooring.”

Chris reports that that, transitionally, “many dealers are offering carpet at both square-foot and square-yard prices. That may be the smartest thing to do until the government(s) figure out just exactly what unit of measurement carpet should be sold by. If you’re confused, you’re not alone.”

Nice to know that those of us who are confused are not alone. But sure makes for a sorry state of affairs.

This next few paragraphs are vintage Chris Davis. Be sure to note his use of the word “unilaterally” in the first sentence, and the wording in the last two sentences. “You may recall” he says, “the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) unilaterally approached the Southern and Western Weights & Measures Association last year and convinced their governing body that carpet should be sold by the square foot only.

“This resulted in new language to that effect appearing in NIST Handbook 130, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Uniform Laws and Regulations. CRI trumpeted the news that, effective Jan. 1, 2000, carpet must be sold by the square foot. Oh really? Well, that statement is partially right.

“The truth is the model laws and regulations in Handbook 130 do not become mandatory unless the states adopt them. The change did go into effect Jan. 1, 2000 in Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia, which automatically adopt the changes to the Method of Sale Regulation on an annual basis.”

If you are doing business in any of those states, Chris advises “you had best be selling carpet by the square foot. The requirement will not go into effect in the other states until they amend their regulations on method of sale, which could take several years, if at all.”

So how about retailers doing business in states that require compliance? They are in the minority. (California, by the way, opted not to adopt the measure, and doesn’t require carpet to be sold by the square foot nor does it prohibit it.) That leaves 35 other states open to determine whether to adopt this standard. As Chris says, for those states to amend their regulations could take several years, if at all.

So what does Chris suggest? His answer: “It appears the safest course of action for a floor covering retailer is to sell carpet by both a square-foot AND a square-yard price. This both helps to educate your customer and keeps you in compliance with whatever stance your state regulatory agency has elected to adopt on this issue.”

Chris then concludes his analysis with this statement: “Ironically, while the CRI was adamant that carpet should be sold by the square foot at retail, no mention or mandate was made or sought about the unit of measurement that the CRI’s mill members should sell to retailers. Apparently, what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander. CRI undoubtedly would view that as unnecessary governmental intrusion.”

As you can see, Chris minces no words and offers sound advice to retailers. Frankly, whether carpet is sold by the square foot or square yard, we can never lose sight of the continuing importance of professionally presenting and selling carpet’s exciting fashion attributes, features and benefits.

My editorial announcing square-foot pricing (November, 1999 NFT) pointed out that what so many of us resented most was that the government came in and issued the edict, and that neither the retail nor the distributor community was consulted or made part of the process. What are your feelings on this? E-mail your thoughts to, or write/fax them to 22801 Ventura Blvd., #115, Woodland Hills, CA 91364; (818) 224-8042.