Be sure to categorize your rugs by theme for easy browsing. And if you must stack your rugs, make sure the stacks are small and manageable.

Without a doubt, area rugs have come into their own as a fashion statement synonymous with the description: “art for your floors.” Don’t expect the popularity of stone, hardwoods, or ceramic floors to wane anytime soon. Expect that these floor product trends will, however, propel your area rugs to superstar status.

Customers with hard surface floors in family rooms are discovering that they compromised warmth and comfort for aesthetics. I reassure new clients that they did not make a mistake in choosing that beautiful hardwood or travertine. They just need to incorporate the “livability” factor into the room to get the best of both worlds.

Enter the area rug solution. I usually recommend leaving at least 12” to 18” of the hard surface material showing around the perimeter of the room when choosing an area rug. The border effect is very pleasing and creates a “frame” for the area rug. It also adds continuity to the design if that flooring is used in adjacent rooms.

And, make sure to recommend a protective rug underlay to be placed beneath the area rug. The pad should be ½” smaller than the rug dimensions so the carpet edges will be flush with the floor. Some area rugs already come with an attached soft backing. A quality pad will protect the floor, prevent slippage and wrinkling, and add a little extra comfort. 

Area rug designs are more diverse than ever, covering the spectrum from bold contemporary to ancient Oriental rug designs. Colors range from pastels to vibrant and there’s something to match any décor. As is the case when choosing broadloom, customers should choose a fiber that will fit their lifestyle and budget. Wool area rugs are plush, luxurious and environmentally friendly, but tend to be more expensive. Nylon or olefin area rugs are now “The Great Pretenders”, and can mimic wool quite convincingly. Of course, they are friendlier to the budget and offer ease of maintenance. Be sure that care and maintenance instructions are provided to every customer at the point of sale.

So given this prediction of area rugs heading towards superstar status, what should you, as a retailer, do to showcase them to their best advantage? I hit the road to preview many different stores’ merchandising techniques (both good and bad) and came back with some worthwhile ideas to share: 

Categorize Rugs by Themes

If you have a large inventory of rugs, this might be helpful to you. Can rugs actually be categorized?  Broadly speaking-yes. You can create your own library of rugs, which is easy to navigate to locate rugs by design. Here are some examples:

• Geometrics - encompass a large segment of designs available today that target your contemporary customers (circles, block patterns, hexagons, etc.)

• Botanicals – include any nature-themed rug designs (leaf patterns, vines, florals, tree-bark patterns, etc.)

• Sculpted – the pattern is actually carved into the rug using varying pile heights, or cut & loop designs.

• Paisleys – this has become a very popular motif and appeals to crossover design genres (traditional, transitional and contemporary).

• Far East Designs – many of the luxurious 100% wool creations fall into this category and have the allure of exotic places.

• Animal Prints – everything from zebra stripes to leopard spots are available for the floor and fit into this grouping.

• Organic Themes – Shells, waves, sand dunes, etc.  Manufacturers are creatively pursuing new designs in this category.

And, you can take your organizing a step further and inventory rugs by color within each category, to make searches even more directed. 

Racking Systems

I can’t think of anything less enticing than walking into a store and seeing nothing but rugs piled up, pancake style, to infinity. Most of your customers will be women, and these stacks are very intimidating, especially if the rug she wants to see is at the bottom of the pile. 

You are probably thinking, well, that’s why I’m there-to help her paw through them. Nonetheless, the idea of pawing through them is still not enticing. Racking systems mounted on easily moveable wings make the search much easier, and makes your store appear more professional. If you do need to stack rugs, keep it manageable.

Better yet, think of staging rugs in several ways throughout the store to show them off to their best advantage. Jim Benson, President of Design Trade International (DTI) in Costa Mesa, Calif. had some good advice: “Get creative and use interesting props to showcase rugs in unexpected ways.” You can definitely draw some practical inspiration from their ideas:


DTI employs some very unique staging techniques: a tall bamboo ladder secured to a wall became the perfect prop for draping a magnificent area rug through the rungs. Another display featured huge drapery rings mounted to the ceiling along perimeter walls, with rugs attached by clips. This accommodated the larger rugs beautifully and made it easier to change out inventory.

Also, several vignettes were created in cozy corners of the showroom, underscored by colorful area rugs. Small furniture pieces were added to each vignette to create the illusion of home. Each of these ideas has merit and definitely sets the stage, but don’t think that a creative display has to be complicated or expensive. A display in your own store could be as simple as an antique trunk with a stunning area rug arranged over it.

Be creative. Don’t be afraid of vignettes and other home-grown displays to show off your rugs. These types of displays can help create a conversation with your customer.

Artistic Merchandising

At DTI, the largest of the rugs were neatly stacked in the center of the showroom, but only about twelve rugs deep, so they could easily be turned back for viewing. Wing racks captured the remaining styles, which allowed for a large number of rugs to be shown in a condensed amount of space.

Photo albums of custom rugs were placed on attractive worktables, so customers could sit down and browse through the possibilities. That portfolio is important. It has the power to sell even what you do not physically have on the floor.

Directed specialty lighting was used to create emphasis and drama around the rugs they wanted to highlight. Track lighting with directional capabilities, or single spots strategically placed, were very effective. One final point: the floor of this showroom was made of stained concrete in a very dark color. It created a blank canvas for the patterns, textures, and colors of each unique rug. 

Merchandising is powerful in the retail setting, and you have the ability to boost your area rug sales simply by rethinking your display methods. Consider your store your own personal stage. Get a little dramatic, have fun, and definitely give your rugs star billing.