14275 Thu, 04/17/2008 - 2:43pm
By Jennifer Quail
NEW YORK–Bloomingdale’s conjures an image of fashion and sophistication, and that image is crystal clear in the retailer’s rug departments.
Rich with handcrafted, one-of-a-kind creations and peppered with higher-end hand-tufted and machine-made pieces, the department holds a standard not easily rivaled.
Gilbert Cavaliero, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for tabletop and rugs at Bloomingdale’s, said the retailer is certainly dealing with a “well-educated” consumer, but the department does not merely rely on its customers’ knowledge of the category. “We also make a special effort to inform them of the fine quality and well-designed area rugs that we offer from all over the world,” Cavaliero said.
The department has found ways to differentiate itself and make the customer feel cared for and informed. Signs illustrate the high-end variety available, pointing shoppers to “Sino-Persians,” “Tribal” designs and “Vegetable-dyed rugs,” among others. The handmade offerings consist primarily of one-of-a-kinds; and a few particular high-end brand and designer names, Calvin Klein, Thomas O’Brien and Karastan among them, round out the selections. Cavaliero is among the majority of the industry, however, in noting consumer rug purchases rarely have to do with a label.
“The rug business is not vendor- nor designer-driven,” Cavaliero said. “Our customer has a size and color in mind first. Designer and vendor do not enter into the equation when the customer makes their selection.”
Another special feature in 12 of Bloomingdale’s’ “top doors,” as Cavaliero described them, is the Tufenkian shop-in-shop. The section is merchandised by both Bloomingdale’s and Tufenkian, which operates more typically out of its own showrooms in multiple cities. The area is completed by sophisticated racks and signs suited to their space within the rug departments. When asked if the concept could be extended to the retailers’ other vendors, Cavaliero said Bloomingdale’s is “always looking for ways to enhance the presentation of our assortment by resource.”
The rug division here does not deal in private-label goods “in the same way as private label is in other parts of the store,” Cavaliero said, but pointed to its vast one-of-a-kind business as serving a similar purpose. In fact, he said more than two-thirds of the rug division’s business is handmade and that does not include hand-tufted sales.
“The customers know the difference,” he said. “And the majority prefer hand-knotted.”
That creates a dramatic variety in pricing as well, as the department buys rugs piece by piece and by the square foot, and prices them accordingly.
“Bloomingdale’s is able to sell higher-end products than other department stores,” said Arash Yaraghi, co-president of Safavieh, which has been selling to Bloomingdale’s for more than six years. Yaraghi said the retailer therefore chooses “higher-ticket rugs of high quality.”
Among others, Safavieh has seen designs from its Thomas O’Brien collection make their way to Bloomingdale’s, noting the pieces are a good fit for the department as both are “known for fashion and innovative design.”