Thursday, September 15, 2011

Warren Tyler wants to find a resting place for that dreaded beige carpeting

Warren Tyler
One of things is the economy. People seeking to sell their homes prior to being kicked out, banks trying to sell them, opportunists who steal these properties to sell them and realtors doing all these things. The sad thing about this whole affair is that beige doesn’t help sell homes. In fact, it is an inhibitor. I’ve proved this on countless occasions persuading landlords and builders to let us use color in their units promising that they would be among the first to move or we would replace the carpeting. It’s the sizzle! People didn’t care whether it matched their furniture of not, they just wanted the most beautiful unit. Where did I get the courage to do this? My mother always told me that if everyone was doing it: It’s wrong! The longer I live, the more I see the incredible wisdom of that statement.

Another factor is a bad economy depresses people, hence beige. During the Regan/Clinton years when everyone was rich and happy, color sold. Marketers employed by the mills have a huge influence over manufacturers and instead of listening to interior designers and decorators and moving forward, they tend to listen to people who know nothing about fashion—consumers. People who forecast color and style trends believe that  at the end of this fix up and sell cycle consumers will become more confident and stable; the thirst for beige will end. Mill executives, influenced by their marketing people and looking at sales figures wrongly come to the conclusion that people prefer beige. When the siege mentality ends so will the thirst for beige.

Here’s how I presented beige at my sales classes: “When you sell ugly beige and the customer gets it installed, what is the first thing customers do? Answer: They call their neighbor to come on over and then ask how they like it?” The neighbor answers: “Like what?" Because the new beige carpet doesn’t look like new carpeting. If her friends ask where she purchased the carpeting it’s only to make certain they will never go near your store.

The floor is the largest unbroken color area in most rooms and as such, needs to be selected first. This means your customer can choose any color they want. The worse thing consumers can do is to select other products and try to match the carpet to all of the stuff they selected. It has to be an educational process. First choose the color of the floor, then possibly the walls, window treatments and fabric in about that order. We don’t sell flooring. We create beautiful rooms.

No home interiors product can be customized so easily, do so much to beautify the home, in so little time for so little money than colorful carpet. It is easily one of the best consumer buys on the market and yet we are losing market share.

There are solutions:
First, get over the fallacy that beige can help rent apartments and sell homes, mill executives have to listen to design professionals and become trend setters, stop making and selling high pile soft yarns (just had to throw that in) and pray we elect those who can help lead us out of this Keynesian economic mess.
Meanwhile, at least provide a rudimentary design education for your people. Hire designers on your floor and educate your customers about creating a beautiful home and how much better they will feel sans ugly beige. I was always a contrarian retailer. You know, someone who  has a preference for going against the grain. Contrarians usually win. In these times, it isn’t going to hurt to try something new.
Who would have thought that you could be a contrarian by not focusing on beige?


Warren Tyler is a professional speaker, retail consultant and educator as well as author of several books, CDs and DVDs targeted toward flooring retailers and salespeople. He is also a consultant with the Floor Covering Institute. Read Warren's column at Floor Covering News.

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