Face to Face: Target vs. Walmart - Area Rugs
Cecile Corral -- Home Textiles Today, 7/9/2012 2:00:00 AM
MIAMI - Neat. In a word, that would describe the area rug departments and presentations at two units here of discount chain rivals Walmart and Target.
Here's another word: Boring. To be fair, maybe "safe" is more apropos.
But that is to be largely expected, as the limited space dedicated to the category at both by nature must be concise, offer broad appeal, and convey value.
That's not to say each Walmart and Target doesn't do a decent job of offering an adequate mix for their target customers.
It's hard for rugs to compete with $6 summer-bright Tees, end-caps of discounted juice packs and cookies, and 99-cent flip-flops, especially when soft floor coverings at both stores are tucked far away in the middle of the home furnishings department somewhere between other slow-moving categories like lamps, mirrors, wall hangings and picture frames.
Still, area rugs have a place at Walmart and Target, especially in the more basic design tilts for everyday use and the more trend-driven novelty looks for the younger set. And both retailers seem to drive attention to area rugs by including plenty of auxiliary pieces - accents and runners - to meet prices and increase point-of-purchase opportunities within the category.
Here's a look at what HTT found at a recently-opened Walmart unit in the heavily-Hispanic and working class neighborhood of Westchester and a Target located in the city's ethnically diverse suburb of northern Kendall.
Walmart in Westchester:
At Walmart, area and accent rugs occupy more than half of a full 34-foot long aisle - one side is all rugs and the facing side carries a mix of rugs, clocks and mirrors.
On the side of the aisle stocked only half way with rugs, the assortment includes about eight feet of door mats presented on six shelves. All of the product is labeled Mainstays, which is Walmart's lower-priced, in house home brand. Constructions include coir, rubber, recycled polyester, recycled rubber, and flocked polyester - made either in the United States or in China.
The next four feet features basic promotional and novelty type rugs and constructions, like those often highlighted during the back-to-school season. The top half of the shelving accommodates rolled rugs - larger accent sizes and runners; underneath are four shelves of folder smaller size styles. Priced affordably at $12.96 to $19.96, the assortment in this small section includes several pieces that are labeled "Made in the USA of remnants of undetermined fiber content or origin" as well as others that are made of wither olefin, polyester or polyester blends.
Shaw Living has several synthetic pieces included in this mix, such as neon-colored and novelty patterned shags and plush flokati styles.
Turning to the facing side of the aisle, where rugs run the full length, the first three feet of shelving is home to basic and soft fashion looks, mostly under the Mainstays brand. Some are USA-made olefin goods, including one sku from Mohawk Home. Other pieces are also olefin but made in Egypt.
The next 18-foot section offers six solids and six fashion rugs. The former, made in Egypt of 100% polyester, retail for $19.97 for a 5-by-7; the latter span in construction - from olefin to nylon - as well as in brand: from Mainstays to Walmart's mid-tier Home Trends to its better Canopy label through its licensed collection with Better Homes and Gardens.
As with everything else for sale at Walmart, price is key in the store's rug department - even if it means the product is faulty in some way. One offering in the fashion rugs section carrying the Canopy brand - a 48-by-64 shag made in the United States of an olefin and PET poly blend - was labeled with a tag that read, "Failed U.S. Department of Commerce Standard FF2-70. Should not be used near sources of ignition. Made in USA. M7."
Its price: $46.96. The tickets for smaller versions were $24.96 for a 30-by-46 and $12.96 for a 20-by-34.
At the end of this aisle were six shelves stocked with 12 accent rug styles, ranging from solid textured looks to printed patterns and many varieties in between.
In sum, Walmart's customer is served a hearty helping of basic to light-fashion looks and utility accents - no doubt the result of the retailer's commitment to low prices.
Target in North Kendall
Situated one block over from Miami's well-trafficked Dadeland Mall - home to Macy's, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, JCPenney and a long list of better specialty stores - is the well trafficked Target store serving this vast Miami suburb.
This Target serves a higher income bracket of shoppers for the most part, which might or might not explain the larger concentration of fashion and natural fiber-made products in the assortment priced a notch higher than their counterparts at the Walmart store HTT visited.
Also compared to the local Walmart, this Target store has a larger offering of area rugs - occupying a full aisle plus one side of the next-door aisle in the home furnishings department.
A Mohawk Home-labeled endcap is positioned at the beginning of the aisle, and it is stocked with only the company's goods. Available are six olefin styles of 5-by-7 rugs that are rolled, packaged and standing within their assigned slots, and six matching runners are folded below on shelves.
Inside the main rugs aisle, fashion is the focus as are natural fibers - wool, mostly, as well as some jute and cotton and blends.
The assortment largely falls under Target's private label "Home" brand and the products are mostly made in India and sourced directly by the retailer.
On one side, the first four feet feature both rolled 4-by-6 and 5-by-7 hooked wool pieces on racks as well as smaller versions stocked neatly in underneath shelving.
Prices range from $179.99 through $29.99 for the area to accent sizes. Runners, which are displayed adjacently - and in similarly rolled packaging - and come in five styles that match the area rug patterns. The average price point is $89.99 for a 25-by-84.
Another four feet later, there is another assortment of more hooked wool styles in area and accent sizes. Here, the highest and lowest price points are $199.99 and $24.99, respectively.
Braided and tufted wool styles are found four feet down, and the last four feet of this side of the aisle carries the largest-sized rugs - 7-by-10s, which come is shag, synthetic, polypropylene and other fibers and constructions - many of them made by Mohawk Home.
Mohawk Home wares make up the first four feet of the facing side of the aisle, with six styles of olefin, U.S.A.-manufactured shag style. Available in regular, chunky, and eyelash construction looks, the rugs are priced to retail for $99.99 to $109.99 for 5-by-7 sizes. Accents are tagged at $29.99 and $34.99.
The rest of this side of the aisle gives further focus to natural fiber and blended constructions sourced directly by Target. There are four feet of runners in about six styles, then four feet of chenille-like area rug sizes and some matching accent rugs, and then finally four more feet for 60-by-80 varieties available in seven styles - some of them olefin.
Synthetic rugs at more promotional price points get their stage in one aisle over, where bright novelty shags made in the United States of nylon are displayed alongside some basic solid-colored polyester shags and some Mohawk Home-branded non-skid rug pads.
But here, accent rugs dominate, occupying about half of this side of the aisle with about 20 skus in a broad range of styles, from $10 looks made of "all undetermined textile byproduct" to $34.99 printed pattern decorative looks for the kitchen.
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