In the late 1800s, a rug market opened on New York City’s Broadway near Union Square. This market, called ABC Carpet & Home, became a premier luxury destination for locals and tourists. Over the years, its assortment and offerings expanded with the introduction of home furnishings and décor.

As a legacy brand, it has a robust following of loyal customers. However, it also meant that when the pandemic hit in 2020, its technology and e-commerce capabilities were not as sophisticated as other more-modern retailers, and the brand suffered immensely. It filed for bankruptcy in September of 2021, citing more than $80 million in debt, but six weeks later, a fund called 888 Capital Partners acquired it for about $26 million. And over the past two and a half years, the company has worked extensively to turn the business around and bring it back to its prime.

ABC Carpet & Home is also far from the only retailer to struggle during the pandemic. Brooks Brothers and Lucky Brand are two other legacy retailers that faced a similar fate and have also been working to reinvent themselves.

Introduction to eCommerce

For an active retailer in the 21st century, ABC surprisingly did not have a quality online presence in 2020. This meant its sales were significantly diminished with the stay-at-home orders. It was a wake-up call and a definitive need for the brand to survive. The new website launched quietly about a year ago. It hosts about 40,000 SKUs and was a large undertaking for a brand, especially since it simultaneously decided to decrease the square footage of its store.

“What we now lack in square footage, we’re able to make up for with the endless aisle of the website. So, it’s allowed us to really focus on creating a sophisticated and inspiring website experience. And what hasn’t changed is our commitment to the legacy of ABC – the flagship at 888 is really an institution, and we really try hard to honor that history from a merchandising perspective,” shared Suki LaBarre, ABC’s VP of Merchandising and eCommerce.

A Smaller Store And Refined Merchandising

The store decreased from four to two floors, which meant a lot of adjustment regarding what products were showcased and how they were displayed in-store. However, its focus continues to be rugs.

“We have a rug collection unlike any other in the industry. With that said, we also have furniture, textiles, and all the décor. We did eliminate some of the more peripheral to-home subcategories like clothing and apothecary, but for the most part, we’re staying focused on rugs with an enhancement on furniture and décor. Rugs probably represent about 55% of the volume, although they only fill about 30 or 40% of the space,” stated LaBarre.

Smaller store footprints are a trend in the retail industry, and even more so amongst home goods retailers. For instance, released a report earlier this year that looked at brands like Arhaus, Ethan Allen, and Williams Sonoma, and it has seen decreased visits in this sector. “We believe the category will likely follow the department store category, where we’ve started to see consolidation and a movement to explore smaller format stores/showrooms,” the report stated. The company has also already researched the benefit of smaller format stores in other categories.

Dedicated And Loyal Staff

Despite the company’s merchandising changes, it relies on its highly educated and experienced staff to uphold its renowned customer experience. As Sid Bannon, a member of the ABC leadership team, said, “80% of the staff that we kept from the pre-bankruptcy are floor staff. The average person has over ten years of experience. So, they train us.” The staff has become vital to the brand’s transition and success post-bankruptcy. The products are naturally higher priced items, which means customer relationships are essential – the customers need more education and guidance.

The company has seen that having many familiar staff members on the floor has helped maintain customer loyalty and trust. It has also added this to its online offering, adding virtual interior design services where customers can book video calls with staff to get guidance on designing their home or space. During the pandemic, this became popular among many furniture brands, including CB2 and Ikea.

In addition to ABC’s new website and redesigned store, it has plans to grow its website features and open more stores. It sees itself where other luxury retailers are in states like California or Florida. Although the company still has a way to go to recover from its 2021 bankruptcy, there’s certainly hope for success in the future. But for now, as LaBarre shared, “we are really focused on maintaining the integrity of what ABC has always been, but at the same time trying to modernize it in an authentic way.”

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