One in a Million

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-By David Barratt

When purchasing a rug, consumers want to feel the fabric between their fingers and experience the true to life vivid colours and patterns. This desire makes rugs one of the few remaining consumer items that need to be seen and experienced before being purchased. Choosing a rug is still very much a “touchy feely” process as Craig Wicks, founder and Managing Director of Rugs a Million aptly puts it.

Craig’s company, founded 20 years ago in Queensland, has grown to encompass 29 bricks and mortar retail locations supported by a powerful online presence, placing the company as Australia’s top of mind name when consumers are looking for new rugs for their homes. “After a couple years,” Craig says, “we decided to expand from the Gold Coast to Brisbane and area.” Ever since, the company has continued to grow in a reasonably fast, but controlled manner, moving into its third state by acquisition, with the purchase of an existing rug company in Adelaide.

Rugs a Million has experienced measured growth through much of the company’s existence, developing strong international buying power, and after a slow period due to the gloomy retail market situation, is experiencing renewed growth, opening several new locations in Australia.

Thinking back to the founding of the company, Craig Wicks identifies one major trend as the impetus of growth – the decline in popularity of wall-to-wall carpet solutions in Australian homes. “The timing was quite right as wall to wall carpeting was losing popularity to hard floors. I saw the market evolving almost overnight,” he says of his decision to leave the carpet market and move into rugs as the primary focus of his business. “As soon as you get hard floors in a house, you need rugs aesthetically, acoustically, and to keep warm in the winter.”

The trend toward hard flooring continues to grow as Australians follow the fashion of America and Europe. “There is still growth in the marketplace as hard floors become more popular, so I see no reason why there won’t be more growth in this country.”

Though Craig founded Rugs a Million and is Managing Director today, he credits the synergy of three key minds and their complementary skill sets with providing the stable foundation that has allowed the company its continues growth and success in the market.

Craig himself brings a keen marketing and advertising experience to the table, while the company’s General Manager Paul Mifsud brings a wealth of experience in the rug retail industry and a passion for the product. All of these skills are tied together by the accounts department, who work to keep costs down. The three key members work together, meeting each Monday to share ideas and keep their finger on the pulse of the company, the consumer, and their business.

And business is good, operated with a strong philosophy of valuing staff, creating a second to none customer experience, and understanding the ever changing fashion of the rug retail industry.

“We focus totally on our staff. Of our 150-odd staff, more than half have been with us for more than ten years,” says Craig of the business’ unique company culture. This longevity can be credited to the positive work environment inspired by Craig’s leadership of the company, as well as staff commitment to remaining knowledgeable about the products and providing excellent customer service. “We really pride ourselves on making our customers number one while focusing on the simple basics of good reselling.” Customers are indeed enjoying their shopping experience at Rugs a Million, benefiting from the service and selection provided by the company’s well trained and knowledgeable staff.

Rugs a Million stays at the top of the marketplace by ensuring that its rugs are current, fashionable, and of high quality for its customers. While offering the highest quality, handmade traditional Persian style rugs, Rugs a Million also designs and imports all the latest fashions from around the world to meet the tastes of all of its customers. “Our buyers are up to date with the colours and fabrics and designs most desired by today’s consumers, and we make sure we have the range of rugs that people want,” says Craig, a range which is second to none in the marketplace.

The company’s user friendly five year warranty and money back guarantee is also very appealing to choosy customers, as is the business’ policy of allowing customers to bring rugs home to give them a try.

“Today’s consumers are very well informed because of the internet,” says Craig, “and we ensure that when customers come in they get good solid product knowledge and old fashioned service.” The company’s web store, though it accounts for only about 2 per cent of sales, is a great way for customers to get to know the product before they make their way into any of the many physical retail spaces the company operates.

“We embrace the website as synergy, not an opposition. It’s one form of a driver to get customers into our stores,” says Craig of the role played by the company’s web presence. “We benefit in that we do not have the internet as competition because rugs are still a touchy feely purchase and colour is not represented accurately on the computer screen.” Craig expects the company’s web store to continue to grow, but does not anticipate it forming a significant part of the company’s business in the near future.

The company also attracts customers to the store with its annual television marketing campaign based around the seasons. Often, customers who see the television ads are prompted to research products on the website before actually entering a store to make their purchase. “We run a very strict advertising campaign annually, based on the seasons, that allows the Rugs a Million name to be foremost in our market.”

The company has resumed growth generally despite the recent dip in national markets that businesses have faced across the board. In 2008, the company understandably took a fair hit as markets fell, but with strong leadership, Rugs a Million has been able to navigate the market successfully where others have not.

“At the end of 2008, this company did not sit on its laurels – we reacted immediately to the national financial situation by cutting off every bit of dead wood the company had, including retail locations.” Craig felt that to remain competitive, it was important to make the company as lean and strong as possible.

“I could sense tough retail times ahead, so we worked to be safe and survive anything the economy could throw at us.”

The company has not only survived this major test, but as of the 2011 financial year, is experiencing real growth and increased profits. “We’ve gone through a consolidating era and are moving into a growth sector through the toughest retail times our country has ever known.” Even in Queensland, an area Craig says has been hit particularly hard, the company’s four new retail locations have all had very successful openings.

Although Rugs a Million has manoeuvred itself to the top of the rug pile, so to speak, Australia’s rug retail industry has suffered generally with fewer imports each year and consumers buying cheaper rugs. “The industry has bottomed out in my opinion, and as soon as a little bit of confidence has been restored in the market sector, sales will increase considerably as a ‘catch up period’ ensues.”

Rugs a Million imports about two thirds of its stock directly from overseas wholesalers, and the company has built strong relationships with its vendors, enabling it to amass extensive buying power. “We probably import 150 containers a year, which makes us a serious customer for many manufacturers. I don’t believe anybody can buy better than us so we can keep ourselves competitive in a tough retail environment.” Rugs a Million uses its buying power to pass on significant savings to customers who are hard pressed to find a better price for rugs anywhere in the nation.

Going forward, Craig sees continued measured growth and new successes in the financial year to come, as the company projects another increase in profits over last year. Planned growth in its physical locations as well as in the web side of the business means that Rugs a Million will be moving even more rugs this year than last and expanding across the nation to serve more customers with its supportive, customer-centric experience.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:29 AM AEDT