Business owner pulls the rug out from traditional industry practices

Carpet retailer has a brick-and-mortar store but uses the Internet to help 'democratize the process'

By Sandra Bretting

November 19, 2014 Updated: November 21, 2014 10:46pm

Amir Mireskandari - SearsRugs.com Founder

Buying a rug has always involved a chain of people: importers, wholesalers and then retailers.

"People have never liked walking into a rug store because first there's the sticker shock with so many people involved, and then they're buying 'blind' because they feel like they don't know enough about the product," said Amir Mireskandari.

Mireskandari, 44, whose background lies in rug sales and store liquidations, is trying to change that through the Internet.

This month, his company, eCommerce Sourcing Solutions, joined with retail giant Sears to launch SearsRugs.com. The site offers more than 20,000 rugs, ranging in price from $20 to $10,000.

"We're trying to democratize the process," Mireskandari said. "Who said rugs have to be an investment? If you give people a nice design at a budget price, they won't be devastated three years later when they get a new couch and the rug doesn't match, so they need another one."

The CEO earned bachelor's and master's degrees in business before starting his career. Early on, he worked with stores that were going out of business or shutting locations to liquidate their inventory. Clients included Linens 'n Things, Levitz Furniture and Sears.

Contacts with Sears

Those contacts at Sears came in handy in 2012, when Sears agreed to let Mireskandari build a website and infrastructure to support SearsRugs.com, which launched this month.

He spent $500,000 of his own capital to do that, while Sears lent its name and a customer database in the millions.

"We call it 'big data,' " Mireskandari said. "It would take at least a decade for my team to ramp up and reach the kind of audience they (Sears) have, not to mention the millions of dollars we'd have to spend in marketing."

While creating the Sears website, Mireskandari and his team made sure to standardize the number of styles and sizes of rugs available, so the program could work with any retailer. Now he's approaching other large chains that don't have a presence in the rug business about launching similar websites.

Perfect for online

"Rugs are the perfect Internet product because they're easy to ship, there's little damage to them and there's a decent profit margin," Mireskandari said.

His company also helps people who are in the rug business but want to change the way they work.

The Internet has altered business so much that Mireskandari decided to return to school - this time Harvard - in 2009 to earn an additional MBA.

"I was sitting next to CEOs who are responsible for 15,000 employees, which was humbling," he said. "But I needed help in defining the direction of my company, since my chief job is to communicate our strategy to clients and others."

Infrastructure

In addition to his Internet business, Mireskandari owns a store called Rug and Décor Outlet in the Memorial area.

"But the future is with the Internet because the infrastructure to run them has finally caught up with sales," Mireskandari said. "People can request samples online and it's still cheaper for us to send those out than to process a return if they don't like the rug in their home."