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From Home Furnishing Business

The World is Shrinking

 

The face of furniture retailing continues to evolve. What will it look like in the future?

By Bob George

This is not a new concept. In fact, for decades the expansion of air travel, the exploration of foreign countries by National Geographic, and the impact of the Internet have made us truly a world community.

Now, social media and the vast content of the Internet will, at the very least, allow people to be there in spirit. Furthermore, today international flights are departing from relativity small airports thus making it possible for the general public to get there easily.

What does this have to do with the furniture industry? Obviously, in the manufacturing sector, the production has and continues to move offshore. (See the current Statistically Speaking article.) However, what about the retail sector? In the not too distant past furniture retailing was local with a family name above the door and a reputation in the community that facilitated the consumer purchase.

Yes, there are many regional chains personified by local ownership remain on the retail landscape. Nevertheless, like restaurants, that local great place to eat has been joined by national chains offering good food and acceptable service. While the consumer encounter is good, this location offers neither the local flair nor the exceptional experience.

Will furniture retailing evolve to several national chains offering consistent service of a commodity product designed to satisfy the blended taste of a national consumer?

All of this leads to this question. Will furniture retailing evolve to several national chains offering consistent service of a commodity product designed to satisfy the blended taste of a national consumer?

Does economy of scale dictate that a 500-plus store chain only deliver the experience demanded by the consumer? Obviously two stores have the advantage over one but, if continued to increase, when does the point of diminishing returns come into play? And what gets lost in the process?

The challenge for local retailers is to truly differentiate themselves from the faceless larger chains that are gradually moving into their markets. This is documented in our feature article. From a consumer’s perspective of what is important, being No. 1 across the board is a necessity. What is your consumer DNA?



Sometimes it is not just about price or an extensive selection. The larger retailer will focus on one or two factors, such as price, selection, and the like, expecting the consumer to accept less than great on the others. Local retailers cannot let the consumer settle. If you communicate your differences, they won’t.

 



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