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From Home Furnishing Business

Dog Days Of Summer

As a boy growing up in North Carolina I well understood the “dog days of summer” when it was too hot and humid to move too far from the porch and a pitcher of lemonade.  This term in business refers to the quietest months of the year.  Well, it has been dog days for all of 2nd Quarter and recent results would indicate that it is continuing. Our hopes are now pinned on the upcoming Labor Day.

When business is this slow the typical reaction is to look at external factors that may be contributing to this problem.  When we see the statistics we find that they too are at a standstill.  Housing starts annualized are up slightly.   Consumer confidence is also up slightly going from 96.5 to 97.3, while unemployment for the year is down slightly.  So what’s the problem?

The challenge is to get consumers excited about their environment, not merely to replace a broken piece of furniture.   Disregard the impact of ecommerce and focus on what is, in my opinion, the most important internet opportunity, which is the ability to communicate with and, more importantly, to interact with your customers.

The retailers’ website has become the “front door” of your business.  Take a hard look at your home page.  How long has it been since it was updated?  Not merely product update, but also color story, the site’s overall look and feel, and, very important, how inviting it is to the consumer.  Give the site the same attention that you give the “landing zone,” that first impression the consumers have when they enter your store.  Four times more consumers see your home page than your store entrance!

Once consumers pass the home page how are you engaging them?  Oversized banners proclaiming the latest financing package should not be the first “words” out of your mouth.  Engaging consumers with conversation about what they want to do with their houses is where their interest lies.  Many retailers have design tools to assist consumers, but frequently these tools are not “front and center.”

While we wait for Labor Day to ignite the last quarter of the year, it is a good time to take a hard look not only at the web site, but also the merchandise strategy.  How does your “bell-shaped” curve of slots by price point compare with the industry?  Assortments out of bounds can negatively impact sales by 20-30%.

I understand that you don’t want to interact very much with your sales associates because they will complain about the lack of traffic.  This is the time to engage them to keep them “sharp” when the customer does arrive. Take this opportunity to observe their sales techniques.  Are they following the five-step selling technique they were taught or are they going directly to close?

The point of all of this is to use this time to visualize what you want your operation to be and then start the process.  It is better than languishing in the dog days of summer.  Call if you need a motivation session.

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