From Home Furnishing Business
Editor's Letter: Is Good Sameness the Enemy of Great Wow?
It is January, a time for reflection and resolve to make changes to address the challenges of the coming year. Either personally or as a company, it is important to take stock. For traditional, independent retailers or suppliers, this year it is especially true. With industry performance at its peak and a just completed holiday season that has furniture as a top performer- why the concern?
It is hard to ignore the closing of retailers that have been in business for decades and manufacturer brands once stalwarts now liquidating.
Home Furnishings Business, with its parent company Impact Consulting and sister company FurnitureCore.com, has the same concerns in that our future is imbedded with the furniture industry. Reflecting on our masthead “strategy for the furniture industry,” we need to deliver on our promise.
The furniture industry is not an early adopter in terms of forward strategy. In fact, as other retailers are abandoning a “store on every corner,” furniture retailers are expanding their market footprint, rejecting the concept of furniture as a destination retailer. The need for gross margin per square foot of selling space will become a key performance indicator with this strategy. Likewise, furniture retailers are moving to smaller footprints with less selection (brands) and unique retail experiences. This is similar to the restaurant industry where unique upscale restaurants were replaced by mid-priced chains, such as Applebee’s and Outback. As with the fast-food chains trend of two decades ago, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, they are replacing the mom and pop burger joints, trading uniqueness and quality for dependability and consistency. The results are good food, but not great food.
Now, twenty years later, consumers are seeking out the unique burger joints and steakhouses, willing to pay more for a great meal. Creating this experience is the entrepreneurs will to replace efficiency with the unpredictable “farm to table” concept. Maybe furniture retailers and manufacturers could speed the repeat evolution and create excitement in product and the retail environment in which it is presented.
The focus of this issue is merchandising, the functional area of the industry responsible for creating the product and experience that would eliminate the boredom in the industry. Without better merchandising, the industry will continue to sell 50+% of the consumers with incomes over $100k sofas below $399.
If current retailers and manufacturers don’t, the market will correct itself with entrepreneurs emerging to excite the consumers.