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From Home Furnishing Business

Editors Letter: What Drives the Industry?

by Bob George,

From the beginning of consumer commerce, understanding exactly what fuels consumer desire has been the most sought after knowledge. As civilization moved beyond the satisfaction of basic needs like food, comfort, and safety, the need to diff erentiate oneself became part of the acquisition process.

While there are some interesting trends that give the industry pause, such as the increasing tendency of households to value free time more than income and the consideration of leasing instead of purchasing, they are a direct contradiction of our acquisitive society. From a merchandising perspective, the industry creates the “it” product that awakens the need to acquire and own.

From a historical perspective, writers have broken time into periods of homes, furnishings, transportation, and clothing that defi ne the extravagance of civilization. In the last decade, the possession of “devices” of communication captured the imagination of the populous. The result was everything Apple became an instant must-have. However, now that has begun to fade as the thing to possess.

Now, the defi nition of “must-have” is travel to that unique destination that will fuel social media content for months, even though the resulting photography never matches those used in the advertising that motivates the consumer to delay their furniture purchases for fun on distant shores.

The fi rst chart below is a list of fi ve areas in which consumers might make major purchases. Ranked from 1 to 5, with 1 being most important and 5 being least important, the graph tells the story.

Note closely that it is the younger consumer that is focusing on furniture while still preferring travel.

These observations all point to the fact that it is not the consumer, but the industry that is failing to entice the consumer to purchase.

As for merchandising, design and quality are the most important to both young and old consumers as can be seen from recent research in the chart below. The second chart is a list of motivators that infl uence a purchaser of furniture. Consumers were asked to rank each in its importance with 1 being “most important” and 6 being “least important.” Again, the data tells the story.

Therefore it is in your hands, merchandisers, to drive the industry. Please note that it is not about price.

On another note, we are pleased to announce our newest feature, Bedding Boardroom. Each quarter we will dive into the matt ress/bedding category to bring you insight backed with current research refl ecting shopper behavior. This month we explore why bedding product has underperformed furniture in the last fi ve years. Here's a hint: The failure to develop and diff erentiate new product is a factor.

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