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From Home Furnishing Business

From the Editor : Wide World of Shopping

 

By Sheila Long O’Mara

Take a tour down nostalgia lane with me for just a few minutes. For those of you over the age of 40, think back to shopping when you were a young teen. Not just for home furnishings, mind you, shopping for nearly anything—clothes, cars, sunglasses, books, toys, wine—and everything.

For me, the lone girl in a family of three kids, shopping for the back-to-school wardrobe was the best. First of all, neither of the boys gave a hoot about clothes—t-shirts, jeans and sneaks got them through. I, on the otherhand, did care, and it just so happened that my mom did, too. Secondly, a day spent shopping was a day spent building a mom-daughter bond.

Back in the day, in small town <st1:place w:st="on">North Carolina, store options were limited. We had the home grown department store of Belk, where you could spend nearly a day in the juniors’ department. There was an Ivey’s. Remember that name? The Charlotte-based department store was acquired by Little Rock-based Dillard’s in the 1990s.

For jeans and corduroy Levi’s in all the colors of the rainbow, the Gap was the place to go. I, a lanky teen with a small frame and long legs, appreciated the abundance of waist-length combinations available in those cubbies stacked floor to ceiling with denim and cords. Shopping was an all-day adventure that always included at least one meal, and sometimes three, out. It was THE scavenger hunt of all scavenger hunts.

At the end of the day, the prizes were all folded and tucked neatly in the bags, carried home by an exhausted yet happy girl. Fast forward to back-to-school—or any other—shopping today. The experience has changed exponentially. I still find myself living with boys who don’t care to shop, but the choices in store fronts has exploded over the years. The department stores don’t carry quite the same draw, whereas specialty stores have developed quite the cult-like following.

Add the World Wide Web—the Internet—to the number of brick and mortar stores and the total of places to shop has become nearly infinite. E-commerce is booming, and the Internet has become a shopper’s first stop prior to buying most things, including furniture. Oh, she may not buy, but she’s certainly looking, and IF she finds the perfect match to what she’s hunting, then look out. She’s just as likely to put that bed or chest or dining table in her virtual shopping cart, pull out her credit card and own both the product and the shopping experience.

E-commerce no longer only revolves around books, shoes and hard-to-find wines. Like it or not, the phenomenon is here to stay. Laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones—consumers are using all devices to shop with AND buy from.
Is the thought scary? Of course it is, if you’ve not figured out how to add that shopping cart feature to your Web site and the back end logistics needed to make it work. Is e-commerce the end all be all for retailing—furniture or otherwise? No, but it is a very real, very tangible part of the business.

In this issue, we explore e-commerce and share insight from retailers who are making it work and experts who understand the subject and how to help home furnishings retailers create a dynamic, online experience.
Here’s to figuring out the future of retailing on the Internet while we old folks reminisce about the good ol’ days of running from store to store in search of the perfect fall wardrobe.
Enjoy! 



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