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From Home Furnishing Business

What Betty Wants

By Home Furnishings Business in Furniture Retailing on March 2007 The world has changed. A technology revolution
is upon us. I sincerely hope this is not earth
shattering news to you. The revolution has created a world filled with perfect and complete information available at a rapid-fire pace.

How€™s the home furnishings industry faring?

I€™d say overall our speed is fairly lousy and product alone does not fulfill our typical customer Betty€™s dreams.

My brother custom-built a house in six months. Conversely several buyers have still not taken delivery on bedroom groups they bought in October of 2006. Nevertheless, that€™s the reality we live in. But just because the pipeline can be painfully slow for product doesn€™t mean you as a retailer can afford to be. You deal with the fast-paced consumer. We love to holler and wail about how Betty is not excited about buying furniture. But hey, Betty buys pre-cut and -washed celery these days. Does it really come as a surprise that she does not have the patience to wait for a boat to arrive from China? Is she supposed to be bestowed with this patience just because we haven€™t figured out a fast way to deliver the goods? She doesn€™t have to wait for other industries that sell far more complicated goods.

These stunning observations will not change the speed at which you receive your goods from vendors. But remember, you control the part of the equation of how fast and completely you satisfy Betty, who really just wishes she had a cool bedroom.

That€™s where we get to part two of the technology revolution. It€™s not just speed that has arrived on the scene, but also a world of more perfect and complete information and thus, satisfaction.

Complete translation: people want what they want, when they want it.

Let€™s say Betty does go out and buy some €œfurniture€ and patiently waits for it to be delivered (or gets it the same day from a dealer on top of the game). The job is still incomplete. She still has the same old room, just now with some new furniture. Without paint and lighting and accessories and an area rug, she leaves the experience less than satisfied. She has furniture, but not the dream room she wanted. She€™s left hanging and slightly dissatisfied. Do we then really spend time wondering why she€™s not just wild for the whole furniture buying process?

Here€™s one possible idea. Sell Betty on the idea that for $4,500 (or $25,000) and a weekend, she can transform her bedroom into the place she always wanted it to be. Contract with local painters, use in-house designers to pull the new room together. Let consumers e-mail you dimensions and a few digital pics of the room. Get them to fill out a questionnaire. Merchandise the room for them. Throw in a candle and a fern. Give her what she wants, not just furniture. Let Betty buy her very own extreme makeover. It is, after all, what she really wants.

It€™s a concrete, fast and complete option. Its cost can also be directly compared against that of a plasma screen TV or a long weekend in South Beach.

Execution in one week, start to finish. You€™re my kind of people if this idea both excites and scares the hell out of you at the same time. Oh, and by the way, do this right, and there€™s a heck of a lot of margin in it for you (which is why it won€™t be easy€”the good stuff never is).

It€™s routine to say that the furniture industry is antiquated. Why don€™t we try something different? It really can€™t hurt to be revolutionary ourselves. Sure, it€™ll require some work-arounds and fresh thinking, but we need to pick up the pace, because consumers who have the money and desire for a cool bedroom are passing us by every day.

Fast, exciting and satisfying sells like hotcakes at all price points. Slow, lumbering and incomplete? Well, I think we know how that goes.

It€™s time to hit Betty€™s pace and give her what she wants. Drop me an e-mail and share what you€™re doing to keep up. I€™ll pick it up instantly on my BlackBerry®. HFB

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