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From Home Furnishing Business

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By Home Furnishings Business in on April 2007 Realtors: Today€™s Welcome Wagon



By Janice Chamberlain

Decades ago, the Welcome Wagon was an easy inside track to new consumers in your market. These dedicated volunteers visited every newcomer, offering words of encouragement and guidance to local attractions, as well as a goody bag of items donated by area shopkeepers.

Recipients might have found a yardstick from the local lumberyard, an oven mitt from an appliance supplier or even a bottle opener from the area Pepsi or Coca-Cola bottler, all emblazoned with the name and address of the donor.

Nowadays, the Welcome Wagon has pretty much gone by the wayside. But there are other, perhaps better, ways of finding customers new to your community or district.

For example, develop a relationship with local real estate agents.

Give them stacks of your business cards, along with a handful of coupons to give to home buyers at closing time for the new place. These $15-, $20- or $25-off coupons might not be used immediately€”new home buyers are easily distracted by the challenges of moving and settling in€”but savvy furniture sellers know that nothing encourages redecorating like a new home.

All you have to do is ask the realtor to fill in the closing date on the coupon that states it€™s good for one year or six months or whatever from that date. When the home buyer starts thinking about how the new living room really deserves a new sofa to set it off, you and your coupon will be first on the list of targeted shopping sites. Then it€™s up to you to keep them coming in.

As for the Realtor, she€™s giving homeowners a piece of paper unlike any of the dozens they€™ll get at closing: one that saves them money rather than costing it.

dane decor
Rises from Ashes

A Pennsylvania contemporary retailer is gearing up for its upcoming grand reopening following the rebuilding of one of its stores that was struck by lightning last summer.

The retailer, dane decor, is celebrating the reopening with a month-long celebration at its Downingtown, Pa. The original structure, a converted church built in 1863, caught fire June 3. The store owners credit the local fire departments for saving the building.

Working with architect David Lynch from Lancaster, Pa., dane decor has built an eco-friendly home furnishings store.

An official ribbon cutting will be held April 14 at 10 a.m. In addition, other special events will include jazz in the morning and a string quartet in the afternoon; members of the Leif Ericson Society will attend with a 40-foot Viking ship along with actors as Vikings, and the first 100 visitors will get a free smoke detector.

In addition, dane decor will be holding a $50,000 silent auction that will run 30 days with all proceeds benefiting the Downingtown Fire Departments.

The retailer is family-owned and operated and specializes in modern and Scandinavian furniture and has been in business for more than 33 years. Dane decor has four locations€”Downingtown, Center City Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, N.J., and Oxford Valley, Pa.

Cindy Crawford Home Goes National

Cindy Crawford Home, one of furniture licensing€™s most successful lines at Rooms To Go over the past two years, is being expanded to other major regional chains across the country.

According to at least one published report, Cindy Crawford Home generates annual sales in excess of $100 million at Rooms To Go, Seffner, Fla. With that success, Cindy Crawford Licensing of Malibu, Calif., is selling the collections to other major furniture retailers, including Raymour & Flanigan of Liverpool, N.Y., which launched the line recently. Glenn Rotner, chief operating officer of Crawford€™s company said Salt Lake City€™s R.C. Willey and the Detroit area€™s Art Van Furniture also plan to offer Cindy Crawford Home. He said plans for the rollout of Cindy Crawford Home beyond Rooms To Go€™s nine-state market area call for partnerships with top regional chains on an exclusive basis in their markets.

In an exclusive interview last month, Cindy Crawford told Home Furnishings Business she€™s planning to make personal appearances to help launch the collections in those markets. Rooms To Go Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Seaman said the chain has little involvement in the expansion of the Cindy Crawford brand, but said some factories his company has an ownership interest in are producing the Cindy Crawford line.

One of the most successful models of all time, Cindy Crawford has appeared on the covers of more than 600 magazines worldwide. Thanks, in part, to Rooms To Go€™s round-the-clock advertising in the nine states it operates in, Cindy Crawford Home Collections, which debuted in mid-2005, almost immediately became one of the furniture industry€™s most successful licensing programs. €œOther retailers became interested,€ she said. €œSo, fortunately, we€™re now able to become more of a national brand through working with these other retailers. We already have deals with several people, and you€™ll hear more about those in a couple of months. I€™m going to go for some of the (Cindy Crawford Home) launches over the next few months.€

In February, she announced a deal with Malibu Designs to produce a line of home décor products that will include decorative accessories, tabletop, kitchen décor and other categories.

Kelley€™s Tips

Just Looking By Kelley Robertson

The most common response we hear when we approach customers and ask if we can help is, €œNo, thanks. I€™m just looking.€ Here are two ways to deal with this response more effectively.

Use humor. If we can create an opportunity for our customer to smile or laugh we will help them relax. It is physiologically impossible for someone to remain tense when they are smiling or laughing. Using a humorous response can be the perfect icebreaker to help get the sale moving without making the customer feel threatened.

Vary your greeting. Let€™s take a moment and view the shopping from the customer€™s perspective for a moment. In most cases, customers have been greeted in a similar fashion regardless of the store they have visited. And the greetings usually sound something like this:

€œHi, how are you today?€

€œHi, how€™s it going?€

Is it any wonder we hear €œjust looking€ as a response? Vary your greetings with all of your customers and you will start to separate yourself from the competition. Consider these:

€œYou look like you€™re on a mission. What can I do to help?€

€œThese beds are great for having pillow fights!€

Varying your greeting is one of the most effective ways to prevent the €œJust looking€ response.

These two tips will get you started. For more information on how to effectively deal with this issue, watch for my full article in the May issue of Home Furnishings Business.

Leggett & Platt Research Facility Reflects New Approach



Vincent Lyons, left, and David Haffner of Leggett & Platt are shown at the dedication of the company€™s new R&D operation, the Idea Center.

A research and development facility supplier Leggett & Platt put into operation in January near its corporate headquarters in Carthage, Mo., is a prime example of how the company, a major supplier of bedding components and motion mechanisms for the furniture industry, is taking a new approach to product development.

Last month, L&P hosted visitors to see its new Idea Center, which includes 30,000 square feet for a research library, electrical and mechanical engineering labs, and a 2,200-square-foot showroom to display the latest from an adjacent 74,000-square-foot testing lab, where the company tests new bedding systems and furniture mechanisms, and develops prototypes for manufacturing equipment.

The Idea Center will draw upon engineering and product development talent from nearly every businesss of Leggett & Platt, and is a physical manifestation of €œWIN 70/30,€ the company€™s new product innovation strategy led by Vincent Lyons, who joined Leggett & Platt last June from Maytag Corp. as vice president of product development and president of L&P€™s machinery and technology business group. (€œWIN€ stands for €œWorldwide Innovation Network.€)

The program works under the assumption that 70 percent of the company€™s new innovations will come from within, and the balance from external resources like individual inventors, university research labs, and collaborations and partnerships with other companies.

The Idea Center will operate under the same spirit of divisional cooperation for product innovation as one of Lyon€™s organizational initiatives, L&P€™s now-annual Technology Forum, which each October brings together engineers and new product managers from the company€™s various business groups, which in addition to furniture and bedding, include display systems, and machined components for various industries. The forum features a brainstorming session in which individuals from various groups join forces to come up with new product ideas.

€œThe requirement for that exercise was that each project that came out of that had to have input from every (business) unit represented,€ Lyons said. €œAll of our people, we consider to be inventors. Part of the (Idea Center€™s) responsibility is to drive that innovation throughout the corporation.€

Dave Haffner, chief executive officer of Leggett & Platt, noted that ongoing, compelling product development makes good business sense in addition to serving customers.

€œIt€™s an important element, if not the only element, of corporate growth,€ he said at last month€™s dedication of the Idea Center. €œMargins can be better on new and innovative product.€ HFB

Cow Pies = Green

Mountains of manure may just find their way into furniture of the future.

Those cow patties that pepper pastures everywhere may just be the latest component in fiberboard, a substance used in some furniture production.

Researchers at Michigan State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have uncoverd a way to extract fiber from processed and sterilized cow manure that could replace sawdust now used in fiberboard, which is used to make everything from furniture to flooring.

According to the Associated Press, researchers see the discovery as a way to dispose of between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion pounds of manure produced in annually in the United States.

Large livestock operations are installing manure treatment systems that use heat to deodorize and sterilize manure and captures methane gas and uses it to generate electricity.

Scientists at Michigan State and at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory are conducting tests on various types of fiberboard made with the solids from the process. Early results have been positive.

So, look for manure-based furniture coming to a market near you.


Jasper, Superior to Partner

Jasper Cabinet Co. and Superior Furniture Co. have partnered up to extend Superior€™s custom finish capabilities to Jasper Cabinet€™s line of occasional and accent furniture.

Robert Cribbs, president of Jasper Cabinet, revived the company on an import basis after Jasper shut down domestic manufacturing in Indiana several years ago. Superior Furniture of Lowell, Mich., has long promoted its 46 stain and paint finish options with three levels of distressing, performed in Lowell, for mostly occasional and dining furniture, and more recently bedroom.

€œWe are extremely pleased to be working with Superior Furniture Co. and believe this partnership produces one of the most unique furniture lines in the industry today,€ Cribbs said.

Superior is a 71-year-old niche supplier of occasional, casual dining, bedroom, and accents offering a variety of finishes and distressing levels.

€œWe are ecstatic for the opportunity to work closely with Jasper Cabinet for years to come,€ said Bill Lee, president and CEO of Superior Furniture Co. €œBoth companies have a long and distinguished history of servicing this industry featuring an unsurpassed finishing program offered through different networks of distribution throughout North America.€

Lee said that by June, Superior will be finishing Jasper Cabinet goods in Lowell. The companies will share warehouse space there to finish inventoried whitegoods to order for four-week delivery. The companies also will share some sales representation.



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