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From Home Furnishing Business

Editor's Letter: Balancing Qualitative and Quantitative Considerations

Each month Home Furnishings Business dives into an issue and explores how it impacts the industry.     On the same schedule each year, we revisit the issue to create the most current perspective. We strive to create a must read/must keep issue.

As you would expect, we twist and turn the topic, gathering input from those involved in the topic, including providers, retailers, and manufacturers. Most important is input from consumers provided by ongoing research from our research arm, FurnitureCore.

With this issue, we addressed delivery to the consumer, often called the “final mile.” However, today that final mile has become 1,000 miles for some consumers that purchase through the ecommerce distribution channel. Does this make a difference?

A good argument to be made is what difference does another 1,000 miles make when the product has already moved 12,000 miles from its point of manufacturing?

We believe it does. Home furnishings and specifically furniture used to be and still should be a personal purchase, not a commodity to be procured, used, and disposed. Manufacturing offshore impacted our product. The decisions about construction, scale, and design process with production 12,000 miles away have been influenced by logistics.

As a young engineer in the industry, I questioned why we need hundreds of different size wooden drawer glides when standardization would reduce costs. I often lost discussion to the design team. Today, I would have won— but the wooden drawer glides have been replaced with metal.

It has been a while since we discussed coordinating parts from offshore. Have we solved the problem or is it just easier to discount and dispose of the product? With the e-commerce distribution channel, defective products, and especially bedding, the consumer is instructed to dispose. In many communities, shelters decline when bedding is donated.

Are we sending the wrong message to our initial customer, the retailer, and our ultimate customer, the consumer, that our product has less value? I realize it is more efficient, but is it the right message?

The industry espouses the importance of retail experience, but what about the experiences when the consumer receives their new furniture delivered “blanket wrapped,” carefully deluxed by the company delivery team exhibiting the same value communicated in advance by the retailer?

And what about the retailer that visits the plant to observe the meticulous detail the manufacturer goes through to insure quality?

Maybe we should concern ourselves with relationships between manufacturer – retailers – consumers in addition to the retail experience.

Shown below is a key performance indicator for sales per handling employee—maybe we should spend more to convey the value of our product.

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