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From Home Furnishing Business

Editor's Letter: Have We Become Too Transactional?

By Bob George,

As the word “transactional” emerged into our discourse, it was important to understand what is meant by the term. Here goes…a transactional relationship is “a relationship where both parties are in it for themselves and where partners do things for each other with the expectation of reciprocation.” Isn’t that what all business is?

That is true. But maybe the industry has become too black and white, losing the opportunity for the other party to say, “He didn’t have to do that.” This give and take is the lubricant of a business relationship. In our digital driven world that has standard processes, the barrier is often how we would handle it on the computer.

The focus of this issue is the consumer, but more specifi cally, “what does the consumer want?” To answer this, the magazine’s research arm, FurnitureCore, conducted a national survey of consumers who purchased furniture in the past year.

Additionally, we asked those on the front line – the furniture retailers – what they believed the consumer was searching for. Finally, we asked other retail mavens their perspective on furniture retailing.

We found some insight, beyond the baseline of price /speedy delivery, to include retail experience and ease of shopping. However, no silver bullet emerged as something that would drive the consumer to the physical store, or for that ma er, to the digital store.

While the virtual experience was going to be the strategy that would drive the experience to the next level, to date the results have not delivered the promise.

A recent le er from a reader who opened his store in 1972 wearing bell bo oms and a puka shell necklace – yes, in California – who is still in business after 42 years expressed his frustration with the industry, not at the consumer, but the supply side. His frustration was with the disconnect between factory owners and business owners.

“There used to be a trust and an understanding that both of us were in business together. Owners wanted us to visit the factory, they wanted to know me. That has gone away. I never felt so abandoned.”

In our consumer research, we found the same perspective, “Do they care about my business? Do they want to take the time to understand my needs?”

Maybe the silver bullet that we are looking for is the people—more specifi cally, the owners. I realize that large regional chains cannot have an owner at the door greeting customers. However, maybe sometimes a presence can be virtually spread. Has there ever been a “selfi e” taken of an owner with the customer?

And not to let the manufacturers off the hook—I remember Mr. Broy hill at market greeting every retailer, thanking them for their business.

Maybe we need more “They didn’t have to do that.”

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