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Get beyond the same and back into the game

Jerry Epperson An insider’s viewJerry Epperson An insider’s view
I recently had a great visit and dinner with the Tri- State Home Furnishings Assn. in Philadelphia. I enjoy visiting with the retailers, reps and executives.
     While there, I ranted about how too many of our retail floors are showing the same looks, styles and colors - or lack of color. There is no doubt the recession made furniture makers and retailers more conservative, but I think it has gone beyond that.
     A few years ago, I counted my showroom visits at a High Point Market. Some showrooms were huge, others small but I spent time in about 45 different showrooms out of the hundreds in the many exhibition buildings. Of course, all the showrooms had something different, but some shared the same designs and looked very similar.
     Of course, from my perspective, I would rather go through 45 showrooms than go through the same showroom 45 times like most reps and vendors.
     But that is part of our problem. I suspect that most furniture factory/importer execs know their lines very well but seldom see others' showrooms. High Point is a closed market without easy entry to competitors' showrooms for logical reasons.
     But they see their competitors on the retail floors, don't they? Yes, but there is a tendency to visit retailers who carry their lines, not those of their competitors, so they can miss changes including how redundant some styles, designs and colors actually are.
     Retailers often suffer the same lack of vision. Naturally, retailers tend to go to their existing suppliers every market. They already know the product and the rep, and have the back office details like credit, terms and logistics all set up. But while they see some new offerings, they will miss a lot elsewhere.
     Consumers have seen our current lines and too often they have yawned and walked away, or they bought because of easy credit (no interest for two lifetimes), a free television, goldfish, diamonds or whatever.
     May I suggest that at your next furniture show, you visit some new showrooms and focus on new? And the same goes to our vendors who need to develop some new, more colorful and less redundant looks.
     I wish we could have a "Fashion Police" type television show. That show with the sarcastic wit of Joan Rivers praises the great looks and pokes fun at the bizarre and ugly.
     I hate to mention this, but some of our furniture can be on the fringe of good taste. It could be contrasted with the exciting, beautiful furniture that is available, but too many consumers cannot find.
     The recession ended 41 months ago, although the recovery has been tepid. Housing is rebounding with permits up 45%, starts up 35%, new home sales up 27% and existing home sales up 11% as of September.
     Are you participating or are you waiting?

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