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Retailers, diversify your product mix to boost traffic

Jerry Epperson An insider’s viewJerry Epperson An insider’s view
Furniture/Today's "Top 25 Furniture and Bedding Retailers," detailed in the Aug. 20 issue, is always very interesting. Forty-some years ago, when I was a young furniture analyst, furniture and mattresses were sold by furniture stores and department stores. That's it. Why? The availability of consumer credit and home delivery services were clear reasons.
     In the new list of the top largest retailers of furniture and mattresses, 13 of the top 25 listed are not primarily furniture or mattress stores but mass merchants, warehouse clubs, holding companies, large department stores, rent-to-own companies, office superstores and lifestyle retailers.
     All of these 13 sell lots of things and some home furnishings, yet with few exceptions most furniture and mattress retailers - "furniture stores" - just sell furniture, mattresses, rugs, decorative accessories and wall décor. A few still offer consumer electronics and major appliances.
     The result is a perception that ours is an industry under siege, and our defenses are weak. It's time for that to change. We can broaden our product mix and give people reasons to come into our stores more often than every five to seven years.
     Recently I had the honor of speaking once again to Nationwide Marketing Group's PrimeTime event in Washington. It also gave me an opportunity to visit the displays of its 90-plus vendors and many service providers, along with the more than 3,000 others in attendance. The mix of furniture and mattresses was impressive, but then there were televisions, computers, appliances, lawn mowers, outdoor grills, heaters, chainsaws and an array of other consumer durables that was almost overwhelming.
     Couldn't these help you bring in traffic or bring more interest to your store? You do not need the massive selection shown in a Home Depot, Lowe's or Best Buy, just an assortment to liven up your store.
     It could open up opportunities like exercise equipment, luxury watches, jewelry, or anything that goes into the home - or in the yard outside.
     With today's delivery systems and logistics, you do not need to buy a truck load or a container, just pick out some of the more novel and distinctive things.
     People will purchase home furnishings if they see it, but how can we get them into the store or website?
     If you have the largest display of children's furniture, collector's cabinets, or anything - let your consumers know.
     By the way, some of the new control panels on stoves and washing machines look like the cockpit controls in an airplane. You have to see it to believe it.

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