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Jerry Cohen Law and the Business of Furniture blog.

A Great Investment or Just In Vogue? Selling High-End Products to Today's Consumer

May 1, 2014

Recently, my law firm hosted a roundtable for business founders and executives in the furniture and home furnishings industries. The group discussed trends, opportunities, and challenges they saw in our industry. One of the main topics the group discussed was the same one I’ve heard when speaking with clients and friends: how do you sell high-end products, with real craftsmanship and quality once seen as a long-term investment, to a customer base that increasingly chooses furniture as fashion?

In other words, how do you sell something that would last 50 years to someone only thinking of the next two or three?

I was reminded of my conversation with Leah Feizy of Feizy Rugs, which was featured in a previous blog post that you can read here. She too has seen a trend of customers expecting furniture and rugs to follow annual color trends like you would see at a clothing store like Gap. A key question for many in our industry is what to do about this.

The participants of our roundtable agreed that a critical starting point is to know your market. What makes your product distinctive? What are you bringing to the market? What kind of customer will most appreciate, and place the highest value on, what makes your product special? If you look at products in other industries that are able to command a premium price for premium quality, they are products with carefully defined target customers and very well-honed messages explaining why those customers will love those products.

What if your product is high-end, but you want to create a new product or line that appeals to a less high-end or mass market? As we discussed at this roundtable, one way of doing that is by licensing. As I explained in a previous blog post, this would allow you to sell a product under a different identity and gain access to a new market segment. If you go this route, you’ll want to make sure that you protect your primary offerings and their reputation as you branch out into new markets.

It’s true that many customers are shopping with a shorter time horizon in mind. But the advantage our industry has is that our products become part of people’s homes. I believe there is still plenty of room, and good opportunities, for high-end products sold at a premium to knowledgeable and appreciative buyers. Understand how changes in the market are affecting how people are perceiving your products, and take the time to define your target customers and the value you bring to them.

Most interestingly, the participants at our roundtable were optimistic about the next five years. Despite the challenges they identified, they believe that in the long run, the quality products they are selling are here to stay.

How do you view these trends? Are your customers looking for something different today than they were five or ten years ago? Comment below or email me at jcohen@ctswlaw.com.

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