Furniture Everyday

Bill McLoughlin

Did Premarket reveal the industry’s Achilles heel?

March 16, 2017

This week’s Premarket saw its largest number of exhibitors since 2014, and while attendance was somewhat curtailed by an unexpected storm across the Northeast, there were plenty of dealers in town, and some even came in early to get a head start (no surprise there).

Events like this are always a good opportunity to assess the industry’s health, and I received some interesting responses to the question, “How is business?” This is one of those questions that typically elicit the stock response: “Good.” This time however, there was often a long pause, occasionally followed by a facial expression that approximated someone smelling rancid cheese.

This is usually a sign they’re trying to put a good face on a tough situation (bless their heart). It soon became apparent that the furniture store business this year, much like last year, is spotty, soft, inconsistent, challenging or whatever synonym you can find for “weaker than we would like.”

The anticipated post-election optimism and freeing of pent-up demand has not materialized, and even those who are significantly up believe they would be up even more if the consumer and the economy were more cooperative.

Manufacturers that are outperforming this general outlook had one of two characteristics in common. Either they are proactively creating pull-through strategies for their dealers (other than price promotions), or they are doing significant e-commerce business, often with one of the big-three platforms.

This is significant because both represent a departure from the status quo. And that’s the lesson here. It’s no longer enough to do what you’ve always done, only a little bit better. It’s said that doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. In today’s business environment, doing the same thing and expecting the same results is just as crazy.

Whether you’re a retailer or a manufacturer, offering beautiful product at a good value is no longer a differentiator. It’s the baseline cost just to get in the game.

Being in front of consumers when and where they want to shop is critical, and connecting with them before they even recognize the need is even better. A successful product story is not about features but about benefits. Time-starved, media-saturated consumers want to know instantly how a potential purchase will enhance their lives before parting with their increasingly hard-earned income.

The lesson from Premarket is, some get it … some don’t.

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