Furniture Everyday

Bill McLoughlin

Market events more important as industry challenges mount

September 8, 2017

If the furniture industry is going to show meaningful growth this year it’s only because determined and resourceful people are making the tough choices necessary to achieve in a difficult environment. With a few exceptions, this year’s business has been challenging, and every gain has been hard-fought. And at no time has that been more evident than the last few weeks leading into High Point Premarket.

The devastation visited on Houston and surrounding areas by Hurricane Harvey was among the most severe in U.S. history, chasing thousands of people out of their homes and confronting thousands with the prospect of homelessness. And as you read this, a second and perhaps stronger hurricane (at least in wind-speed terms) is charging up Florida and the Southeast coast.

At this writing — and admittedly storm tracks change from one day to the next — Irma looks to be in Florida Sunday, hitting the South Carolina coast on Monday and heading to Premarket by Tuesday. Yes, that’s right, the rain that dampened High Point Market in April could look like a sun shower compared to what may come through High Point and surrounding areas this week.

This is a one-two punch rarely if ever seen before with two major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. within a four-week period. The toll in human terms is heartbreaking and in economic terms potentially devastating.

And, oh, by the way, Labor Day turned out to be less spectacular than hoped.

That may sound cavalier given the recent storm disruptions, but there are real people whose lives depend on this industry in good weather and bad. Labor Day is often a harbinger of things to come, and that does not bode well for the remainder of the year. It’s going to take courage, commitment and creativity to finish the year strongly and position for a stronger 2018.

And a lot of that starts with product.

We talk a frequently about AR, VR and e-commerce as the future of retail. But all of that depends on the availability and selection of compelling product. There has been a trend in some retail segments to treat market travel as discretionary, something to be pared back when dollars get tight.

Instead, markets have never been more important. The path to renewed prosperity will ultimately flow through great product design, things that excite and inspire consumers to part with tightly held discretionary dollars.

Finding that product means getting to market and searching for new resources, taking risks on new designs, styles and functionalities. It means rigorously measuring store assortments against changing consumer lifestyles.

Whatever happens at Premarket this week, October’s High Point Market has never been more important.

The turnaround starts here.