Furniture Everyday

Bill McLoughlin

The road to tomorrow starts here and now

October 12, 2017

A great deal of time and effort these days is spent pondering what the future of the furniture business will look like. How will stores evolve? How can local or regional players compete in an environment of national, even global e-commerce giants? Will digital advertising and social media replace traditional marketing formats? How do you reach Millennials, and what do they want to buy?

All of these are important questions, and they just scratch the surface. That said, there is no path to the future that does not go through running a good business today. Despite all the talk about the pace of change — and there’s no question it is accelerating — the reality is that most change will be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

While stores may look dramatically different five, 10 years from now, they will get that way through a series of experiments, concept tests, failures and revisions. Even as you read this, major players in the industry are experimenting with new formats, new business models and new ways of engaging consumers along their path to purchase.

And almost all of that starts with product.

Among the most important decisions successful retailers will need to make in the years to come will be those centered around products that can entice a new generation of consumers to part with scarce discretionary dollars or that better meet the needs of a massive generation of aging consumers moving into a period of declining income.

That is a not insignificant challenge, which is why markets like the one that begins this week in High Point are so critically important. Certainly it’s possible to remain at home keeping an eye on the store and waiting for your reps to bring you the latest and greatest.

What they cannot bring is the context provided by the market experience, the awareness that a new feature, function or style is part of a larger movement, one you could quickly identify and capitalize on as you walk the showrooms. Good markets, and this industry is blessed with many, traffic in ideas. They are a source of inspiration and innovation.

While the future is anything but clear, what is clear is that success in the future will require new approaches and ultimately new product designs. If recent markets are any indication, there is a wealth of creativity, innovation and experimentation being offered across myriad showrooms. The key is to take the time and effort necessary to uncover it.

The road to tomorrow’s success will be full of twists, turns and even roadblocks. But the only way to get there is to take the first step, and that begins here and now at this market.