From A Rep's Perspective

Mike Root

What do you consider the biggest threat to the furniture industry?

November 8, 2017

My head was spinning, my mind was racing, and I was downright concerned that life in the furniture business was not ever going to be the same again! I was concerned for my retailer customer, my fellow reps and our rep organization because of the futuristic projections thrown at me from very knowledgeable people.

Recently I attended a conference sponsored by HFN, a sister publication of Furniture Today around the topic of omnichannel retailing. My definition of this concept after absorbing the information from the conference isthe communication of brand or message across all platforms giving the retail customer a completely unified experience. In other words, a retailer needs the same messages, offers and products on websites, email offers, social media messaging and physical stores in a consistent form. I would tell you that reps need to be consistent in what they communicate as well. Done right, this involves further investment in technologies.

There was talk by major players such as Wayfair, Amazon, Lowes, Pier 1, Macy’s and others about the investment in technology they are all doing. There are very cool applications like augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D modeling of products and robotics, to name a few. As I sat in the room, I realized that technology is the biggest threat to reps and independent retailers who do not keep up with the times.

It was said that today’s innovations will become the minimal expectations for tomorrow’s customers. Our job as reps is to solve the friction points between the factories and the retailers. If technology can come on and do a better job, then we will either be out of job or we will have to use new technologies to become even more effective. If our brick-and-mortar retailers do not invest in technology to display a consistent omnichannel brand to their customers, they will be running GOB sales.

In one of the sessions, the brick-and-mortar retailers attending were encouraged to focus on all their advantages. There is a lot they can do to compete and beat the large Internet-only players. The retailers are local, a fabric of the community, and should understand the products they carry better than a customer service person on an internet retailer’s hotline.

As reps, that is our tremendous advantage as well. We are in the brick-and-mortar retailer’s store regularly, so we get to know what we need to do to help them succeed. We understand our products and competing products in the marketplace and can share that knowledge with floor salespeople so they, too, can compete with online threats. I would love to hear your ideas in the space below about how reps and independent retailers can up their game in face of the competition coming from all directions.

The transformation in our industry is bigger than any time in history. Change is moving fast driven by companies that view themselves as technology companies that happen to sell furniture. As reps, our job is to make sure our retailers have the information and knowledge to compete in the future. But, of course, it is up to us to stay ahead of the curve as well, or we too will be replaced by new technology.

Best of luck out there.

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