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Jerry Cohen Law and the Business of Furniture blog.

Big Questions I'm Eager to Discuss with Business Leaders at Market

October 3, 2013

One of my favorite things about attending High Point Market every year is the opportunity to hear from businesspeople across the furniture industry about their outlook and challenges. This year, I'm especially eager to learn what they are thinking. It has been an eventful time, with the bankruptcy filing of Furniture Brands International on September 9 leaving questions in people's minds about the future of the industry.

Here are a few of the questions I look forward to discussing with businesspeople like you at Market this year:

1) What are the lessons of the FBI bankruptcy? In response to my last post, I received many interesting responses contending that there were other lessons and causes. One reader had thoughtful insight about the importance of consumers' home furnishings and design tastes. Another noted licensing agreements that failed to uphold the integrity of a brand.

It is not surprising that your reaction to the article, and the bankruptcy, depends on your place in the industry. We all have different lessons to take away as we plan for the future, and I look forward to hearing yours.

2) What about online commerce? Yes, people can buy furniture on the Internet. We all know that. But what about trends and developments in the kinds of products people are buying? Amazon, for example, recently announced it would start selling art online. Many people would only buy a piece of art after a careful in-person look at the nuances of the colors and the style of the artwork. Does that sound familiar?

This has important implications for some hot topics. Take for example distribution. Selling products online can mean competing with the brick-and-mortar retailer you are depending on to sell your products. And if consumers buy online rather than from the showroom, they may not get as good a look and fail to realize some of the value justifying the price.

That's why pricing concerns are so widespread, too. Electronic retailers may sell products at thin margins, but excessively low prices have the potential to damage brands and reputations. Of course, many industries are facing these types of thorny questions. In our industry, however, they are particularly important because so much of the value of high quality furniture comes from aspects you touch and feel. And the Internet is here to stay. It is more important than ever to have the agreements and policies, from shipping and returns to privacy and marketing, that are best for your business goals.

3) How are Washington and Wall Street affecting your business? From the new healthcare law to what the Fed does with interest rates, what is happening inside the Beltway will influence all of our businesses. What have you been watching and how has it impacted you? As for the stock market, it has had a solid climb over the last year. What relationships do you see between the overall market and the kinds of furniture people buy, or how much they buy? How are you planning for longer-term economic trends? No one can predict exactly what the market will do, but I look forward to hearing about the key things you are watching.

What big-picture things are you thinking about as we head into Market? Let me know in the comments, or email me at jcohen@ctswlaw.com.

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