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Crunch Time

Dan Minor

Hope and Change

April 8, 2013

Hope and Change were very popular words just a few short years ago, and the premise behind them — when used in conjunction — was to have hope for the future and to change the status quo. Both were very noble thoughts, and my "hope" is that massive "change" will come to some of the reckless policies that our government has been engaged in. But I want to use the terms as they relate to our beloved furniture industry.

After many years of sales declines or very modest increases, I feel I could say very confidently that all members of our industry have a HOPE that things will get better, and that the economy will become a robust base for furniture as it was in the 90s and the first half of the 21st century's first decade. Each year it is said that things were soft and that we HOPE it will be better next year — this is a common theme in year-end meetings for manufacturers and retailers. The consumer is also HOPING that things will get better in our industry. She does not see our ads in the local newspaper each week, and when she happens to accidentally find our stores, she finds a sea of product with no identification tags — just a store logo and a price. The furniture buying experience is confusing, with too many options, unlimited fabric selections and very little in the form of recommendations for her specific needs. She then will go home, and in the comfort of her easy chair, open her IPAD, and begin shopping in the serenity of her own home without the confines of store hours. She will find a flash sales site or an uninspired e-commerce site. More and more, she will purchase something directly from that easy chair without the hassle of leaving her home.

This is not the CHANGE that manufacturers and retailers were HOPING for. But this is a very realistic view of how commerce is being done today in our industry. How do we CHANGE? We must as an industry embrace the way the consumer is shopping and offer her solutions to the pressing needs that she has. Manufacturers and Retailers must be there when she starts her buying process. They must be able to offer up solutions in the form of recommendations, when she is looking for help or suggestions. We must work together as an industry to change the way we are presenting ourselves in the most important part of this process. We must CHANGE how we view the Internet, and embrace the fact that we must be online and in front of her there, where she's shopping. Manufacturers and Retailers must select third party sources that will get your message to her, while not destroying the brick-and-mortar dealer and retailer relationships you've held for decades. We must have strict MAP policies in place that give her pricing transparency and level the playing field for all channels of retail. We can't HOPE for things to CHANGE. We must CHANGE and then EXPECT to see different results.