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Epperson

Our industry needs more information, analysis

January 28, 2013

Let me start by saying this column will be self-serving. I hope you don't mind. Everyone in our industry should read the Dec. 31 issue of Furniture Today, the 2013 Retail Planning Guide.

This is not only a summary of much of the original, proprietary research done by Furniture/Today, there is valuable insight into every major product category and detailed information for retailers by region.
Over the year, I refer to this issue so much I ought to have it laminated, but it is 72 pages long.
Research on our industry is hard to find, and aside from Furniture/Today and some done by the associations, many questions go unanswered or worse yet, are answered incorrectly or are exaggerated.
I communicate some of my firm's research through this column, our free newsletter (worth every penny!) and our larger issue-related studies. Just in the fourth quarter of 2012, we released three major studies. Our 30-page detailed furniture and mattress industry forecast gives a five-year perspective based in the best economic scenarios we can locate. Another study is titled "HomeCentric" and looks at the socio-demographic and technological advances that will impact the American home (and its furnishings) for the coming decades. I presented this analysis at the highly successful Furniture/Today Leadership Conference on Nov. 29.
We also just released a furniture industry retail distribution analysis, which builds on the Furniture/Today studies, and analyzes the last 10 years' changes in where furniture and mattresses are being sold. Other topics included the impact of Ashley, how our lack of price changes has cost us share of consumer spending, and 26 distinctive challenges our industry must address.
With the shifts in sourcing and the economic distress over the last five years, real research on our industry has declined, unfortunately, and this needs to change. As an industry, we cannot risk making large investments in our future without accurate information and analysis.
I read studies on other industries and see how they perceive their consumers and gain insight into changes on a timely basis. For example, the tobacco industry has reports on the exact number of cigarettes made every week by type of tobacco, paper used and filter. We cannot report how many sofas are made in a year.
I cannot imagine anyone succeeding in our industry without the best information, insightful research, and going to markets to keep up with what is really going on.
Meanwhile, I will keep reading and pushing numbers, looking for those much needed tidbits.