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Jim Green's blog

Uncommon Common Sense #8

October 11, 2011

Sometimes I wonder where ‘common sense' has gone. It should be a large part of marketing furniture at retail but occasionally I see examples of just the opposite. I have been posting examples of common sense marketing and merchandising for some time now. If you have missed any, please go back to earlier posts. I would like for retailers to consider whether they use common sense in their strategies and tactics. If one disagrees with my viewpoints that is fine. At least I was able to inspire some reflection. This is Common Sense Example #8.

Common Sense Example #8 Ads That Tell a Story

In just about every market, there is a common ‘Furniture Ad' day; the day of the week when most promotional and mid range furniture dealers advertise. It might be Saturday, Sunday, or any other day. Clearly, there is no shortage of places to buy furniture in all but the smallest markets. There is also no shortage of places to buy sofas for $399 or $499, leather sofas for $999, or bedroom sets for $799 to $999.

Customers can buy their furniture from many dealers. Since, very little store loyalty exists today among consumers they have a wide and varied choice of where to shop. And, inasmuch as so many retailers offer pretty much the same price points for very similar merchandise, the customer is faced with the decision of from who to buy. YET, in most of the ads I see, there is only the basic information listed. What the item is, what is included, how much it costs, and sometimes a comparative price. I seldom see anything indicating the reason the customer should buy this item, from this store, instead of this store's competitor.

For those out there reading this who want to argue, ‘furniture at the promotional end is all about price', I don't disagree...maybe not ALL about price but largely about price. My argument is not that price should not be the focal point. My argument is that there should be detail in the ad that convinces the reader to buy from ‘this' company rather than ‘that' company. Essentially, what is it that makes this piece of furniture a better value? Does it have a particular cushion or spring mechanism that provides greater comfort? Is the leather top grain rather than bonded? Are drawers all or partially dovetailed for greater stability and longer life? Are there more steps to the finishing process which creates a more beautiful, lustrous finish? The thing is if you cannot think of a reason why a customer should buy your item over a competitor's item, a review of the merchandising might be in order.

In my view, advertising should do before a visit to the showroom, exactly what a sales associate should do during a visit. It should sell product. It should describe why a customer would benefit by shopping at this store over another store. It doesn't need to be a long diatribe; perhaps just bullets. But, there should be more than the very basic essentials of what it is and how much it costs. To me, this is just common sense.

The second part of this example is this: When you spend the dollars that advertising can cost shouldn't you really have something to say? I have seen furniture print ads with headings that are so inane and arcane that I can only shake my head in wonder. Is management just sitting around in a circle on Monday throwing out ideas as to whether they should run an ad on Saturday with the heading "Boss' Birthday Sale" or "XYZ Furniture Garage Sale"? Advertising is meant to say something. Clearly, the more believable the reason for an event, the greater the sales revenue is likely to be. A clearance event that looks like a clearance event will generally generate revenue; a "Manager on Vacation" event, not as much.

While we're on the subject it also makes sense to take advantage of prevailing current events for something to say. For instance, I live in Florida. In August of every year for a period the state waives all sales tax on items for students going back to school on school supplies. What a great time to tie into it with a WE PAY YOUR SALES TAX on all kids' furniture. Yet, in my market I never see it. It just would have made common sense.