Products & Trends

On-Trend Design, On-Trend Business

Keys to thriving in today’s chaotic, ever-changing consumer market, by Bobby Berk

In today’s marketplace, it is more important than ever for furniture retailers to keep their thumb on the pulse of design trends in order to meet the demands of ever more discerning and responsive consumers. It is also imperative that we find a way to survive in a world where consumers expect exceptional service and quick delivery, demands that are second only to a low price. As major online retailers continue to drive down industry prices, they are making it more difficult for even niche manufacturers and small footprint brick and mortar retailers to compete against their big marketing budgets and immense fulfillment capabilities.

“Good design and attention to changes in both aesthetic and business trends are imperative to success.”

It’s not just our industry that is feeling these pressures. A friend of mine who works in the fashion industry recently told me that fashion has had a pretty bad year. For example, retail giant Ralph Lauren, who has avoided economic slumps in the past, just reported major losses as one of the worst performing industry stocks of 2015. As a result, the iconic brand has been forced to close 50 retail stores and lay off 1000 people, almost 8% of their full-time staff. This is attributed largely to their sizable retail overhead, generally stagnant consumer spending on luxury apparel, and the rise of brands such as H&M and Zara, which are known for their fast turnaround. In response, Ralph Lauren is seeking to bring its turnaround for new product delivery from 15 months to a more competitive 9 months.

As an industry that traditionally runs on slower development timelines and trend turnarounds, how do we adapt and compete? Staying on trend and delivering new product is extremely important in order to meet consumer expectation and remain relevant. Though we may have made great progress over the years, the chaotic, ever-changing nature of the world we live in makes an attitude of complacency a pitfall. We have to respond to new challenges and new opportunities.

“A well designed product is just part of a well-designed business.”

In addition to constantly offering new, on-trend product, furniture retailers have to reduce overstock, provide exceptional service, and deliver quickly. It’s a tall order, but it’s the order of business today.

Now more than ever, it is vital that we take a step back and look at ourselves with critical eyes. Do we have sufficient data to analyze our business and establish an accurate picture of how we’re doing? How can we expand our online presence to meet the growth of e-commerce in the furniture world? Can we improve customer satisfaction by reducing our delivery times? Sometimes this can be achieved simply by staying on top of our order processing, vendors, manufacturers, and freight partners to ensure we aren’t sitting on shipments longer than necessary.

“Address the changing marketplace with fresh ideas.”

To the topic of on-trend design, never stop looking at how your product offering stacks up against similar brands at your price point. Are you keeping your customers excited and engaged in your brand? Pay attention to your suppliers’ design-manufacture process to see what they are doing to get on-trend more quickly. And, as you seek out new suppliers, ask what they have done to streamline their product development processes.

It can be overwhelming at times to study the variables that affect business in the modern world. The sheer complexity of it all is daunting, but in the end, seeing these factors as opportunities to grow and develop our brands is a labor of love. If we can prepare ourselves for inevitable shifts and see them as opportunities, we can stay ahead of the curve and meet these challenges head on. Remember, this is a marathon. The dividends of good design might not be measured in immediate returns. The upfront investment in new methodologies doesn’t always yield dollars overnight. Don’t lose sight of the big picture, and you’re sure to triumph.