Month: November 2016

home office

How to Set up Your Home Office: The Trends of the Future

Entrepreneurs. Telecommuters. Freelancers. Remote workers. The official title may vary, but the result is the same: a person looking for a home office setup that not only accommodates their work needs but fits in the flow of their home. With the rising number of individuals bringing their work home (both full and part time), home furnishing companies are seeing an increase in the demands for furnishings that are both functional and appealing. For those setting up a home office or revamping a current workspace, these are the newest trends for work-at-home spaces.

  1. Command Centers

computer workstationHome offices are quickly becoming one of the most important commodities in living spaces. With the number of at-home employees exceeding 3 million, home-based workspaces are essential, and a top priority is a space that transitions easily from work to home use but can still maintain a boundary for work purposes.

Today’s designers are handling this challenge in creative ways. Fashioning ‘command centers’ in key home areas allows parents to be accessible to their children while still having essential work equipment at hand. Located in dining rooms, family rooms, or basement rec rooms, the command center approach looks less like an office than a well-organized living space. A relaxed environment makes work hours less stressful than the typical, sterile office and allows the worker to capitalize on living space outside of office hours. A versatile workspace features limited storage, integrated work surfaces, and creative organization, necessitating a commitment to tidiness and purging that may be off-putting to some home-based workers. Those who are relentless in their pursuit of organization will be best suited for this style of workspace.

  1. Customized Cubicles

As employees leave the workplace and start to set up offices in their home, they often find that the furniture and equipment used in a traditional office space fails to meet their needs. The result has been an increase in custom furniture orders and bespoke furniture designers. Modular office components have begun to transition into home offices, with customized office builds that rival design elements found in high-end offices. Customer-driven designs allow for a customized office, with the features that are most important to the individual home-based worker.

Custom workspaces may include height-specific desks and workspaces, ergonomic chairs, or even convertible equipment, such as a desk that goes from traditional to stand-up. Wall units that allow for varied shelving, drawer space, and storage cubbies can be designed to meet one’s exact specifications. These units may be on the higher end of the price scale, but for an employee who works full time from home, the long-term benefit of having a fully functional, comfortable workspace is worth the cost.

  1. Backyard Offices

small officeIn recent years, the tiny house industry has skyrocketed. People have been drawn to these small living quarters, setting them up as generational housing, guest houses, play houses, and more. As the home-based office trend grew, employees began setting up office versions of the tiny houses, creating separate buildings in the backyard to work. There are numerous benefits to having an external office, rather than repurposing existing in-home space. Primarily, the separation of a workspace from the home means there is no loss of living space. Creating an outside office eliminates the need to sacrifice space in the home as a place to work. In addition, it allows for a mental boundary between ‘home’ and ‘work.’

Walking out the door every day and heading to ‘the office’ reinforces the idea of working and reduces the tendency to get distracted by home responsibilities.

Many employees build their own office space by converting sheds, RVs, and other external buildings into a workable office. Tiny homebuilders have also begun to offer customized build templates, allowing individuals to build their office from the ground up. Each of these options has a different pricing structure, depending on needs and desires of the buyer, and is limited only by the imagination.

  1. Unique Features

Furnishing developers have added fresh new elements for individuals working at home. Design features such as attractive wallpapers, interesting lamps, elegant tables, and stylish office equipment not only increase the appeal of an office, but they can create an environment that evokes one of the most important benefits of working from home: a sense of relaxation.

Developers and retailers are finding new and unique ways to meet the needs of home-based employees. Beyond a folding table and filing cabinet, today’s home office can be a functional, beautiful part of the home. Employees who have designated office space are more productive, more content with their decision to work at home, and more at ease with their surroundings. Furniture designers and developers can offer the home employee form and function when creating their home office, helping to change the way people work.

bedroom

How Sleeping Changed Shopping: Furniture’s Worst Nightmare

The furniture industry is bracing itself for an increase in sales during the coming years, based on the projections of housing market experts and positive real estate growth. While trends in furniture have undergone regular changes as styles and decorating tastes have evolved, shopping for furniture has changed little, until recently. The advent of online shopping and easy delivery has given consumers flexibility and empowerment during the furniture shopping process. The challenges facing furniture makers and sellers, however, have been exacerbated by a trend that has been driven, in large part, by mattress companies. Today’s savvy consumers have increased demands and higher expectations than at any point in history. Understanding how mattress companies have revolutionized the future of furniture requires a look at the development of mattresses, and an explanation of where the industry is heading in the future.

Mattress Development

mattressBetween 1960 and 1990, mattress companies revolutionized the way people sleep.     Latex was replaced by polyurethane foam, inner box springs became a staple component of manufacturing, and newly adopted regulations required companies to explore and change how mattresses were made. Government agencies were formed, adding regulations and requirements designed to protect consumers and users, while mattress companies struggled to keep costs down.

And a new type of mattress emerged: the waterbed. It offered users the feeling of being cushioned while they slept. Considered the ‘ultimate luxury’ in sleeping, consumers appreciated the new style of bed, one of the first innovations seen in the bedding industry. Concurrent to the development of the waterbed, mattress designers offered sleep-seekers air-filled mattresses, new spring formations, and for the first time, adjustable bases, which allowed users to adjust mattress positions to suit their preference.

Catering to consumer demands, developers created a no-flip mattress, eliminating the tedious twice-yearly chore. Changing materials and designs offered new choices to picky buyers, and mattress companies reaped the benefits.

The Scope of Sleep

As mattress sales continue to grow through the 1970s, the world was experiencing a time of economic turmoil. Material shortages, a burgeoning oil crisis, a looming recession, and falling job markets created an environment that gave little hope for long-term growth. Despite the economic hardships, however, the bedding industry saw enormous growth. In fact, by the mid-1970s, the bedding industry had grown to a stunning $1 billion in sales, with little signs of slowing down. It seemed that nothing could slow the growing industry down. Nothing, that is, except the Internet.

The New Sleep Industry

Consumers are obsessed with sleep. New technologies offer sleep monitoring, temperature control, snoring reduction tools, variable mattress positioning, and more, all built right into the mattress. Smartphones allow consumers to track sleep patterns and habits, giving them insight into their best sleep yet. Despite these innovative products, the newest form of mattress innovation may be the most revolutionary. In many ways, these revolutionary changes may hold lasting implications for the furniture industry.

Changing the Game

casper logoIn April 2014, a small company, called Casper, launched in New York City. This quiet and unassuming launch turned the $14 billion mattress industry on its head—and shows little sign of stopping. Within a month of opening their doors, Casper had $1 million in sales. Two years later, they’ve ratcheted up their sales to a stunning $100 million. Their premise was simple: offer consumers the best sleep of their life, and deliver it to their door in an easy, manageable way.

To accomplish this, they began searching for a mattress that met most people’s requirements. High on the list? Supportive foam. Memory foam, however, can hold heat, so the addition of a layer of latex foam adds a cooling top with the right amount of bounce. Next, they focused on making the buying process easy. They came up with compressing the mattress; this would accommodate consumers living in upstairs apartments, and it would keep shipping costs low, via UPS. In addition, shipping it directly to consumers allows them to try the mattress in their home, and a generous return policy gives customers 100 days to try, with free returns.

Along with their revolutionary new product, Casper instituted a customer service department that went above and beyond expectations. They keep track of customers’ anniversaries and the names of their pets and children, then send cards, gifts, and more on special days.

The Result

In recent weeks, Tempur Sealy’s stocks plummeted a staggering 20 percent after announcing that they expected a 1 to 2 percent decline in sales from 2015. Select Comfort Corporation experienced a stock decline as well, an indication of the greater public’s perception of the future of the bedding industry. Mattress companies are scrambling to compete with the new players in the sleep game, all vying for their piece of the billion-dollar industry.

A New Reality

Casper mattress buyers are an indication of the future for shopping: they want variety, convenience, and a hassle-free experience. For home furnishing companies, big-box retail stores and department stores are no longer the primary means of reaching consumers. Furniture makers must accommodate the shopper who wants a simple buying process, ready-to-use product, and inexpensive shipping. Instead of competing for consumers, retailers and manufacturers are competing for product evangelists. Time will tell how the furniture industry responds.

container shipping

5 of the Most Important Details about Hanjin Shipping’s Bankruptcy

Container carriers play a crucial role in the furniture industry. Their services make it possible for retailers to stock their showrooms with home furnishings that consumers are likely to purchase.

Unfortunately, one major carrier, Hanjin Shipping, has been forced to cease its operations, leaving many industry business owners unsure of when their products will arrive. Learn more about the issue and what can be done as a retailer.

  1. What happened to Hanjin Shipping?

Hanjin Shipping LogoUntil its 2016 announcement of bankruptcy, Hanjin Shipping was the seventh-largest container carrier in the world. The news was released at the end of August, but sources from Global Trade Magazine state that the process was ongoing months prior, possibly longer.

The company proposed a rescue plan to its creditor, Korea Development Bank, and others from which it borrowed funds. The plan consisted of repaying $5 billion in debt, an amount noted at the end of 2015 that was a product of a downward turn in the container shipping industry. In fact, the industry was so heavily impacted that carriers, including Hanjin Shipping, struggled to cut expenses that would adequately offset the financial burden.

The initial repayment plan would have required Hanjin Shipping to pay back approximately $1 billion annually. The company’s response was to request an extended timeframe for which the debt would be repaid. Creditors denied the request, forcing the carrier to file receivership, a type of bankruptcy. The reason for the denial was that the proposed plan did not represent any changes from plans that were denied previously.

  1. What was the impact on THE Alliance?

The company was one of six ocean carriers that made up THE Alliance. The group, set to officially launch in April of 2017, consisted of Hanjin Shipping, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, K Line, Yang Ming, Hapag-Lloyd, and Mitsui OSK Lines.

The intent was to provide carrier services in east-west trade lanes following approval from the proper governing authorities. Each company agreed to a five-year participation term, which would require servicing the Transatlantic; Asia to Europe and the Mediterranean; Asia to both the west and east coasts of North America; and Asia to the Middle East, Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea.

Prior to the bankruptcy announcement, THE Alliance would have commanded an 18 percent share of the global container fleet capacity with more than 620 ships. The partnership would establish the group as a leading competitor against organizations such as the newly formed OCEAN Alliance, which comprises four prominent carriers. As of September of 2016, the future direction of THE Alliance is unclear.

  1. How are vessels affected?

Many ships carrying cargo have been stranded at sea or seized at ports. Global Trade Magazine reported three vessels were left off the coast of Southern California and another in the port of Prince Rupert in British Columbia.

container ships in portAs of September, Hanjin Shipping ships in Chinese ports are not allowed to operate, and a court order for the arrest of a vessel in Singapore has been carried out. There is also no cooperation with North American ports, who must await further notice before they can clear boats for docking and transfer of goods.

Evergreen Line and other industry partners have since refused to load cargo onto any Hanjin Shipping vessels. Additionally, the company will not receive cargo from other entities. The impact has rippled over to land transportation services as well. The train service provider Canada National released a statement noting its immediate decision to not load cargo onto trains destined for a Hanjin Shipping vessel.

  1. What is expected going forward?

Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., another Korean-based carrier, is planning to purchase partial assets from Hanjin Shipping. Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. recently escaped bankruptcy by negotiating new charter rates with ship owners that received creditor approval. Remaining operable, the company plans to acquire “healthy assets” from Hanjin Shipping that may result in a $360 million price tag.

The acquisition looks promising, as the South Korean financial authorities have given the green light to move forward. If the transaction is fully executed, Hyundai Merchant Marine will add 37 vessels to its fleet. Additionally, it would take over management of the Gwangyang Terminal, Long Beach Container Terminal, and HPC Terminal. The timeframe for completing the transaction remains uncertain.

  1. How can furniture companies protect themselves?

If a furniture retailer is experiencing delays with shipment of goods that directly relates to the Hanjin Shipping issue, the owner or a representative of the company should send a written notification to the Federal Maritime Commission at complaints@fmc.gov.

The message should note that the delays are a Shipping Act violation and include the name of the impacted party and company and their contact information as well as the name of the entity and contact details for the party in violation. Within the body of the message, the retailer should give a complete description of the issue at hand and desired solution based on actions already taken.

Proof of payment, invoices for expected shipments, terminal appointment documents, and other relevant paperwork should be attached to support the message. Further, companies should include a description of their cargo as well as specific shipping details, like the port of origin and destination and date of sailing.