Month: November 2017

furniture

This Is What the Future of Furniture Delivery Could Look Like

While it’s often the final leg in the sales process, furniture delivery comprises a significant aspect of the overall customer experience. Receiving a new product on time, in good condition, and with all expected premium services—such as white glove delivery—can help ensure that a customer has a positive experience with a brand. At the same time, hiccups during the delivery stage could turn what was otherwise a successful sale into a negative detractor for your company.

Changes in the way that consumers shop, driven in large part by technology, are also fueling an evolution in furniture logistics and delivery. Over the next few years, a number of innovations will likely enable furniture retailers to offer improved delivery services while operating more efficiently. The following are some of the major changes that could soon transform furniture delivery:

  1. Consolidated Shipping

Online retail is rapidly becoming a significant source of revenue for retailers across many sectors. The second quarter of 2017 saw 8.9 percent of all retail transactions take place online, representing a nearly 1 percent increase from the previous year. Furthermore, market research suggests that e-commerce is growing at a heightened pace in the furniture sector particularly. Online furniture sales made up some 15 percent of all furniture industry business in 2015, and Statista estimates that global revenue from online furniture and houseware sales will rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 percent in the coming years, reaching $220 billion by 2020.

delivery truckThe ever-growing world of e-commerce has created numerous opportunities for business and consumers alike. By leveraging the Internet to reach a broader audience, even regional and local furniture retailers can market and sell to a global customer base, while consumers benefit from a greatly expanded selection of products.

Still, smaller retailers may face logistical challenges when seeking to expand their market. A well-developed e-commerce platform and digital marketing strategy can make reaching customers in another country almost as simple as attracting customers in a retailer’s hometown, but complications often arise when sales start coming from a variety of regions. In many cases, retailers cannot afford to pay a la carte shipping—or establish new distribution centers—to accommodate a small, scattered number of customers outside of their typical operating area.

Shipping consolidation presents a cost-effective strategy for local and regional furniture retailers to take full advantage of the power of e-commerce while maintaining efficient delivery operations. In the near future, consumers could begin receiving more furniture shipments from third-party shipping service providers who comingle different companies’ products in their trucks.

By adopting this new business model, local and regional furniture retailers would give up the marketing opportunities created by branded trucks. However, they would be able to offer more cost-efficient deliveries across a wider service area and potentially pass these benefits on to consumers.

  1. Advancing Technology

artificial intelligenceA number of emerging technologies will soon enable furniture retailers to deliver their products more efficiently while meeting more demanding consumer preferences. The advent of self-driving vehicles has created endless possibilities not only for consumer transportation, but for freight shipping as well. With the aid of advanced artificial intelligence systems, self-driving trucks could soon take on the bulk of long-haul delivery for furniture retailers. While it’s likely that the industry will stick with traditional options for last-mile services, self-driving technology would make it possible for furniture companies to serve wider markets with a smaller number of distribution centers.

Artificial intelligence would also improve delivery efficiency within furniture warehouses. Self-driving lift trucks could drastically reduce the time and labor required to prepare an order for shipment, cutting costs for furniture retailers while facilitating speedier, cheaper deliveries for customers.

Additionally, technological innovations such as 3D printing are impacting furniture manufacturing, making it possible for customers to receive products designed to their exact specifications as quickly as if they had come from a retailer’s primary warehouse. And in addition to the numerous applications for augmented reality (AR) in sales and marketing, AR could also streamline the process of mapping the most efficient route for both long-haul and local deliveries. In the future, AR tools could help retailers offer flexible delivery pricing, which would allow customers to save money by opting for delivery plans that may not be as fast, but are more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

  1. Inventory Management

inventoryE-commerce has made it possible for retailers to offer incredibly vast catalogues of goods. But as furniture companies expand their online selections, they are likely to find that it isn’t cost-effective to hold all of their inventory in a physical space. Large online retailers are able to offer a seemingly infinite selection of products by relying on manufacturers and distributors to ship products to a centralized delivery center.

Smaller home furnishings retailers could soon adopt this strategy as they seek to compete in the e-commerce space and find it necessary to offer a product selection that far exceeds their showroom and warehouse space. This will require retailers to negotiate with suppliers whose products they wish to sell, but not hold in stock. It will also require third-party delivery companies to expand their capabilities to provide end-to-end logistics services. As retailers begin to decentralize their inventories in favor of a vast online product selection, third-party logistics providers will play a greater role in providing less-than-truckload services, last-mile home delivery, and reverse logistics.

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furniture

3 Exciting Factors That Will Shape the Future of Furniture

As the furniture industry continues to show strong signs of recovery following the Great Recession, many corners of the sector are undergoing transformations. Innovative minds in sectors ranging from software development to genetic engineering are poised to not only change the way consumers shop for furniture, but also usher in evolutions in the way companies source and create their products. The following are some of the major advances that could influence the future of the furniture sector:

  1. Widely Accessible Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) is one of the major technological innovations driving change in the home furnishings industry. By allowing users to overlay, reposition, and resize realistic 3-D models atop images of real-world environments, AR software promises to usher in a new era of home design. AR grants customers greater creative freedom while they shop for furniture, as it allows them to test out how specific products might appear in their own homes. At the same time, AR can aid the efforts of furniture retailers and interior designers by enabling employees to provide more personalized, mobile services to consumers.

Augmented realityThanks to recent innovations by two leading mobile technology producers, AR design applications are more accessible than ever. The recent release of Apple’s iOS11 operating system included ARKit, which supports more advanced processing capabilities for augmented reality applications, and Android has set out to accomplish similar feats with its ARCore development tool.

These toolkits have paved the way for exciting new applications such as Intiaro. Using geo-mapping metadata, Intiaro enables users to generate full 3-D images of rooms that can be saved and loaded on the go. These images include data specifying the angles of varying planes in the space in the position of the camera, thus allowing designers to overlay and position 3-D images to detailed specifications.

While Intiaro caters to designers, several leading furniture retailers have developed AR design apps for consumers. The recently released Ikea Place, for example, allows prospective buyers to select items from a portion of Ikea’s vast catalogue to situate in a 360-degree recreation of a given room, and additional brands, including Lowes and Wayfair, have unveiled similar products as well. In addition to its AR room-design tool, Lowes has developed an AP that uses similar technology to act as a digital tape measurer.

  1. Developments in 3-D Printing

3d printerWhile still in the early stages of adoption, 3-D printing is beginning to see wider usage throughout the furniture industry. Although equipment expenses have prevented 3-D printing from becoming a cost-effective method of furniture manufacturing, it can speed up the prototyping process and offer designers greater creative freedom. 3-D printing enables designers to create a larger number of high-quality prototypes before sending their concepts to vendors, thereby giving designers the ability to test new products more thoroughly.

Some innovative designers have also used 3-D printing to create elaborate, innovative products that do not require any assembly. Furniture such as the One Shot stool would be nearly impossible to efficiently produce without the streamlined process of 3-D printing. Designed by Patrick Jouin, the elegantly designed piece can fold in on itself for storage purposes and can also expand to accommodate a second person.

New innovations to the basic processes of 3-D printing could make it a viable strategy not only for creating prototypes, but also for generating mass-produced home furnishings. MIT recently partnered with leading office furniture retailer Steelcase to create a new 3-D printing method. The strategy involves injecting malleable building materials, such as rubber or plastic, into streams of supportive gel. Compared to traditional 3-D printing, which creates three-dimensional objects by laying down material in several layers, this new technique could significantly speed up furniture production.

  1. Innovative Manufacturing Materials

lumberLeather furniture is a thriving sector of the furniture industry, accounting for over $12 billion of furniture sales in 2016. However, a growing respect for environmental stewardship has led many consumers to be more discerning regarding the materials and processes required to make their products while encouraging companies to adopt greener retail and manufacturing strategies. Thanks to the innovations of a company called Modern Meadow, which is developing a biofabricated alternative to leather named Zoa, furniture shoppers could soon have the option to buy leather furniture that has a minimal impact on the environment.

By editing the DNA of yeast, the company was able to create a protein that is genetically identical to bovine collagen. Produced in varying colors, textures, and densities, and capable of seamlessly connecting with other fabrics, the genetically engineered material could create new opportunities in not only the furniture industry, but also in the auto and athletics sectors.

Other materials primed for use in innovative new home furnishings include PulpWorks’ Karta-Pack, a sturdy cotton material comprised entirely of recycled clothing. Although Karta-Pack is soft to the touch, its stiffness is similar to that of plastic. In addition to being a potential manufacturing material for upholstered seating, companies could use this unique material in new, sustainable packaging designs.

Here Are the Top Trends from the Most Recent High Point Market

High Point MarketThe most recent Fall High Point Market wrapped up on October 18, 2017, closing out five days of collection debuts, style presentations, networking events, and several other exciting opportunities for the home furnishings industry. This year, over 80,000 people visited the International Market Center in High Point, North Carolina, to survey the emerging products and styles that are taking the industry by storm. With the highly anticipated event now behind us, it’s time to take a moment to summarize the trends that dominated the Fall 2017 High Point Market.

Shapes

Several showrooms featured pieces with unique forms and profiles. These furnishings represented new takes on traditional styles and offered shoppers a fresh way to breathe life into the home’s major living spaces. Showcased products included many sectional sofas that deviated from the traditional L-shaped form. To change things up, brands including Christopher Guy, Lee, and Highland House presented sectionals with more gradual curves, sloping backs, and finer geometric angles. Some pieces, such as the Epidote sofa designed by Jean-Louis Deniot for Baker, featured an in-the-round shape, offering a unique focal point sure to facilitate conversation in any living room.

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Market attendees surveying the trends in dining furniture were likely to notice an influx of elongated, oval dining tables. While round and rectangular pieces have prevailed in recent years, oval tables are now adding interest to both casual and formal dining areas. Some, such as Hickory Chair’s table with ornate wood inlays, would be right at home in a traditional formal dining area. Others, such as Made Goods’ table featuring a smooth concrete surface atop light wood legs, convey a more laidback, modern aesthetic.

Colors

AkzoNobel, a trusted resource for furniture coatings, took on the lofty responsibility of presenting the official color of 2018. The firm selected “Heartwood,” a soft pink shade frequently seen in both apparel and home décor in recent years, as the hue that will dominate the home furnishings sector in the coming months. The color’s name refers to the dense center portion of a tree, which often shares the same hue.

In addition to Heartwood’s soft, warm shade, several showrooms at the High Point Market featured color schemes that revolved around complementary and near-complementary tones. Combinations of blue and orange, green and violent, and cream and brown dominated several product sectors, adorning everything from throw pillows to light fixtures. These unique color combinations offer consumers and designers an opportunity to add youthful energy to any room, in the form of vibrant and electric patterns.

Materials

Two very different materials have recently achieved growing popularity among furniture retailers and designers. The first, shearling, appeared in the form of upholstered chairs, stools, and ottomans from brands including Nathan Anthony, Mary McDonald at Chaddock, and Hancock & Moore. The plush white material is capable of adding either a modern flair or cozy vintage appeal to a room, depending on the lines and other materials incorporated into the piece.

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Concrete was also a common staple throughout High Point showrooms. The material frequently appeared, perhaps unexpectedly, in light fixtures, providing ample opportunities for dramatic contrast. Popular pieces blended the smooth, stark appearance of stone with soft lighting, graceful lights, and even plants, in the case of a combination table lamp and planter designed by Currey & Company. Going forward, shoppers should expect to see plenty of hanging pendant lights, table lamps, and additional light fixtures adding a modern pop of texture to rooms throughout the home.

Styles

A few noteworthy aesthetic styles appeared across a number of different showrooms. Many brands showcased a thoughtful blend of historic and modern styles by allowing wood tones such as cherry and mahogany to dominate their designs, placing the focus on the beauty of the materials themselves by allowing distressed details to shine through. Many designers took this tendency toward natural materials a bit farther, featuring weathered, organic, and handcrafted pieces that convey beauty through their imperfections.

Contrasting with this shift toward natural and artisan styles, several furniture designers highlighted the emerging interest in modern Scandinavian furnishings, which provide a light and airy appeal with clean lines and brighter wood tones. Furniture bathed in pearl and metallic finishes, frequently paired with stark angles, mixed materials, and accents of gold and silver, also filled showrooms.

High Point Market’s Trend Watch program, which offers an annual overview of the styles to pay attention to at each upcoming market, also noted a growing interest in dramatic curation. Increasingly, home décor selections suggest a desire for personal expression, whether on the part of designers or home owners. Innovative and eye-catching light fixtures, chairs, tabletop decorations, wall hangings, and other pieces are providing opportunities for consumers to make their home truly their own. Reflecting this trend, interior design schemes are featuring less emphasis on cohesiveness and instead showcasing unique pieces that, while complementary, offer a vibrancy all their own.

furniture

7 Signs That It’s Time for New Furniture

While high-quality furniture is built to last several years, even the best-made pieces will eventually begin to show signs of age and wear. But when is the right time to buy new furniture? While it can be easy to get caught up in the latest trends, savvy furniture shoppers must balance an interest in emerging styles with the limitations of their budgets—not to mention the physical limits of their homes. The following are some signs that it’s definitely time to invest in new home furniture:

  1. Your furniture is uncomfortable.

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If your upholstered furniture or bed is beginning to sag, has developed lumps, or is otherwise uncomfortable, it’s time to replace it. Over time, the weight of continuous use can wear on a couch’s structural foundation, causing the frame and cushions to become less supportive. In addition to being uncomfortable and unattractive, sagging furniture can also have a negative impact on your posture. If you find yourself sinking into your couch a little more than you’d like, it may be time to consider how long you’ve owned it. Sofas last an average of 7 to 15 years. Mattresses, on the other hand, should be replaced every 8 to 10 years in order to ensure you’re getting a comfortable, restful, and healthy night of sleep.

  1. You’re buying new electronics.

Whether you’re investing in a new stereo system, a bigger flat screen TV, or the latest gaming console, you’re going to need somewhere to put it. As one of our main forms of entertainment, technology often serves as the focal point of the living room. Ensuring that your home furnishings are equipped to accommodate your new electronics will help you enjoy them to the fullest. You might consider purchasing a new media stand to elevate your TV to the ideal viewing height, new shelving units to hold speakers or gaming consoles, furniture with cord management systems, or gaming chairs specifically designed to help you play in comfort and style.

  1. You’ve noticed excessive damage, odors, or stains.

furniture

Life happens, and over time, furniture begins to show signs of its age. Countless guests, moves, bumps, and spills—not to mention the enthusiasm of pets and children—can leave even the sturdiest of pieces looking tired and worn. Moreover, upholstered furniture can begin to take on odors after years of use. While you may be able to clean stains on upholstered furniture and mend minor tears, some damage is too extensive to be fixed, and completely renovating a piece of furniture can be expensive. If your favorite sofa is frayed, your arm chair is covered in cracked leather, or your dining table bears battle scars in the form of nicks, scratches, and burns, consider replacing these pieces with something less thoroughly used.

  1. It doesn’t work.

If a piece of furniture no longer fulfills its original function, it’s definitely time to replace it. Although it’s easy to get attached to a particular piece, once it begins damaged or unstable, it is rarely worth keeping around. Furniture that is no longer fully functional, such as a wobbly chair or a dresser with drawers that won’t open correctly, can not only make your home more frustrating to navigate, but may also be hazardous as well.

  1. The room feels crowded.

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While it may seem counterproductive at first, buying new furniture can often help you conserve space and organize your home in a more efficient way. Perhaps you might replace your current table and chairs with a dining set that better suits the size of your apartment, or purchase an entertainment stand that allows you to replace multiple bookcases or shelving units. New furniture can do a great deal to declutter a home office, where good organization can often transform the entire feel of the room.

  1. It’s outdated.

While it’s generally a good idea to get the most out of your furniture’s lifecycle, it’s sometimes difficult to deny that a piece is completely out of style. It’s important to furnish your home in a way that makes you feel happy and comfortable, and for this reason, furniture that has become unsightly with age is a valid candidate for replacement. Whether the culprit is excessively faded fabric or a pattern that’s a bit too reminiscent of a bygone era, consider upgrading the pieces that are beginning to show their age.

  1. You’re buying a new home or renovating.

Whether you’re moving into a new house or simply trying out a new wall color, visual changes in your living space are a great reason to buy new furniture. Purchasing new furniture can help you feel settled in a new space and begin the process of tying the room together. In addition, some pieces of furniture may not mesh well with the aesthetics of a new space, while others may not physically fit within a new or freshly organized room.

When replacing your furniture, don’t forget that there are a number of options for disposing of your previously loved pieces. Rather than simply throwing away that beloved old table or chair, consider donating it, selling it, or upcycling part or all of it to serve a different purpose in your home.