Month: December 2017

furniture

The Top 7 Furniture Trends You Need to Watch in 2018

As a new year approaches, many consumers may be planning to signify the transition with a change in decor. Furniture shoppers, as well as interior designers and furniture business leaders, should take a moment to explore the materials, colors, and styles that will play a role in shaping next year’s trends.

The following are some of the major trends likely to impact the furniture industry in 2018:

  1. Comfort

A number of emerging design trends promote the idea of the home as a place for relaxation and tranquility. Upcoming pieces feature shapes and materials that, while attractive, emphasize coziness over luxury or flashy style. The practice of separating large, open rooms into smaller nooks is gaining in popularity as a way to create spaces that feel comfortable and intimate. Some designers are turning to fashionable room dividers to accomplish this goal, but thoughtfully arranged furnishings—such as a chair, a side table, and a bookcase tucked into a corner to create a reading nook—can add an element of coziness to larger spaces all on their own.

interior designer

Comfort is a priority not only in the composition of home furnishings, but in their designs as well. Many new sofas are curved and low to the ground, with invitingly plush upholstery. Linen is becoming more common as a material for both bedding and upholstered seating, but padded velvet and suede have also reemerged as sought-after coverings for sofas and chairs. Velvet can add a luxurious yet eclectic flair to modern living spaces; the material exudes an elegant vintage air, while a wide variety of color options—from neutral shades to deep jewel tones—make it ideal for both conservative and adventurous shoppers and designers.

  1. Dramatic Wood Grains

The influx of retro-inspired styles, such as velvet upholstery, is coinciding with the renewed popularity of dramatic wood tones in furniture, cabinets, doors, walls, and flooring. The light brown of many natural wood varieties is popular in small spaces, where it can help brighten and expand the room. However, the luxurious deep brown of wood grains like mahogany has also become a popular design staple in major pieces such as beds and tables, as well as wall paneling and cabinetry.

  1. New Neutrals

While traditional white kitchens and bathrooms will likely never go out of style, a number of dramatic shades are replacing pearlescent tones in kitchen and bathroom fixtures, flooring, cabinetry, and appliances. Dark shades, such as deep blue, green, brown, charcoal, and plum, are becoming popular base colors in the kitchen, while copper, concrete, and other stones are starting to replace the stark white often seen on sinks and appliances.

home
  1. Warm Tones

Elsewhere in the home, warm shades have begun to overtake many of the cool jewel tones popular in interiors in 2017. Consumers and designers are relying on shades like terracotta, tobacco, rust, and russet to add a comforting energy to the home. Shades of teal and red, often arranged in tonal designs that stack multiple hues atop one another, are providing contrast to these warm neutrals. At the same time, consumers should expect to see the continuing popularity of millennial pink, which is likely to fade away from its 2017 prominence to serve as more of an understated contrast to complimentary shades such as berry.

  1. Metallic Accents

Copper will continue to be a popular material for light fixtures, furniture bases, and decorative accents. However, metallic gray, gold, and bronze are also likely to gain in popularity. In addition to adding a sense of both luxury and durability to wood and upholstered pieces, metal accents contrast beautifully with leather and stone. Consumers should expect to see all of these combinations in the coming year.

  1. Industrial and Recycled Pieces

In addition to vintage home furnishings and light fixtures, consumers are showing more interest in industrial-inspired pieces. Tables, storage units, and even bed frames with an industrial aesthetic are quickly becoming a trendy way to add rustic charm to every room of the house. Industrial-style furnishings that combine wood and steel elements, as well as creatively upcycled pieces, will continue to contribute to the casual chic décor of American homes in 2018.

home furniture
  1. Simplicity

Inspired in part by the minimalist slant of Scandinavian interior designs, many home furnishings collections are favoring simplicity over elaborate shapes and designs. Geometric patterns, clean lines, and gradual angles will be common features of home furnishings in 2018. Oftentimes, these pared-down pieces will pay homage to retro design periods. This will be especially true in the bedroom, where designers are taking a more understated, minimalist approach to create spaces primed for relaxation. While recent years saw a focus on ornate, luxurious bedroom motifs, new designs will draw beauty from soft neutrals, delicate materials, and an overarching sense of rest and tranquility.

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shopper

4 of the Best Questions to Ask Prospective Furniture Buyers

Thoughtful, open-ended questions are a very important aspect of the sales process. Not only do they provide retail associates with the information they need to help shoppers find furnishings that meet their needs and aesthetic tastes, but they also help them establish a trusting rapport with customers. As such, sales professionals must learn to pose questions that are effective at gleaning new information, efficiently constructed to make the most of customers’ time, and appropriate for the situation at hand in order to learn the current desires, challenges, and limitations shaping a customer’s shopping experience.

To ask effective probing and qualifying questions, you must arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of your companies’ inventories, policies, financing offerings, marketing campaigns, warranties, and delivery services. You must also draw on a knowledge of broader factors, such as furniture industry trends and the recent activities of competing firms, that contribute to successful sales. Once you are confident that you can transform customers’ stated wants and needs into an effective, individualized selling strategy, you can begin using the following questions to learn exactly what your clients are looking for:

  1. How do you feel about your current furniture?

While your approach to this question may vary depending on what type of furniture the customer is looking for, it is generally a good idea to find out why a prospective buyer has decided to shop for new home furnishings. This will help you begin to match the customer’s needs to the potential solutions your company offers.

furniture

If a customer is replacing a specific piece, it is vital that you find out what he or she currently likes and dislikes about it. This will allow you to conduct your sales pitch more efficiently, skipping over the products with features that your shopper has already expressed distaste for. Moreover, asking this question can also give you a better sense of a customer’s urgency. For example, an individual who is shopping to replace a broken bed is likely planning to make a purchase much sooner than someone who is searching for ideas for an upcoming room redesign.

If a customer is simply adding a piece to an existing ensemble, then gaining knowledge about the present layout, function, and aesthetic feel of the other pieces in his or her home will enable you to suggest products that will integrate well with his or her current home furnishings. This is also a great opportunity to learn whether a purchase is part of a larger redesign or renovation, which can provide you with further opportunities to offer guidance on a shopper’s broader home-design efforts.

  1. What qualities in a new piece of furniture are important to you?

Open-ended questions such as this help you convey your genuine interest in each customer’s unique situation. People’s answers will undoubtedly vary based on the type of furniture that they are shopping for, but these responses will be a valuable resource as you plan and prioritize your sales strategy.

Some customers might be primarily concerned with comfort, while others might be seeking the latest designs by a renowned luxury brand. Additionally, individuals could be looking for a piece that is likely to last them several years or is accompanied by a highly competitive warranty.

Oftentimes, customers aren’t quite sure which qualities they value the most in a furniture purchase. In this situation, it might be appropriate to move away from open-ended questions and ask customers whether specific factors—such as brand or durability—play a role in their buying decisions.

  1. What other stores and products have you considered?

You may hesitate to ask customers about their previous interactions with other retailers because you don’t want to pry unnecessarily or remind shoppers about the competitor down the street. However, your customers are surveying the products in your store because other options have not yet won them over. By showing an interest in a customer’s full furniture-shopping experience—not just his or her opinions on the items in your store—you will further communicate your commitment to helping him or her find the ideal product while equipping yourself with more valuable information that you can use to fine-tune your sales strategy.

furniture

If you have taken the time to educate yourself about competitors’ offerings, then you can draw on information about a customer’s earlier shopping experiences to provide comparable recommendations from your own inventory. Asking this question lets you learn what customers did and did not like about other retailer’s product offerings. Moreover, it provides you with a jumping-off point from which to compare and contrast competitors’ products with the unique value your own firm offers.

  1. What are your thoughts on the price of this piece?

A shopper’s budget plays a significant role in determining his or her comfort level with a potential purchase. Most consumers don’t purchase relatively expensive items like furniture very often, and the price tag on a major purchase such as a couch or bed has the potential to stall the sales process when it deviates too drastically from the price a shopper hopes to pay.

Budgetary restrictions are one of the most frequently encountered obstacles to a successful sale, yet it can be difficult to ask about a customer’s financial situation without seeming pushy or intrusive. Therefore, you must find a way to integrate this topic into the conversation in a natural, considerate manner. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to ask how a prospective buyer feels about the price of a piece that you are currently discussing. This allows the customer to provide insight into his or her furniture budget without feeling pressured to set a specific minimum or maximum price point. It also helps you gain a better understanding of shoppers’ financial limitations without seeming overzealous or intrusive.

furniture

4 of the Most Recent Achievements at Ashley Furniture

As one of the world’s leading home furnishings manufacturers, Ashley Furniture continuously strives to offer the best value to consumers. Since its founding in 1945, the company’s ongoing efforts in areas such as technological innovation and business growth have allowed it to serve an ever-growing number of customers with greater quality and efficiency. Here are some of the international furniture retailer’s latest accomplishments:

  1. Promoting STEM Education for National Manufacturing Day

On the first Friday in October, the American business community recognizes National Manufacturing Day. This day of recognition highlights recent advances in modern manufacturing, promoting the universal importance of the industry in an effort to inspire future professionals.

As part of its commitment to offering the best value in home furnishings, Ashley Furniture continuously strives to improve the quality and efficiency of its manufacturing practices. The company seized the recent opportunity to celebrate the work that occurs at its manufacturing facilities while providing a unique educational opportunity for local students.

kitchen

Throughout October 2017, Ashley Furniture welcomed more than 400 junior high students to manufacturing facilities for a unique glimpse inside the world of furniture production. In Wisconsin, sixth and seventh grade students from the state’s Whitehall and Arcadia School Districts visited the Ashley manufacturing center in Arcadia. There, they had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the teamwork necessary to efficiently run an assembly line through a hands-on activity. The students also met with Ashley Furniture founder and chairman of the board Ron Wanek, who spoke with them about the importance of manufacturing and other STEM-centric fields.

Local eighth grade students from Davie County School District enjoyed a similar experience in Advance, North Carolina, embarking on an exclusive tour of Ashley’s casegoods, upholstery, and bedding manufacturing plant. In addition to Mr. Wanek, students also heard from special guests from the state’s legislature and the Davie County Economic Development Commission.

  1. Celebrating the Launch of a New Industrial Automation Lab

A partnership between Ashley Furniture and La Crosse, Wisconsin’s Western Technical College is enabling the company to integrate state-of-the-art technology into its manufacturing operations, while at the same time allowing the college to train future professionals in the latest influential technologies. Generous contributions from Ashley Furniture and the Wanek family’s charitable foundation funded the college’s recent purchase of six Yaskawa robots. Ashley Furniture also provided financial support to help the college’s faculty become certified in the automated technology.

On October 6, 2017, leaders from Ashley Furniture and Western Technical College gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official launch of the school’s new automation lab. With cutting-edge industrial automation technology and education simulation tools, the lab will serve as a valuable resource not only for Western Technical College students, but also local manufacturing professionals. By partnering to create this innovative professional development resource, Ashley Furniture and WTC are helping to shape the future of the manufacturing sector.

  1. Establishing the First Ashley Furniture Campus in Texas

While Ashley Furniture has had an operating presence in Texas since 2015, this presence was confined to a leased distribution center. This is set to change, as the firm recently broke ground on a new, fully owned facility designed to accommodate its growing operations. Located in Mesquite, Texas, the new distribution center spans over 877,000 square feet and will allow Ashley to stock more inventory, enabling the company to provide faster service to customers in the south central United States.

Situated on a 355-acre plot of land that can accommodate future expansions, the new development may be just the first step of a lasting partnership between Ashley and the community of Mesquite.

room

Ashley Furniture hosted a ceremony to celebrate the groundbreaking for its first fully owned Texas facility, as well as the hard work and support of the Mesquite community. By the time the facility opens in October 2018, it is expected to have created 171 new jobs, employing a total team of 350 employees.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was in attendance at the ceremony and took the opportunity to praise Ashley Furniture’s involvement in the Texas business sector. He noted that the new facility “will be an economic boost to the Mesquite community and the Texas economy,” praising the firm’s decision to invest in the skills and spirit of Texan workers.

  1. Winning Transplace’s Private Fleet Carrier of the Year Award

Transplace is a national transportation management company that draws on logistics strategy and emerging technologies to meet both domestic and cross-border shipping needs. In addition to serving as a crucial link in the supply chain, Transplace also promotes excellence throughout the shipping sector with a national award program highlighting achievements in fleet transportation.

Transplace presents its annual Carrier of the Year Award to companies that embody operational excellence in categories including truckload, less-than-truckload, flatbed, and private fleet. The company measures performance in several areas, including on-time service, claims, and SmartWay score, as well as customer service metrics such as the invoicing process and status updates.

Ashley Distribution Services, the shipping and logistics arm of Ashley Furniture, took home a 2017 Carrier of the Year Award in the private fleet category. As one of 16 winning companies, Ashley represents the upper echelon of distribution services across a number of American industries. In his statement congratulating the winners, Transplace president and COO Frank McGuigan described the firms as the “top one percent of our carrier base across all lines of business,” praising them for another year of outstanding service to their customers.

ransomeware

What Every Online Retailer Needs to Know about Ransomware

While digital innovation has created exciting new opportunities for businesses across the retail sector, it has also paved the way for an entirely new type of operational risk. In 2016, American businesses and government agencies experienced a 40 percent year-on-year increase in data breaches, and the volume of digital attacks targeting US organizations is likely to increase in the coming years.

Cybercriminals are constantly developing tools to target an increasingly sophisticated digital landscape, and ransomware has become one of the most significant threats facing modern companies. A type of malware, ransomware can compromise systems via even the smallest security vulnerabilities, and in recent years, a growing number of furniture retailers have fallen prey to this insidious type of cyberattack. As business leaders form strategies to defend their enterprises against digital threats, they should be aware of the following facts regarding ransomware.

What Is Ransomware?

ransomwareRansomware is a type of malicious software that can infiltrate and disable a network by encrypting all of its files, both on individual machines and across the server. After infecting a network, the software demands that users pay a ransom, usually in cryptocurrency, in exchange for the decryption key. If the victim does not pay the demanded amount by a specified time, the ransomware automatically deletes every file on the infected system.

In this way, ransomware can immediately put all of a company’s data at risk. Once compromised by ransomware, all of a company’s data on customers, internal operations, external suppliers, employees, and more will be inaccessible and potentially unrecoverable. Sensitive data, such as consumer financial information, and operationally crucial information, such as inventory lists, are all placed at risk during a ransomware attack. In many cases, this can essentially shut down a company’s operations.

As cyberattacks become a larger area of concern for business leaders, the rate of ransomware attacks in particular has recently been on the rise. This is largely due to the emergence of ransomware-as-a-service, which allows cybercriminals to simply download malicious software from the cloud to deploy at their leisure. In 2016, network security firm SonicWall logged 638 million ransomware attacks across a variety of business sectors—a staggering increase compared to the 3.8 million ransomware attacks reported the previous year. During the first quarter of 2016 alone, this startling influx of cybercrime prompted companies to pay approximately $210 million in ransom money.

In addition to the monetary losses incurred by companies who choose to pay the ransom, ransomware attacks can also lead to lost revenue by causing unplanned downtime, redirecting employees from their usual tasks, and requiring companies to invest in new hardware. All in all, this growing threat could soon rob companies of a collective $75 billion per year.

The Furniture Industry: A Likely Target?

Furniture business leaders have cause to be especially wary of ransomware attacks and similarly malicious online activities, as the industry’s rapid growth and digitization have placed it at a heightened risk for cybercrime. The furniture industry is currently outpacing many other retail sectors in terms of growth. With a projected valuation of $111 billion by 2019, the home furnishings sector is likely to grow 10.7 percent faster that the apparel industry in the coming years, while also outpacing department store sales by more than 16 percent. Because ransomware attackers tend to target companies and individuals with the means to pay the demanded funds, the furniture sector’s revenue growth could make it a prime target for future cyberattacks.

Additionally, the home furnishing sector’s burgeoning relationship with e-commerce could leave many companies vulnerable to ransomware. While the development of an e-commerce platform and broader digitization efforts are becoming a necessity in today’s business landscape, each expansion of a firm’s digital footprint introduces new touchpoints that could potentially grant network access to malicious actors. The furniture industry has lagged behind many other sectors in terms of digital integration, and because of this, home furnishings retailers are likely to have less robust cyber security strategies compared to firms in more digitally advanced industries.

What Can You Do?

ransomwareThe growing prevalence of ransomware attacks—paired with the increasingly digital nature of furniture retail operations—should make cybersecurity a core priority for every business leader. There are a variety of actions that retailers can take to bolster their digital security. The first is to ensure the regular maintenance of backups in accordance with the 3-2-1 rule; that is, businesses should store three copies of their data across two different storage platforms, and one of these devices should be outside of the company’s facilities. It is important to test these backups on a regular basis to ensure that they are functional and capable of facilitating a full data recovery in the case of a digital disaster.

But while backups can help a company recover from a cyberattack, they do little to deter cybercriminals. In order to reduce their vulnerability to malicious online activity, business leaders should develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes an Internet filtration system, security strategies designed to defend both desktop and mobile devices, and sandbox environments to allow potentially malicious emails to be tested safely.

In addition, business leaders must consider the role that employees play in upholding digital security. A company’s staff can often become its greatest digital vulnerability, as careless web browsing or a failure to recognize compromised email attachments can open the door to risk. Therefore, educating employees on digital threats such as ransomware, how to respond to malicious online activity, and the role they play in protecting the firm’s digital capital should be a significant aspect of every company’s cybersecurity plan.