Month: May 2018

security

4 of the Best Ways to Protect Customer Data

Maintaining personal information about your customers and employees is an important and often necessary part of business operations. The rise in online sales in the furniture industry and other areas of retail has led to the transfer of even more personal information from customers to businesses. Names, addresses, credit card numbers, and other account data are all used to fill orders and provide customers with a more efficient shopping experience. Unfortunately, this same data is a target of cybercriminals looking to profit from sensitive personal information.

While cyberattacks can affect businesses of all sizes, small businesses are especially vulnerable to this type of crime. In fact, nearly 50 percent of all cyberattacks are directed toward small business enterprises. When a hacker’s efforts are successful, businesses can lose the trust of their customers and face financial consequences serious enough to shut down their company. Fortunately, there are several relatively easy things that any business owner can do to protect their customers’ data. Here are a few strategies for implementing an effective data-security plan:

 

  1. Have a Strong Privacy Policy

Creating a detailed privacy policy provides business owners with an easy way to promote transparency and build trust among customers. While it’s necessary to ensure that the document is legally compliant, it should be written with the consumer in mind. Instead of using “legalese,” effective privacy policies should be written in simple language that is easy for anyone to understand.

Within the policy, it’s important to clearly outline what type of personal information is collected from customers. The document should also discuss how the business collects and uses the information and what measures are taken to protect it. Additionally, every privacy policy should provide contact information to help customers manage their personal data. There is no one right way to create a policy, but business owners should seek legal guidance to ensure that the document complies with state and federal laws related to data protection and privacy.

 

security

 

  1. Know What Information Is on File

Even with excellent security measures in place, there is no way for a business owner to protect information that they don’t know they have. One of the first steps to take in implementing a data-protection plan involves taking stock of personal information by inventorying paper files, as well as computers, flash drives, mobile devices, and other electronic equipment.

Business owners should also work with managers and employees to identify what type of personal data is collected. Knowing where the data comes from and where it is stored is also important. Once a business identifies its data channels and storage sites, it will be much easier to track down the customer information it has on file.

 

  1. Get Rid of Unneeded Data

After locating and taking stock of all your stored customer data, the next step to take is to delete any unneeded personal information. There is no reason to store—or even collect—personally identifying information that is not integral to a business’ products and/or services. It is especially important to get rid of stored credit card numbers unless there is a legitimate reason to keep them on file. In addition to making data management more complicated, storing unnecessary customer information increases a business’ risk of being the target of a cyberattack.

 

recycle bin

 

  1. Provide Proper Security for Any Stored Information

Of course, the most important thing a business owner can do to keep customer data out of the hands of criminals is to ensure that proper protective measures are in place. Effective data security begins with using the latest software to protect against viruses, malware, and spyware. In addition, it’s important to keep computer software, web browsers, and operating systems updated to protect against the latest threats.

In addition to using updated programs and computer systems, business owners should invest in a secure server. Although a dedicated server can be costly, the benefits that it offers are well worth it. A client-server setup provides centralized storage that gives businesses the ability to back up data and perform regular security updates across an entire network of computers. Servers also protect against computer viruses and worms, which can easily spread from one computer to another in a peer-to-peer setup.

Encryption technology is another way to protect sensitive information. Financial data, customer transactions, and even company emails can be encrypted to ensure that only authorized parties can read them. Encryption software works by scrambling information using a complex algorithm that can be very difficult to crack. This type of software is particularly important for businesses that use mobile devices to scan customer credit cards.

Regardless of how many security measures are in place, they will only be effective if employees implement them properly. Business owners should take the time to educate their staff members about how to handle customer information and identify data breaches. Creating a “culture of security” also requires regular training to keep employees updated on company privacy policies and the latest cyber threats facing the company.

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furniture

Top Reasons for Ashley Furniture’s Amazing Success

AshleyFurnitureAlthough there are a number of major players in the US furniture market, Ashley Furniture stands out from the rest. The American furniture manufacturer and retailer has a history dating back to 1945, but the company’s rise to the top of the industry began in 1970 when current chairman Ron Wanek launched a small furniture manufacturing operation in Arcadia, Wisconsin. Since then, Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., has grown to become an international company operating in more than 120 countries around the world.

In addition to its role as the world’s largest furniture manufacturer, the company is also the largest furniture retailer in North America. The first Ashley HomeStore opened its doors in 1997, and two decades later, Ashley celebrated the opening of its 700th store location. Today, Ashley HomeStores bring in $3.8 billion in annual sales, nearly twice as much as its closest competitor.

The success of Ashley Furniture and its growth from a relatively unknown brand into a household name are not simply the result of good fortune. Ashley’s commitment to being the best furniture company in the world drives its success and continues to shape its daily operations.

Here’s a look at what makes Ashley Furniture a dominant industry leader:

 

Quality Products

From day one, Ashley Furniture Industries has focused on providing customers with top-quality home furnishings. The company’s manufacturing process begins with skilled engineers and designers who travel worldwide to find the latest trends, materials, and technologies. Then, every material and design is tested in Ashley’s state-of-the-art physical testing labs to ensure that it meets the company’s quality standards.

Ashley Furniture’s manufacturing practices and technologies ensure that each product produced is in line with the company’s goal to offer customers exceptional out-of-the-box quality at an affordable price. Ashley also partners with best-in-class suppliers and strives to hire disciplined and committed employees to keep quality at the heart of everything it does.

The company’s focus on operational and manufacturing excellence also supports its efforts to provide stylish, durable furnishings for the entire home. Today, Ashley customers can choose from items across 19 product categories, including bedroom, outdoor, home office, and entertainment.

kitchen

 

Commitment to Efficiency

As part of its mission to improve quality, reduce costs, and increase business, Ashley Furniture works toward continuous improvement by employing innovative production equipment and lean manufacturing principles at its US facilities in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi. The company’s patented assembly methods and streamlined systems support the Ashley team of manufacturing workers as they produce over 50,000 units each day.

Ashley’s commitment to efficiency extends from the factory floor to every area of the supply chain. In 1972, Ron Wanek established Ashley Logistics to manage the transportation and delivery of the company’s products. The Ashley fleet now comprises over 800 vehicles and 3,500 trailers that enable the company to move and deliver more than 30 million pieces of furniture each year. The fleet utilizes an advanced dispatch and routing system that ensures on-time delivery to customers in nearly every part of North America. Ashley is capable of delivering products to US customers in two days or less, a service that no other furniture company in the country can match.

In addition to speeding up production and delivery, Ashley’s efficient manufacturing processes and delivery systems translate into savings for customers. Providing customers with quality products on time and at an exceptional value is in line with the company’s growth-focused efforts to not only stay in business, but also increase profitability over the long term.

bedroom

 

Focus on People and Community

With the understanding that any company is only as good as its employees, Ashley Furniture invests in its people through job skills training and management coaching, as well as direct communication and support. Once a person accepts a position with Ashley, he or she receives job-specific training in manufacturing, distribution, and logistics. All employees have the opportunity for continued professional development as they work toward higher levels of leadership within the company.

Those who attain leadership positions at Ashley continue to develop their professional competencies through the Wanek School of Business Leadership. Ashley leaders take part in online learning and classroom education programs while taking on challenging job assignments that sharpen their skills. Throughout the process, they also receive feedback, personal coaching, and mentoring from other experienced Ashley leaders. All these activities support ongoing employee improvement.

Along with investing in its employees, Ashley Furniture gives back to the communities it serves. The company supports local economies and contributes millions of dollars each year to national charities and nonprofit groups, including City of Hope, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the American Heart Association. Ashley also supports local education programs serving students from grade school through college. Ashley’s work in the community is part of its efforts to make a positive impact while advancing its business goals as North America’s furniture leader.

summer

A Complete Guide to the Latest Trends in Outdoor Living

As the weather becomes warmer and the days get longer, people across the country have begun to retreat to the outdoors for fresh air and relaxation. For many, porches and patios have become the preferred living areas for eating, lounging, and spending time with the family. Those looking to get the most out of their outdoor living spaces are incorporating outdoor furniture and accessories that combine style and functionality while emphasizing comfort. Read on for an overview of the latest trends in outdoor living.

Bringing the Indoors Outside

Long gone are the days of white plastic chairs and green cast iron. Many people now view their patio or deck as an extension of their indoor living rooms, and they are buying outdoor furniture to create a polished look that has been traditionally reserved for interior spaces.

With so many people looking to bring the indoors outside, furniture manufacturers are offering a variety of fabrics, furniture, and accessories that can withstand everything from brisk spring rainstorms to sweltering summer heat waves. These weather-friendly options make it easy for anyone to decorate outdoor spaces according to their taste.

furniture

 

Fire Features

Cozying up around the fire is relaxing regardless of the season, which is why more people are beginning to design their outdoor living areas with fire features in mind. Propane-fueled fire pits and fire tables are now available in a range of styles that can adapt to a variety of spaces. Many homeowners are also choosing to install propane or wood-burning fireplaces to create a cozy ambiance and extend the amount of time they can spend outdoors.

 

A Focus on Comfort

Due to modern innovations in furniture materials, many patio sofas and chairs today are just as comfortable as indoor pieces. An effort to make the outdoors even more relaxing is driving the trend of using oversized cushions and a variety of fluffy pillows that can be mixed and matched to fit with any design scheme. Hammocks, outdoor daybeds, swings, and hanging chairs are also popular options for people who want to nap, read, and relax in comfort while enjoying the outdoors

 

Darker Hues and Fun Patterns

While bright colors are always popular in outdoor living spaces, a preference for outdoor furniture featuring dark colors and deep hues is on the rise. Along with deep purple and blue hues, black, brown, and shades of grey are among the dominant fabric colors for outdoor sofas and chairs. Green is also making a comeback as a popular color in outdoor design. To add some vibrancy to the dark palette, many people are using patterned throw pillows and accessories throughout their patios and decks.

couch

 

Use Accessories to Complete the Look

Completing the look of your outdoor living space requires more than just a few pieces of furniture covered in fluffy cushions and pillows. Today’s trend toward blurring the lines between outdoor and indoor spaces is all about the details. In addition to coffee tables, stools, and ottomans, popular finishing design touches include candles, rugs, and centerpiece bowls.

Lanterns, candles, and outdoor string lighting are also among the functional accessories that people are incorporating into their outdoor design schemes. Manufacturers even offer waterproof chandeliers and table lamps for those seeking to bring interior design elements outside.

 

Embracing Coastal Vibes

Another trend in outdoor living emphasizes a vacation vibe. Those looking to capture the feel of their favorite resort are combining shell-shaped accessories and sea-themed prints with furniture featuring sand tones and cool coastal colors.

Bold cabana-style stripes also feature prominently in many outdoor furniture collections. Teak sling chairs, woven stripe patterns, and bright umbrellas are all available to complete the look for anyone who wants to relive their last beach vacation every time they relax on their patio, porch, or lanai.

patio

 

Mixed Materials and Retro Looks

Rattan and wicker-inspired furniture that was popular decades ago is making a comeback, but today’s consumer prefers vintage-style pieces with a contemporary flair. While more difficult to manufacture, pieces that combine contrasting materials such as metal and wood offer the design detailing that many people are looking for in outdoor furniture. Woven pieces featuring non-traditional colors and design features are also on-trend among those who want to combine a vintage look with pieces that are more modern.

 

Multifunctional Pieces for Greater Flexibility

When warm weather arrives, many people use their outdoor spaces for dining, socializing, and entertaining. An area that serves this purpose requires multifunctional pieces that do not compromise style or comfort.

To meet the demand for greater flexibility in outdoor living, furniture manufacturers are adding wheels to furniture and accessories and creating large patio sets that can be easily rearranged to fit a variety of situations. Adjustable outdoor sectionals alongside tables and stools with built-in storage are the perfect options for those who need to be ready to change the configuration of their outdoor space at a moment’s notice.

furniture

This Is What Is Happening Right Now in Furniture Manufacturing

Over the last several years, the furniture and home furnishings industry in the United States has enjoyed steady growth, thanks to an improving economy that has given consumers more disposable income. Growth in the industry began in 2009, and the latest figures show that it is likely to continue for at least the near future. Retail experts project that US furniture sales will experience a 3 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to reach $122 billion by 2020. Globally, the furniture and flooring market is forecast to reach $695 billion by 2019.

Of course, the projected growth in the industry has furniture retailers, distributors, and manufacturers optimistic, but industry professionals are also facing new challenges that are changing how they approach furniture design and marketing. It’s important for furniture manufacturers in particular to stay on top of the latest industry trends so that they can create products that will satisfy retailers and, ultimately, consumers.

To satisfy consumers, manufacturers must be aware of their demographics, lifestyle choices, and buying preferences. These factors help shape the industry by influencing how furniture is made and sold. Read on for an overview of what’s happening in the furniture industry and how it affects the work of manufacturers.

 

Millennials Are Driving the Market

While the furniture market also comprises generation Xers, baby boomers, and seniors, the majority of today’s furniture shoppers are millennials. As one of the largest groups of homebuyers in the United States, the generation spends billions on furniture and bedding each year. In addition to changing the way that retailers market their furniture, millennials are affecting how and what type of furniture is manufactured.

The generation prefers modern pieces with unique designs and tech-friendly features to the more traditional furniture that their parents likely own. Also unlike their parents, many millennials value affordability over durability and aren’t overly concerned with how long a specific piece will last. The generation prefers decorative, disposable furniture that they can use for 10 years or less before replacing it with something else. Manufacturers are meeting this demand by using materials and design processes that enable them to balance quality with affordability.

 

furniture

 

Quicker Delivery Is in High Demand

Along with affecting how much they’re willing to pay for a new piece, millennials’ and other modern consumers’ attitudes toward furniture affects how long they are willing to wait for furniture they’ve purchased. This demand for quick delivery is leading many furniture manufacturers to streamline their operations.

According to the results of a 2018 industry survey, American upholstered furniture manufacturers consider reducing delivery times to be one of their most pressing challenges. To do this, more manufacturers are using technologies such as computer numerically controlled cutting (CNC) machines during the manufacturing process. Implementing better employee-training practices is also part of many manufacturers’ plans to speed up the time it takes them to deliver their products to market.

 

More Consumers Are Renting

Home sales may be increasing nationwide, but a large percentage of Americans are still renters. In fact, a recent report from the Pew Research Center showed that over 36 percent of households rented in 2016.

Although there are various reasons as to why a person may choose to rent over owning a home, money is a common factor. With less money to spend, many renters are similar to other modern consumers in valuing affordable furniture. Some renters are also tight on space, leading them to seek smaller and/or multipurpose pieces for their homes. Smart manufacturers today are creating inexpensive, streamlined furniture that appeals to the country’s large population of budget- and space-conscious renters.

 

Online Retail Continues to Grow

The growth of online retail continues to provide new opportunities for both furniture sellers and furniture manufacturers. Companies on the manufacturing side of the industry now have the ability to sell to retailers that aren’t limited to a specific geographic area. Some manufacturers are also increasing their efforts to create innovative furniture pieces that ship easily. This includes ready-to-assemble furniture, which is experiencing a revival in popularity in the United States. Despite the increase in furniture e-commerce, however, most furniture buyers still prefer to shop in-store.

 

ecommerce

 

Retailers Are Catering to Environmentally Conscious Shoppers

A growing demand for sustainable products is leading many furniture retailers to carry eco-friendly pieces in their showrooms. Like many other market trends, millennials are driving the interest in green furniture, but people of all ages are looking for ways to decrease their carbon footprint.

Furniture manufacturers may have different definitions of what constitutes sustainable furniture, but for most, it includes pieces that use recycled and/or responsibly sourced materials, such as certified wood and natural fabrics. Sustainable furniture is also created using efficient manufacturing practices that reduce the company’s water and energy usage. Many of today’s furniture manufacturers focus on the green furniture market as part of a business strategy to increase profits while protecting the planet.

 

wood desk

Here Are the Top Things to Know about Furniture Woods

When looking for a new piece of furniture, most people will purchase an item that contains at least some wood. In addition to being the most popular material for tables, desks, and bookshelves, wood is the foundation of nearly every other type of furniture, including sofas, loveseats, and recliners. Even if it’s not visible on the exterior of a piece, wood is most likely providing interior support alongside other structural materials.

Wood has always played an important role in the home furnishings industry, but the variety of wood choices available today can seem overwhelming. To help you make an informed decision the next time you go furniture shopping, check out this quick guide to furniture woods.

 

Why Choose Wood Furniture?

One of the main reasons that wood is such a great furniture material is because it is naturally strong. A piece made of either hardwood or softwood can last a very long time with little maintenance or upkeep aside from occasional waxing, polishing, and oiling. The durability of wooden furniture makes it a smart investment for those looking to furnish their home with quality products. Wood is also available in a variety of types, styles, and finishes that can easily fit in with any design scheme.

Additionally, wood is a renewable furniture material that can be produced with very little impact on the environment. Many wooden pieces also contain recycled materials, which makes them the perfect option to consider if you are interested in sustainable furniture.

 

wood chair

 

Getting to Know Hardwoods and Softwoods

All solid wood products can be divided into one of two categories: hardwood or softwood. The tree from which the wood originates determines its classification. Hardwoods come from leaf-bearing (deciduous) trees, and softwoods are sourced from cone-bearing (coniferous) trees. While it is common to assume that the terms hardwood and softwood refer to a wood’s strength and density, this is not necessarily the case. Some hardwoods, like balsa, are actually soft and lightweight, and some softwoods, like pitch pine, are actually very heavy and dense. In most cases, however, hardwoods have a higher density than softwoods due to their cellular structure.

 

Furniture Hardwoods

Because they are very strong and durable, hardwoods are often used in high-quality furniture pieces. Hardwoods also come in a variety of colors and natural patterns that are very visually appealing and unique to the tree from which they came. The major downside to purchasing hardwood furniture is its price, but the higher cost is well worth it for many people. Here are some of the hardwoods most commonly used in furniture:

Oak—With roughly 60 species in the United States, oak is an abundant hardwood that is valued for its strength and prominent grain patterns. The two varieties (red oak and white oak) range in color from yellow to light pinkish-brown. Oak is used in all types of furniture, but it is very common in pieces made in the Mission style.

Maple—One of the hardest hardwoods, maple resists warping and shrinking and holds up to heavy use. The light-colored wood is usually beige or tan with a straight, even grain pattern that sometimes gives way to curls or waves. Maple is an excellent wood for dressers, cabinets, butcher blocks, and other heavy-use items.

Walnut—Walnut is a dark hardwood that features a straight grain pattern that is most striking when clear-coated or oiled. The wood also carves easily, making it an excellent choice for decorative furniture like cabinets, headboards, mantels, and antique-style tables.

 

wood chair

 

Furniture Softwoods

Although softwoods aren’t typically as dense as hardwoods, they can be just as long-lasting. In fact, softwood furniture can even last longer than hardwoods in some environments. The most common softwoods used in furniture include the following:

Pine—Lightweight and affordable, pine is a common material in modern furniture. There are many different species of pine, but most share the same pale-yellow or light-brown color. Pine is also easily recognizable due to the dark knots and physical growth rings that stand out on its surface. The wood is perfect for rustic furniture, but it can be painted to fit in with all types of décor.

Cedar—Although it is light and brittle, cedar is a durable wood that is often used to make drawers, chests, and closets because it has a distinctive scent that repels moths and other insects. This light-red softwood is also resistant to moisture and decay, so it works well for picnic tables and other outdoor furniture.

Redwood—Like cedar, redwood has weather-resistant properties that make it perfect for use in the outdoors. It is especially well suited for patio tables and chairs, but redwood can also be used indoors for Western-style beds and other rustic pieces.

 

Other Wooden Furniture Products

In addition to solid wood, many modern furniture pieces use composite wood materials such as plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). While these products are manmade, they are still composed of actual wood that is bonded together and pressure treated. Plywood, MDF, and other engineered wood products are both affordable and eco-friendly. Most often, they are used on the backs and interiors of furniture, but some bookshelves and other budget-friendly pieces are made entirely out of these materials.