Furniture retail has taken a hit in recent years due to a slump in home buying and a significant decrease in spending on home furnishings. In fact, the home furnishings market has seen a 25-percent drop in consumer spending over the last 25 years. This reduced spending correlates with a decline in homeownership among younger adults. In the mid-1970s, over half (52 percent) of adults 24 to 34 years of age owned a home. Today, less than a third (29 percent) of adults in that age group are homeowners. Renters and those living with family are less likely to invest in home furnishings, and this has negatively affected many furniture retailers’ bottom line.
Despite these trends, it appears that furniture retailers are approaching the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Retail spending as a whole is improving, and the furniture market is poised to experience a boost in sales as more young people start to buy homes. The huge Millennial generation, which is projected to comprise 73 million people by 2019, is now the largest group of homebuyers. More young people buying homes is good news for furniture retailers, but it doesn’t guarantee that customers will start pouring through store doors and dropping large sums of money.
Industry experts have been providing retailers with guidance on how to increase and improve store visits. Although e-commerce dominates other areas of retail, the furniture industry is still a brick-and-mortar business that relies heavily on in-store purchases. Business leaders in the industry must stay focused on making their stores successful if they want to take advantage of upcoming opportunities. The following provides an overview of suggestions for retailers to improve the overall shopping experience and, in turn, secure more sales.
Integrate Technology into Shopping Experiences
Although many consumers still prefer to shop for furniture in-person, retailers should not overlook technology’s ability to attract customers and make it easier for them to find the products they want. At the most basic level, all furniture retailers should have a well-designed website that provides engaging content to hold the attention of prospective customers. Such a website serves as a digital storefront where customers can find product images and descriptions along with reviews and other resources that will make it easier for them to decide on a purchase once they are inside the store.
Beyond an informative and easy-to-use website, retailers can enhance the in-store experience by integrating useful technologies into the store layout. Kiosks with apps that provide customer reviews and shopping guides can build customer confidence and direct them to the items they are looking for. Offering augmented reality (AR) capabilities on store kiosks, apps, and websites is another way to improve furniture shopping. AR gives customers the opportunity to see how an item of furniture will look in their home and/or next to other pieces before they make a purchase. Although AR technology requires a significant initial investment, it can lead to more sales after customers virtually “try out” the furniture.
Improve Retail Floor Design
While optimizing store layout is important for all retailers, it is even more critical in the furniture industry. The showroom floor is where store managers can display complementary products and encourage customers to purchase a set of items rather than just a single piece. It also gives retailers the opportunity to show off big-ticket items and create displays featuring products found on the store website.
To make the most of their retail space, storeowners should display product groupings designed for both small and large living spaces. Retailers can take it one step further by customizing their displays with those items that customers in the local neighborhood are looking to buy. This type of segmentation requires research, but it can also lead to increased sales and improved inventory management. Regardless of the products on display, it’s important to have a clean, uncluttered showroom floor that customers can easily navigate from the front to the back of the store.
Don’t Forget the Basics
Certain store improvements may be impossible for some business owners to implement, but all furniture retailers can do a few basic things to enhance their customers’ shopping experiences. In addition to following the above tips for a better store layout, retailers should make it a point to thoroughly train their employees. Managers and sales teams with in-depth knowledge of the products they are selling can educate customers and help them find what they need. This type of quality service can increase sales and help establish long-term customer relationships.
Along with investing in their employees, all furniture retailers need to understand their market. Running a successful furniture store requires good advertising and wise product selection, but neither of these can be accomplished without understanding the customer base. Market knowledge also informs product pricing and helps ensure retailers can offer the value and personalized attention that will help them remain competitive.