millenials

3 of the Most Effective Tips for Marketing to Millennials

As the largest generation in the history of the United States, millennials are already having a significant impact on the economy. By 2020, the generation will make up an estimated 30 percent of US retail sales, spending some $1.4 trillion per year. As individuals born throughout the 1980s and 1990s transition into adulthood, establish their careers, and begin to build homes and families, their effect on several industries is poised to grow even larger.

millennialMillennials already buy more furniture than any other collective group, being responsible for 37 percent of total home furnishings sales in 2014. Their buying power has continued to increase significantly in recent years, and they now comprise the fastest-growing market segment in the furniture sector. Between the peak home-buying ages of 25 and 45, millennials are likely to ramp up their furniture-buying activities going forward.

It’s quite clear that millennials represent a huge business development opportunity for furniture companies. One of the most effective ways for brands to cater to this highly-influential generation is via marketing. To do so, they must become more in tune with millennial lifestyles, preferences, and styles.

  1. Consider Millennial Culture

By understanding the causes and values that are important to their millennial customers, companies can reach them on a more meaningful level that is likely to garner lasting loyalty and trust. Market researchers have observed that millennials tend to value individuality and, therefore, likely to seek out and enjoy personalized shopping experiences.

For this reason, furniture retailers should strive to make in-store experiences unique for customers, positioning their brick-and-mortar locations as resources for detailed product information, style advice, and a guided shopping experience. When possible, companies can also implement features such as personalized recommendation emails or online home design tools to offer mobile shoppers a more individualized experience.

Millennials also tend to be quite socially conscious. They are aware of what is going on in the world around them and frequently dedicate themselves to causes that seek to better it. For this reason, it benefits retailers to take advantage of cause marketing whenever possible.

By leveraging resources to support a humanitarian cause, a company can establish a kinship with consumers while demonstrating that it is a socially responsible organization. Research conducted by Cone Communications concluded that over half of millennials – specifically, 66 percent – are more likely to give their business to companies they perceive as socially responsible.

Corporate social responsibility initiatives are an excellent opportunity for organizations to inspire customer loyalty and strengthen their brand images. However, it is vital that companies are authentic in their social engagement efforts. Consumers are likely to pick up on philanthropic initiatives that are shallow and merely for show. As a result, it is important for brands to choose causes that are making a genuine impact, be consistent in their contributions, and make their activities known to consumers.

For example, Ashley Furniture’s A Hope to Dream initiative partners with communities and the NFL to ensure that local children have quality beds and bedding. The company’s Ashley for the Arts program brings approximately 30,000 people to Arcadia, Wisconsin, for a music and arts festival with plenty of local flavor.

  1. Leverage Technology to Your Advantage

Technology is firmly engrained in the millennial lifestyle. It has served as the foundation for many of their social experiences and continues to be an integral part of business, entertainment, and daily life. As such, millennials are well-versed in engaging with both individuals and organizations over the web. This means that businesses have a good chance of reaching them in the online spaces where they reside.

technologyIn many cases, online interactions are the preferred form of communications for these digital natives. One study by the Center for Generational Kinetics discovered that, if given the option, 40 percent of its millennials would choose to conduct customer service interactions completely online.

In addition to helping firms improve the efficiency of their customer service, taking full advantage of technology to market products and interact with consumers can help furniture companies provide a more modern and engaging customer experiences. Companies that maintain an active presence on social media platforms are inviting customers to engage with them in a familiar and easily accessible way while at the same time providing a visual introduction to their products.

When incorporating technology into their marketing strategies, furniture companies should carefully consider which social platforms to be active on based on their targeted demographics. This will help ensure that they are funneling resources only into the platforms frequented by their prospective customers. In order to track the success of their social media engagement strategies, it is also crucial that companies set up platforms to collect data on the results of their social media activity.

  1. Keep an Eye on Style Trends

As the millennial generation grows to comprise a greater and greater segment of the furniture-buying population, millennial tastes and preferences are beginning to influence aesthetic trends in the furniture sector. Historically, consumers have often associated complex and ornate furniture with elegance and quality. However, millennial shoppers are increasingly favoring simple and sleek styles. Clean lines and monochrome color palettes with minimal ornamentation allow millennials to display their individuality through their own unique accessories.

However, millennials do appear to favor complexity in one regard. When it comes to modular and multipurpose furniture, millennials are drawn to pieces that will allow them to save valuable square footage in their small living spaces and enjoy a great deal of functionality from a single product.

As technology is interwoven within the millennial lifestyle, brands are likely to have an easier time marketing pieces designed to accommodate common technologies. In addition, the social awareness of this generation has made sustainably sourced materials an incredibly powerful selling point.

las vegas sign

One of the Most Influential Furniture Markets Is Quickly Approaching

lasvegasmarketlogoIn April, registration officially opened for the Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market. For over a decade, the market has provided professionals from all corners of the home furnishings and décor sectors an exclusive look at the latest trends in home design while offering industry leaders a chance to showcase their latest products.

The next iteration of this biannual industry exhibition will be no exception. Set to take place from July 30 to August 3, 2017, the Summer Las Vegas Market is poised to be a can’t-miss event featuring an unprecedented array of attractions.

On the Rise

The recent Winter Las Vegas Market smashed attendance records, welcoming more buyers and exhibitors than any previous winter market. Held from January 22 to 26, the event filled an astounding 5 million square feet with showrooms and product exhibitions, adding 170,000 square feet of entirely new or expanded showroom space.

The winter 2017 event also marked the first time that the market displayed more than 4,000 brands and product lines. This record-breaking selection attracted interested buyers from all 50 states and 80 countries, leading to attendance increases in virtually every major product category.

As the weather warms, anticipation for the Summer 2017 Las Vegas market is on the rise. International Market Centers—the organizers behind the industry-leading High Point and Las Vegas markets—have already revealed a few details about its next trend-setting event.

What to Expect

This summer, the Las Vegas Market will once more feature over 4,000 product lines spanning a comprehensive selection of categories. The event will feature more buyer resources than ever before, with organizers projecting an influx of activity throughout the market’s gift and furniture displays. Specifically, organizers expect a wealth of new offerings in gift categories such as housewares and artisanal products, while the casual and outdoor furniture exhibitions are also primed for increased activity. In addition, the Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market will feature exhibitions from each of the top-15 bedding manufacturers.

To accommodate its ever-expanding number of exhibitor partners, the Las Vegas Market is adding a number of new, permanent showrooms and temporary showcases. Attendees will discover a record-breaking number of exhibiting companies in the Home Furnishings category in section B2, while C13’s Casual showroom will feature temporary displays from several first-time exhibitors.

In addition to perusing product displays at their leisure, market attendees will have the opportunity to learn from the experts during designer-led showroom tours. They will also have access to a vast selection of educational panels and seminars focused on a variety of industry-relevant topics, from home design trends to best practices in furniture retailing.

The Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market will include the return of staple industry events and award programs, including the 7th Annual “Up on the Roof” Gift for Life fundraiser and the 3rd Annual ANDYZ Design Awards. As in previous years, the Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market will also offer a variety of amenities to enhance the buyer experience. Convenient resources will include complementary breakfasts; a mothers’ lounge; Internet-equipped workspaces for buyers, designers, and journalists; and a networking area for international attendees.

What’s New?

International Market Centers has made a number of updates to the Las Vegas Market program in anticipation of a record-breaking summer event. This year, the summer market will feature a streamlined sign-in system and a larger area in which to process onsite registrations. Attendees who have pre-registered for the market will also be able to take advantage of multiple off-site locations, including the Golden Nugget and the Aria Resort and Casino, that offer expedited badge pickup.

Market organizers recently introduced a new online resource to help attendees prepare for the market experience. Featuring insight from a number of home furnishings thought leaders, DesignOn LVMkt will present a series of insightful and informative blog posts focused on industry news, new products, and emerging design trends. It joins a host of other helpful web-based resources, including the online catalog gallery and online market planner.

A number of new organizational partners will join the Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market to develop exciting new events and exhibits around their unique industry niches. Incoming partners include the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, the Las Vegas Spa Association, the PLATIN-Latin American Alliance, Sierra Pacific Crafts, and The Munce Group. These organizations join more than 30 additional trade and retail groups.

The Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market will also mark the event’s first collaboration with Luxe Interiors + Design, a prominent home fashions publication. On August 1, the magazine will host a panel discussion for the Las Vegas Market Ahead of the Curve program featuring a number of influential designers from the western home furnishings market. The discussion will focus on regional trends in home furnishings and décor and will include time set aside for audience questions.

Attendees will receive another preview of the latest home furnishings trends when the market releases its biannual FIRST LOOK guide. Encompassing showroom displays, tours, seminars, and promotional materials, the FIRST LOOK program revolves around a series of style themes that embody the aesthetic spirit of each new Las Vegas Market. Keep an eye out for it as the market approaches!

dinner table

This Is How Furniture Logistics Is Evolving

When seeking opportunities to grow revenue and offer improved value to their customers, furniture retailers typically strive to stay abreast of the latest design trends and innovative marketing strategies. However, in recent years, some of the most significant opportunities to improve operations have emerged within the realm of logistics.

As enterprise technologies advance and become more firmly intertwined with business operations, digital tools offer furniture retailers and logistics providers new opportunities to reduce costs, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction. Read on to learn more about how industry trends and technological developments are transforming furniture logistics, enabling companies to facilitate deliveries with more speed and transparency than ever before.

Serving the Modern Consumer

furnitureShifting customer expectations have played a large role in driving many of the recent developments in furniture logistics. In the age of e-commerce, consumers have come to expect an efficient, transparent, and personalized retail experience. This includes a hassle-free delivery service that is on-demand, damage-free, and on-time—or even faster than expected. To meet these demands, many furniture retailers are working to increase the speed of their shipments with the knowledge that, with an ever-growing range of options for home furnishings, customers may very well choose the retailer that can offer the fastest delivery.

E-commerce has also changed the way that many consumers shop for furniture. Increasingly, shoppers are opting to buy individual pieces rather than full room sets, and while e-commerce has spurred growth in furniture sales, it has also driven an increase in returns, bolstering the strategic significance of the reverse supply chain.

To effectively serve consumers in 2017, companies throughout the furniture supply chain must collaborate to provide more efficient, customer-focused delivery services. Retailers will need to be more discerning than ever in developing their supply chains, partnering with manufacturers and logistics providers to ensure just-in-time manufacturing and shipping processes that meet the efficiency and quality standards of the digital age.

The Need for Visibility

One of the primary ways that furniture retailers can leverage logistical improvements to enhance the customer experience is by adding visibility to the product lifecycle. When retailers are able to monitor a piece of furniture at all stages of the supply chain, they can anticipate and efficiently respond to any issues that may arise.

For example, a retailer with excellent supply chain visibility might observe that a product will take an extra week to reach the distribution warehouse due to complications at the manufacturing facility. The company can then alert customers to the delay, keep them updated on their order’s journey via digital mediums, and work with them to set a new, mutually acceptable delivery time.

In this way, supply chain visibility can help retailers offer more value to their customers. Realizing this, furniture companies are now prioritizing visibility alongside factors such as style and price when considering supplier partnerships.

Harnessing Technology

furnitureAs furniture retailers work to improve supply chain metrics like efficiency and visibility, technology has become an indispensable resource. Furniture companies are increasing their investments in logistics technologies at a time when these digital tools are rapidly advancing, prompting the digitization of many processes.

In recent years, technologies such as GPS and radio-frequency identification have granted furniture companies greater supply chain visibility, allowing them to track the progress of vehicles and individual products from the manufacturer to the customer’s front door. In addition, the advancement of management information systems has allowed organizations to more efficiently manage the numerous processes and personnel involved in the delivery process.

Furniture retailers and logistics providers are also leveraging more advanced warehouse management software platforms, automated material handling equipment, mobile tools, and biometric devices to further enhance supply chain efficiency while maintaining high standards of safety and security. At the same time, advancing technologies have allowed logistics providers and retailers to shrink the environmental impact of the furniture product lifecycle. Electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and other renewable energy sources have provided new ways for companies to reduce their carbon footprints, while the Internet of Things and AI-enabled technologies are assisting logistics providers in optimizing their vehicles’ routes, speeds, and fuel usage to be as sustainable and cost-efficient as possible.

Starting Small

Furniture companies need not launch extensive digital transformations to optimize their logistics strategies. Oftentimes, the most effective way to increase efficiency is to launch a small-scale, targeted effort to assess pain points throughout the logistics process and pinpoint specific areas for improvement. Business leaders should gather a few stakeholders to measure key metrics such as delivery timeliness, damage frequency, and overall customer satisfaction. While customer feedback should help inform these considerations, leaders should avoid responding to problems reactively. Instead, they should focus on locating the root of logistical mistakes and inefficiencies. After identifying a few areas for improvement, teams can research potential digital solutions within the vast landscape of emerging logistics technologies.

In the time-sensitive world of logistics, the speed of data collection and analysis is one of the most critical strategic considerations. When exploring how to improve their logistical processes, companies should consider not only what data they are collecting along the supply chain, but also the amount of time it takes to synthesize and act on this data. For example, a retailer may receive monthly reports detailing how many of their deliveries were on schedule, but it may be easier—and more effective—to act on this information if they receive it in real time.

dining room

How Retailers Can Make the Most of the In-Store Experience

There’s no doubt that the rise of e-commerce has shaken up the retail sector. In the most recent iteration of its annual e-commerce survey, analytics firm comScore found that—for the first time in the survey’s five-year history—polled customers made over half of their purchases online. And while a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2000 found that just 22 percent of Americans had purchased something online, this number has now risen to 79 percent.

furniture showroomThe act of visiting a physical showroom has long been an integral part of the furniture-buying process, but the furniture industry has not been immune to the impact of e-commerce. Online shopping has actually helped to fuel significant growth in the sector in recent years. While brick-and-mortar sales have risen by 13.8 percent since 2009, e-commerce has surged by 168 percent to make up over 15 percent of total furniture sales.

Although online shopping has largely been a boon for the furniture business, it has created new challenges for retailers. In addition to optimizing their online channels, companies must also find ways to ensure that their brick-and-mortar locations do not become obsolete. By leveraging knowledge of customer trends, an understanding of emerging technologies, and a bit of creativity, retailers can create unique experiences that keep shoppers coming back to their brick-and-mortar locations. The following are a few ways that furniture retailers can enhance their in-store experience.

Multichannel Integration

Even as technology threatens the prominence of brick-and-mortar retail, some innovative companies are harnessing digital tools to improve the in-store experience. A recent survey conducted by Deloitte revealed that almost 70 percent of consumers go online before visiting a store, while 36 percent also browse the Internet while shopping at brick-and-mortar locations. Further research in the B2B space has also revealed that customers tend to spend more money after interacting with multiple channels. All of this suggests that retailers cannot afford to ignore the influence of digital channels while striving to improve their in-store experiences.

Mobile technology has also emerged as a particularly powerful way to add value to the physical retail environment while adding depth to the omnichannel customer journey. Mobile coupons, digital home design platforms, product match tools, and in-store pickup centers for online orders can all be useful in turning online shoppers into in-store customers. At the same time, innovative mobile applications have the potential to optimize the sales process from start to finish.

As the largest furniture retailer and manufacturer in the United States, Ashley Furniture is on the forefront of this trend. Thanks to the company’s recent partnership with Mad Mobile, which has helped streamline the in-store operations of such prominent organizations as Payless and Major League Baseball, both customers and associates at Ashley Furniture showrooms around the world will have access to a number of new, innovative mobile tools.

Mad Mobile’s Concierge application is a prime example of how mobile tools can help to optimize the in-store experience. The tool can assist retail associates in managing inventory, customer information, and point-of-sale interactions, while its Clienteling module allows employees to digitally manage tasks and appointments, take notes, and communicate with prospective customers. At the same time, the mobile app will also improve the customer shopping experience by providing integration with online shopping carts and Apple Pay accounts, issuing digital receipts, and streamlining the overall checkout experience.

Adding New Value

tablesAs e-commerce platforms offer new levels of convenience to consumers, furniture retailers stand to benefit from emphasizing the experiential aspect of their physical locations. By creating and promoting inspirational, on-trend, and expansive showrooms, retailers can continue to position their brick-and-mortar locations as an important step in the purchasing process, even if customers ultimately decide to make a purchase online.

As companies strive to make the in-store experience a valuable one, retail design aesthetics will also become an important consideration. The industry-wide effort to create memorable brick-and-mortar locations is driving a focus on both the impact and consistency of store design, as companies strive to develop in-store experiences that reinforce their brand identities.

Innovative In-Store Marketing

Technology has afforded retailers a number of new opportunities to engage in-store customers with promotional content. Companies such as Estimote have begun developing physical beacons that, when positioned throughout a store, can automatically push strategic promotional content to customers’ smart devices. The growing popularity of wearable technology is poised to create more opportunities for beacon marketing. In a survey by Startek (formerly Accent Marketing), more than half of respondents said they were willing to purchase wearable devices capable of pushing alerts and gathering insights for retail companies.

LCD video displays and interactive touch screens also offer new ways to present product information, and new IoT-enabled displays are now facilitating further in-store marketing innovation. At the most recent Retail Tomorrow conference in San Antonio, Texas, Impax Media unveiled a video marketing platform designed for the retail checkout line. Recognized as the most disruptive innovation presented at the conference, the IoT video screen collects anonymous data on patterns in customer traffic and engagement, in addition to displaying promotional content. But perhaps most remarkably, the screen also reduced customers’ perceived wait times.

charity marathon

This Is How Ashley Furniture Is Supporting the Arts

Ashley Furniture has made a habit of giving back to the communities in which it operates. From supporting local disaster-relief initiatives to ensuring that all children can enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep, the company has drawn on the support and generosity of its employees to make a variety of positive changes in the world.

One of Ashley Furniture’s largest charitable endeavors is Ashley for the Arts. A multiday extravaganza of fun, creativity, and generosity, Ashley for the Arts has quickly become one of the largest charity events in the state of Wisconsin, bringing together tens of thousands of people from across the Midwest for several worthwhile causes.

What is it?

ashley for the arts logoAshley Furniture established Ashley for the Arts to unlock the powerful potential of the creative community to enrich the wider world. Since 2009, the annual music and arts festival has welcomed as many as 30,000 people to Soldiers Walk Memorial Park in Arcadia, Wisconsin—a small town of just under 3,000 people—for a weekend of art, music, and family fun.

Soldiers Walk Memorial Park, the biggest memorial park outside of the nation’s capital, encompasses 54 sprawling acres of open green spaces and winding pathways. Made possible in large part by the generosity of Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., founder Ron Wanek, it is also the site of the Avenue of Heroes, which features statues honoring America’s veterans and prominent historical figures.

The park’s beautiful and expansive grounds are the perfect setting for all that Ashley for the Arts has to offer. For three days, attendees of all ages flock to the park to view performances by local and nationally renowned artists, peruse arts and crafts, enjoy food and drinks, and take part in fun outdoor activities. Soldiers Walk Memorial Park boasts four performance venues, the largest of which is capable of accommodating over 20,000 people. The park’s Millennium Amphitheater and Pavilion house smaller performances, while two Air Parks feature a number of unique attractions, including inflatable bounce houses and a hot-air balloon launch. There is also a car show and a youth obstacle course, as well as a Saturday-night fireworks display.

Ashley for the Arts is firmly rooted in the principles of family and community; the festival features creative works by students from numerous regional school districts, and events benefiting a variety of charitable causes dot its schedule. Moreover, the festival is extremely affordable. Tickets for the entire three-day event, including access to all performances and activities, are just $10.

Giving Back

Ashley for the Arts is much more than a celebration of art and creativity; it is also a platform through with communities can come together to support one another. In fact, it has grown to become one of the largest charity events in the state, raising over $300,000 each year to benefit more than 25 nonprofit organizations, such as Ashley for the Arts’ partner schools, children’s charities, and community-based organizations. The event also benefits medical-sector nonprofits, including research organizations and groups providing financial assistance to fund treatment for patients with serious diseases.

street marathonOne of the prominent charity events that takes place during Ashley for the Arts is the Pursuit of a Cure 5K and Miracle Mile Run-Walk. Open to runners in several age divisions for a small fee, the event allows participants to donate 100 percent of their registration costs to the charitable organization of their choice. In 2016, this event raised more than $18,000 for groups like the American Cancer Society, the Arcadia Ambulance Service, and the Rita Tranberg Memorial.

Ashley for the Arts also seeks to support charitable endeavors on the individual level. Through an annual humanitarian award program, the event organizers recognize local heroes from a number of Wisconsin school districts, whose dedication and generosity have made their neighborhoods more enriching places to live, learn, work, and play. Individuals receive this special honor during sporting events at their schools, which also receive monetary awards. Ashley for the Arts’ humanitarian award winners’ represent the diverse ways in which individuals can serve their communities. The honorees of 2016, for example, established community centers and athletic facilities, launched pet therapy programs at their local humane societies, and introduced a generation of students to the joy of reading at the school library, and more.

Looking Ahead

In recent years, Ashley for the Arts has enjoyed unprecedented growth. The event has consistently seen attendance increase by 50 percent each year since its inception, and it broke new ground in 2016, welcoming 8,000 more attendees than the previous year to reach a total attendance of over 35,000 people. Moreover, this record attendance occurred despite a particularly rainy Friday. Featuring such noteworthy artists as Chicago, American Authors, and Kellie Pickler, the 2016 event raised more than $300,000 for dozens of charitable causes.

Ashley for the Arts 2016 featured a vast array of unique attractions, including traditional Mexican dancers, a scavenger hunt, a wheel of death, and more. Soon, visitors will find out what surprises the 2017 festival will hold. Slated for Thursday through Saturday, August 10-12, Ashley for the Arts 2017 will welcome multiplatinum, Grammy-nominated singer songwriter Gavin DeGraw; Grammy-nominated rockers NEEDTOBREATHE; musical legend Three Dog Night; country stars Montgomery Gentry and Neal McCoy, and alternative newcomers Echosmith. With an impressive schedule of performing artists, numerous creative vendors and exhibitors, and a plethora of fun, family activities, it is poised to be another incredible event.

outdoor furniture

The Most Recent Trends in the Outdoor Furniture Sector

Outdoor furniture has evolved over the years, transforming from oft-forgotten lawn accessories—stored in sheds or garages and hosed off when a barbecue beckons—to an integral part of home décor. Fire pit seating arrangements, outdoor dining sets, and plush lounge chairs are increasing in popularity, reflecting consumers’ growing desire for outdoor furniture that blends elegance and simplicity to create a relaxing outdoor oasis.

Ashley HomeStore’s new Outdoor line offers these and many more accessories for the patio and backyard. Shop the collection at ashleyfurniturehomestore.com/en/outdoor.

How the Market Has Changed

backyard furnitureIn the 1980s, the outdoor furniture industry experienced a significant change as major home furnishings manufacturers began selling fully-welded sets of aluminum lawn seating to mass retailers. Consumer interest shifted away from the more expensive outdoor sets sold by smaller domestic companies to more affordable, mass-produced products. In response, domestic retailers largely dropped their outdoor collections. At the same time, the shift toward mass production and a consolidating pool of suppliers reduced the diversity of styles available. However, this has begun to change.

Many industry experts credit the stress of modern lifestyles with fueling consumers’ rising interest in creating tranquil outdoor escapes. The outdoor furniture market is expected to surge by 19.5 percent by 2020 as shoppers search for unique, practical, and on-trend outdoor pieces. This increase will drive a growth rate of 5.3 percent for furniture retailers.

However, the revitalization of the outdoor furniture market still faces challenges. Furniture retailers must now compete with e-commerce, making it more vital than ever for companies to create an engaging and worthwhile in-store shopping experience.

Who’s Buying?

In its 2015 Consumer Buying Trends Survey, Casual Living reported that the most significant increase in outdoor furniture buying activity is concentrated in the western, southeastern, and northeastern regions of the United States. Somewhat surprisingly, this increase isn’t limited to rural and suburban communities. Even metropolitan areas have experienced an increased demand for smaller outdoor furnishings.

Millennials make up the fastest-growing segment of outdoor furniture consumers. In 2014, millennial households accounted for 37 percent of purchases. Baby boomers followed close behind with 34 percent of sales, while generation X-ers accounted for 23 percent. Industry experts expect millennials’ buying power to continue in this sector, as Americans aged 19-35 years old begin to build careers, families, and homes.

The rise in outdoor furniture purchases across multiple generational demographics reflects Americans’ increasing willingness to spend their discretionary income. Industry observers have also noted that it demonstrates the relative accessibility of outdoor products. While not every family has the need for a high-end formal dining room set, consumers across all income levels enjoy relaxing outside and hosting outdoor gatherings.

The Industry Responds

Although millennials are the fastest-growing subset of outdoor furniture buyers, some companies have found that interest in high-end luxury outdoor collections is nearly nonexistent among shoppers younger than 50 years old. While millennials are increasingly seeking out quality products, the decades-long prominence of mass-produced outdoor furniture has led consumers to expect more moderate prices. Furniture retailers are thus motivated to offer on-trend outdoor sets at a price point that is accessible to first-time purchasers.

outdoor furnitureAdditionally, millennials tend to be more educated regarding their potential purchases, relying on the Internet to conduct extensive research before making a selection. This trend is beginning to influence the buying habits of other age demographics, making it crucial for companies to develop a strong web presence with detailed, accurate product information and ample customer reviews.

To compete with the vast selection of online retailers, furniture stores must also establish engaging, clearly-designated product showcases with a diverse array of eye-catching vignettes. As retailers strive to take advantage of the surge in outdoor furniture sales, it is increasingly important for them to establish themselves as a destination for outdoor furniture, as many consumers have grown accustomed to visiting home improvement big box stores for their patio furniture needs. Television advertising and perks such as home delivery, financing, and department-wide sales are all methods used by furniture retailers to re-establish themselves as players in the outdoor market.

The Latest Trends

Consumers shopping for outdoor furniture are on the hunt for the perfect balance of comfort, style, and functionality. They hope to find pieces that are attractive and stylish, yet durable and easy to maintain, in order to create a relaxing and social atmosphere. Especially popular among millennials are outdoor fire features and chat sets that invite visitors to unwind and spend quality time outside. In addition to being a cozy and aesthetically pleasing accessory, fire pits also extend the amount of time that people can enjoy their outdoor furniture, extending the season for backyard entertaining. For similar reasons, practical outdoor lighting is a popular way for consumers to make the most of their outdoor furniture investment.

Visual trends in the outdoor furniture sector tend to mirror the indoor trends of the previous year. Currently, urban and modern contemporary collections are attracting attention, offering elegant styles that are sleek, linear, and versatile. Popular designs include both natural and synthetic woven materials—which offer both durability and a natural, organic look—as well as mixed combinations of welded metal, natural stone, finished metallic, and worn wood.

Although neutral brown, gray, and navy tones permeate the current outdoor landscape, bohemian colors including deep red and orange are also on trend, as are the classic tropical blues and greens of traditional garden landscapes. While major outdoor pieces such as chairs and tables remain elegantly neutral in shape and hue, shoppers are adding bursts of color with rugs, pillows, and umbrellas in vibrant tones and geometric designs.

Overall, trends in the outdoor sector mark a shift away from the uninspired aluminum and plastic products of yore. Now, outdoor furniture bears more of a resemblance to interior pieces. With the rise of outdoor furniture that is contemporary, practical, and beautiful, the backyard has truly become an extension of the modern living space.

furniture

3 Ways That Technology Is Impacting the Furniture Industry

As technology continues to become a larger part of our daily lives, the spaces in which we eat, sleep, work, and play will need to accommodate more digital tools and offer a greater degree of connectivity. Several furniture companies are already harnessing emerging technologies in order to meet this challenge, working to create attractive, comfortable, and functional pieces that blend seamlessly into modern lifestyles. At the same time, technology is poised to have a significant impact on the way that home furnishings companies market and sell their products. Following are three technologies with exciting applications for furniture retailers and designers.

  1. Mobile Technology

smartphoneThe increasingly mobile nature of technology is beginning to have a noticeable impact on furniture design. Gone are the days when we only surfed the Internet at our desks or watched movies on the living room TV. Now, it is common to browse the web, stream media, and work on tech-reliant projects from virtually any room in our house. Since our technology is now untethered from the furniture that supports it, furniture designers have more reason to consider how each piece accommodates technology use, implementing features such as charging ports, cable management systems, and adjustable mechanisms.

The impact of mobile technology on furniture is perhaps most evident in the office furniture sector. Employees are becoming less tied to their individual workstations and even to their offices, and office layouts are beginning to reflect this shift with a move toward open floorplans and versatile, collaborative workspaces.

Mobile technology is also creating new opportunities in furniture marketing and retail. Its applications are vast. An app developed by innovative minds at the tech firm Grokstyle will soon allow consumers to explore details about furniture items and home accessories—including where to buy them—simply by taking a picture with their mobile phones.

Browsing a showroom has long been an integral aspect of the traditional furniture-buying experience, and companies are beginning to leverage mobile technology to bring this practice into the 21st century. A number of virtual showroom apps allow customers to browse furniture retailers’ products conveniently from their mobile devices, communicating with the cloud to provide a constantly updated selection of home furnishings. The apps not only transform the customer experience, but they can also help furniture sales representatives to operate more effectively and efficiently. In the case of the family-owned company Bernhardt Furniture, replacing its cumbersome paper-based ordering process with a virtual showroom provided the firm’s employees with more time to focus on client interactions by eliminating the need to print, compile, and flip through binders filled with product information. For Bernhardt, adopting a mobile virtual showroom yielded an incredible 196 percent return on investment, presenting an average yearly benefit of over $789,000.

  1. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is poised to have an even greater impact on the way that people shop for furniture. While the ability to browse home furnishings online and via mobile apps has added a new level of convenience to the furniture-buying process, shoppers can only learn about their prospective purchases through website text and 2D images. Emerging technologies could soon enable shoppers to peruse furniture at practically any time and from any location while still granting them the full visual experience of a showroom setting. In fact, augmented and virtual reality tools will soon surpass the showroom experience, allowing consumers to actually explore how a new product will fit into their homes. Although this technology is still in the early stages of development, it could very well allow shoppers to upload images of their homes and decorate them with virtual objects, testing out different styles, colors, and orientations before they make a purchase.

As this technology becomes more advanced, it could allow furniture companies to play a more significant role in the overall interior design process. As noted by Wayfair Next Director Mike Festa in a recent interview with High Point Market, the advent of true virtual reality, which would allow users to manipulate virtual images with their voices or hands—could inspire a “new interest in do-it-yourself design” supported by furniture retailers’ VR tools.

  1. Internet of Things

Aptly named, the Internet of Things refers (IoT) to the increasingly vast network of interconnected objects linked to computer systems—and each other—by embedded sensors. The term often appears in discussions of smart homes, which allow inhabitants to monitor and program features such as security, lighting, and air conditioning from a smartphone app.

internet of things

Although IoT technologies are far from fully developed, they are beginning to enter the furniture sector, introducing beds, desks, chairs, and even kitchen surfaces to the ever-growing Internet of Things. A recent partnership by SK Telecom and Hyundai introduced Smart Furniture, a line of dressers, cabinets, refrigerators, and other large furnishings with embedded touch screens that seamlessly integrate technology into customers’ daily lives. Users can look up the day’s news and weather while getting dressed, search for recipes while standing in the kitchen, or even make phone calls from the tech-enabled furnishings.

Other applications for IoT technology in the furniture sector include bedding. Sleep Number’s take on the smart bed uses biometric sensors to track numerous metrics that include heart rate, breathing rate, and restfulness. In addition, it can link with other applications (such as a calendar or fitness tracker) and can automatically adjust the mattress for maximum comfort. Elsewhere in the house, Lift-Bit’s smart sofa is equipped with mechanized modular pieces that can shift to offer adaptive seating arrangements. Tentative plans unveiled by IKEA at Milan Design Week hint at a future in which a kitchen table can choose to automatically warm your plate using a combination of smart cameras and embedded induction rings. When it comes to the future intersection of furniture and technology, the possibilities for enhanced convenience and functionality are seemingly endless.

furniture

“What’s It Made of?” Initiative Aims to Promote Sustainability

Businesses and consumers alike are placing an increasing emphasis on the sustainability of product manufacturing and design. As we develop a fuller understanding of how business practices impact the environment and how this can in turn affect human health, the compounds that comprise consumer products are becoming a matter of heightened concern.

Recently, a group of organizations dedicated to business sustainability launched an initiative to support and centralize health and safety efforts in the home furnishings industry. The comprehensive project was designed to raise awareness of common harmful substances present in many home furnishing products, promote the need for businesses to adopt transparent disclosure models regarding product production, and spur the development of solutions to current sustainability challenges in the sector. In these ways, the “What’s it made of?” initiative will seek to improve the safety of chemical compounds throughout the furniture supply chain.

A New Movement

SFClogoIn a March 2017 press release, the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) announced that it planned to partner with a number of leading sustainability advocacy organizations to create a wealth of new resources for furnishings companies and consumers. “What’s it made of?” is a joint initiative of SFC, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), GCI General Contractors, the Center for Environmental Health, and the New School’s Parsons School of Design Healthy Materials Lab, among others. As its name suggests, the initiative encourages buyers to research the materials present in their purchases, while at the same time encouraging the industry to provide easy access to this information, with the aim of eliminating harmful chemicals in the home furnishings supply chain. The initiative supports furniture manufacturers in their ongoing efforts to create quality products safely and efficiently, focusing on innovative new ways to integrate health and safety into the furnishing design and manufacturing processes.

The “What’s it made of?” initiative officially launched with a Sustainability Essentials webinar on March 16, 2017. Led by the Sustainable Furnishings Council and panelists from a number of its partner organizations, the webinar served as an introduction to the “What’s it made of?” initiative and the harmful substances with which it is most concerned. The free event offered participating companies foundational information on how they can improve the safety of their supply chains, as well as an introduction to SFC’s revolutionary GREENleaders sustainability training course.

Although the Sustainability Essentials webinar marked the official launch of “What’s it made of?”, the initiative first took root months earlier at the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s 10th Anniversary Celebration in October 2016. At the event, ASBC CEO David Levine stressed the idea that it is now more feasible than ever for businesses to balance financial success with social and environmental responsibility. He then took the opportunity to introduce the impending initiative, noting that corporate transparency regarding materials and operational practices is one of the most crucial factors driving industry sustainability.

Taking the Pledge

living roomThe cornerstone of the “What’s it made of?” initiative is the Pledge to ASK. Presented alongside an online tool that can help companies ensure that their suppliers are fully disclosing chemical ingredient information, the Pledge to ASK serves to formalize signees’ “commit[ment] to reducing the use of chemicals that pose harm to human health and the environment.”

David Levine introduced the Pledge to ASK alongside the “What’s it made of?” initiative at the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s anniversary celebration. Demonstrating widespread industry support for the issue, more than 300 guests signed the pledge before leaving the event. To learn more and sign the pledge, visit https://sustainablefurnishings.org.

Chemical Dangers

SFC research suggests that the home furnishings industry recognizes the importance of safety and sustainability initiatives. In addition to the 82 percent of furnishings companies that support requirements for chemical ingredient transparency throughout the supply chain, 88 percent of furniture customers are concerned that the materials in their homes could be detrimental to their health.

Some of the materials at the root of these fears include volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde, which companies frequently use to dissolve other chemicals found in adhesives, paint, and coatings. Often found in furniture comprised of composite wood, formaldehyde is one of the many harmful chemical compounds understood to be a carcinogen. This group also includes dioxins, a potent byproduct of polyvinyl chloride production often tied to the manufacturing of outdoor furniture, imitation leather, and inflatable mattresses.

Although they are intended to increase the safety of furniture products, flame retardant chemicals can actually cause harmful neurologic, reproductive, and immune system issues when inhaled into the body through the air and dust. Other potentially harmful substances used in the production of home furnishings include fluorinated stain treatments for use in carpeting and upholstery, as well as antimicrobials, which have been dropped as a regular ingredient in soaps due to concerns over bacterial resistance.

Going forward, the “What’s it made of?” initiative will facilitate training sessions and seminars on these and many other safety concerns inherent in the furniture production process. This, along with consumer outreach initiatives, will represent a significant and concentrated effort to improve the well-being of millions worldwide.

furniture

4 Ways Ashley Furniture Is Making a Difference in the World

With more than 600 showrooms located throughout 28 countries, Ashley Furniture HomeStore is one of the top furniture retailers not only in the United States, but in the world. While the company has had a monumental impact on the retail furniture industry, it has also leveraged its success to support and empower local communities by providing assistance to individuals in need. Over the past year, several Ashley Furniture corporate social responsibility initiatives have supported communities across the United States. These efforts include:

  1. Hope to Dream

A Hope to Dream logoIn February 2017, Ashley Furniture HomeStore partnered with the Miami Dolphins to host a sleepover party at the NFL team’s practice facilities. In previous years, Ashley has partnered with other teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, to host similar events in its Hope to Dream initiative, which provides underserved youth with the experience of a lifetime and years of healthy, comfortable sleep. At the recent Florida event, each sleepover attendee received a brand-new twin-size bed and bedding set—complete with a Miami Dolphins comforter—courtesy of Ashley HomeStore and the Dolphins organization. Organizers facilitated delivery of the new bed sets to the children’s homes, but not before they took part in an evening of fun and games with the Miami Dolphins players, mascot, and cheerleaders. After eating dinner, the kids took part in several fun activities on the practice field, concluding the memorable night with a dance party.

Since 2010, Ashley Furniture HomeStore has set aside a portion of mattress sales from several US locations to fund the Hope to Dream program, providing some 40,000 new beds and bedding sets to children in need across the country. The program not only includes partnerships with professional sports teams like the Dolphins, but it also benefits from local efforts in communities such as Liberal, Kansas, which launched its first Hope to Dream program in December 2016, and North Brunswick, New Jersey, where 50 children recently received new beds in a surprise holiday celebration.

  1. Ashley’s Angels

Ashley’s Angels is Ashley Furniture HomeStore’s all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to providing extra assistance to children from low-income households. It has been a charitable arm of Ashley Furniture since 1997, when a truck driver based at one of the company’s Mississippi facilities rallied the support of his colleagues to help a young girl and her mother find a home. The community set out to help the pair move out of their car and into suitable housing weeks before Christmas, also donating food and clothing to help them get back on their feet.

This act of compassion and community spirit inspired a national movement; now, Ashley’s Angels provides food, toys, bedding, and warm clothing to hundreds of children each year. In 2016 alone, the nonprofit raised $174,385.76, with nearly $75,000 coming from employee contributions. These funds allowed them to serve children throughout 56 school districts near Ashley Furniture facilities in Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania. Volunteers worked tirelessly to prepare for event, partnering with school guidance counselors and nurses to identify children who could benefit from a bit of extra help. In addition to shopping for new toys and clothing, volunteers also put together a full Christmas dinner for each recipient family. All in all, the effort helped to brighten the holidays of 1,056 children.

  1. Salvation Army Partnership

salvation army

Image by Mike Mozart | Flickr

For the past seven years, Ashley HomeStores in Jacksonville, Florida, have served as leading partners in the annual Salvation Army Angel Tree initiative. The stores are consistently the top distributors of Angel Tree tags, helping thousands of community members brighten the spirits of local children throughout the holiday season. Ashley HomeStores have made the Angel Tree initiative so well-known in the Jacksonville community that eager shoppers often head to showrooms to pick out their angels before the Salvation Army even begins advertising the annual initiative.

Ashley Furniture HomeStore and the Salvation Army have provided anonymously donated holiday gifts for 35,000 children since the program’s inception, serving 4,300 kids—as well as 780 senior citizens—in 2016 alone. In addition to helping to distribute the holiday angels, Ashley employees also assist in storing the gifts and have even begun to volunteer at Salvation Army Toy Shop distribution centers.

  1. Dollar a Week

Ashley Furniture Industries provides an easy opportunity for employees to give back via its Dollar a Week program, which consolidates regular employee contributions to provide significant donations to national organizations. In December 2016, the program demonstrated the impact that even modest amounts of sustained charitable giving can have on worthwhile causes.

After collecting charitable donations from employees throughout Mississippi, Ashley Furniture donated $35,471.03 to Le Bonheur’s Children’s Hospital, a comprehensive pediatric health care center recognized by US News and World Report as one of nation’s best hospitals. Ashley Furniture has supported their life-saving work since launching the Dollar a Week Program in 2006. Since then, the company has donated over $120,000 to Le Bonheur’s Children’s Hospital.

Las Vegas

This Is What Happened at the 2017 Winter Las Vegas Market

Las Vegas MarketFrom January 22 to 26, 2017, the home furnishings industry convened once more for the Winter Las Vegas Market. As the only furniture market on the West Coast and one of the fastest-growing furnishings exhibitions in the western US, the Las Vegas Market is a biannual opportunity for furniture professionals to study and shop the latest trends, forge new partnerships, and develop their professional knowledge.

In recent years, this biannual destination for the global furniture and home-goods community has experienced a rapid increase in popularity. This year’s Winter Las Vegas Market was a record-breaking affair that welcomed an unprecedented crowd to an expanded space featuring global leaders in furniture retailing and design.

A Record-breaking Crowd

Attendance levels at the 2017 Winter Las Vegas Market left no doubt regarding the event’s status as the fastest-growing home furnishings destination in the western United States. The 2017 trade show was the largest Winter Market in the event’s 10-plus-year history, welcoming buyers from all 50 states and approximately 80 countries.

Attendance increased by multiple percentage points in several visitor categories, including a 3 percent increase in interior designers and a 13 percent increase in guests attending the market to buy gifts. Included within the market’s growing audience of designers was an influx of attendees within the furniture, home décor, tabletop, and gift exhibitor categories. The market also enjoyed an increase in attendance from states outside of the southwestern US, with attendance from the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast growing by 6, 9, and 14 percent respectively.

This marks the second year in a row that the Las Vegas Market has smashed attendance records for its annual winter event. The 2017 Winter Las Vegas Market was also the first time that more than 4,000 brands occupied the event’s expansive showroom space. Despite the increase in options, marketgoers still reported an increase in business activity throughout the furniture, gift, and home décor areas.

A Growing International Audience

Las VegasThe Winter 2017 Las Vegas Market’s record-breaking attendance included an unprecedented level of participation from the international home furnishings community. The nearly 100 furniture, home décor, and gift companies present at the market, including a dozen of Canada’s leading furniture retailers, as well as a surge of attendees representing such noteworthy Mexican brands as Muebleria Placencia and Ace Home Center. Suppliers from countries including Australia, China, France, India, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and several others were also present, while American distributors highlighted hundreds of additional international brands—such as Sunpan, Corliving, and Ivena International—on their own showroom floors.

The Las Vegas Market is taking a number of steps to embrace its growing international audience. For the first time, the event provided Spanish translations of popular resources such as its Market 101 video and First Look program, while Julio Cesar Chavez, president of Mexican interior design association Sociedad Mexicana de Interioristas, presented an exclusive trends and design seminar for Spanish-speaking attendees. In addition, the 2017 Winter Las Vegas Market also hosted an International Buyers Lounge complete with refreshments and on-site interpreters, as well as a roundtable discussion that solicited insight on the market experience from some of Mexico’s top home furnishings retailers.

Expanded Space

The largest Winter Las Vegas Market to date took place across 40 distinct showroom floors and 600 temporary exhibits, encompassing 5 million square feet of product resources. This included 170,000 square feet of new or enlarged showroom space, the bulk of which allowed the market to expand its furniture offerings.

For its 2017 Winter event, the Las Vegas Market significantly expanded the lobby of Building B to highlight new designs from Abbyson Living and CDI Furniture, showcase a number of new bedding brand expansions, and provide space for the growing number of casual furniture brands such as Noble House and Winston Furniture. In addition to featuring expanded or showrooms by leading brands such Anne McGilvray and Feizy, the 2017 Winter market also welcomed first-time exhibitors like Destination Gifts and Sales Producers.

The Best of the Best

Las Vegas

Following the close of the Las Vegas Market, event organizers recognized the 12 top exhibitors from the furniture, home décor, casual/outdoor, and gift categories in the biannual Best Booth contest. Focusing specifically on brand that created temporary exhibits, a four-person panel of judges drew on their extensive industry experience to select the firms’ whose energy and creativity yielded engaging, inspiring, and on-trend displays. In addition to eight Best Booth winners from the home-goods and gift categories, the contest also highlights four furniture exhibitors: EdgeMod Furniture, IDO Furniture Co., Byer of Maine, and Phu Tai J.S. Company.

The 2017 Winter Las Vegas Market also featured the 11th iteration of the Design Icon Award program, which gives attendees a chance to learn from the most influential individuals in the industry as it honors them for their contributions to design. This year, the program honored Timothy Corrigan, an award-winning designer who has not only launched several exquisite furniture collections, he has also created timeless and elegant spaces for a number of high-profile clients.

Looking Forward

The 2017 Winter Las Vegas Market offered home furnishings industry members an incomparable opportunity to study the latest trends, advance their strategies, and forge new partnerships. Several attending business leaders praised the experience as the best market yet; Amalfi Home Furniture executive Claudio Fraschetti commented,
“the Market a year ago was fantastic and this one topped it! The buyers we saw were ‘cream of the cream’ and commitments were made at the show on the spot.

Undoubtedly, this impressive performance has industry stakeholders looking forward to the next Las Vegas Market, which is set for July 30 to August 3, 2017. In addition to the continued expansion of showroom areas, the summer market highlights will include the annual “Up on the Roof” charity gala in support of Gift for Life, the ANDYZ interior design awards, the Ahead of the Curve design insight series, and numerous other attractions. Those planning to attend can expect exciting new product resources and categories that will beckon them to follow the organization’s theme, “Discover the Extraordinary.”