furniture

Important Trends You Need to Watch at the 2018 Winter Las Vegas Market

lasvegasmarketlogoFrom January 28 to February 1, 2018, business leaders, sales professionals, and designers from all corners of the home furnishings sector will gather for the latest installation of the Las Vegas Market. Like its predecessors, the 2018 Winter Las Vegas Market will feature an exciting slate of programming that will enable attendees to network with others in the industry, earn professional education credits, and learn about the latest trends impacting the furniture sector.

The Las Vegas Market organizes its exciting slate of programming into a number of series, each offering a different perspective on this year’s most impactful trends. The following market programs will guide attendees on a journey into the artistry, history, and aesthetic themes of 2018’s top home furnishings trends:

First Look Trends

At each Las Vegas Market, the First Look program provides an exclusive sneak peek into the trends expected to impact the industry in the year to come. Market organizers break these emerging design schemes into distinct vignettes, each with a creative title that sums up the overarching theme of the trend. Attendees can then peruse these First Look Trends several ways: on the Las Vegas Market website, within the market’s exclusive biannual First Look publication, and at live, themed displays at the Las Vegas Market Grand Plaza. Attendees can also gain further insight into these trends at the First Look Seminar. This year, Julie Smith Vincenti from Nine Muses Media will host the continuing education unit (CEU)-accredited event on the morning of January 29.

The following are the Winter 2018 First Look Trends:

Romantic Realists—This vignette highlights the paint colors that are likely to dominate the home furnishings sector in 2018, as well as the artistic eras that provided inspiration for many of today’s most popular designs. It features dramatic hues ranging from vibrant red to oceanic blue, with deep greys and muted, blue-grey pastels adding a sense of calm and simplicity. These emotive shades contrast beautifully with furnishings in stark neutral tones, and they offer an emotional depth that often calls to mind 19th-century romantic aesthetics as well as those of the subsequent realist movement.

The designs in Romantic Realists draw inspiration from such noteworthy paintings as “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix, as well as works by Francois Millet, Honoré Daumier, and Gustave Courbet. It features pieces by leading brands including Mitchell Black, Manhattan Comfort, and TOV Furniture, with evocative paint shades provided by Sherwin-Williams, Behr, Glidden, and OLYMPIC.

Easy Now—The Winter 2018 housewares and dining vignette will highlight both style and functionality. While Las Vegas Market always dedicates space in its First Look series to what many consider the center of the home, this market’s kitchen and dining trends will specifically cover innovative, time-saving products and designs that make meal preparation easy and efficient.

Year of the Dog—The Las Vegas Market will celebrate the Chinese New Year a few weeks early with Year of the Dog, a vignette created in honor of man’s best friend. With the Chinese Lunar Calendar transitioning to a new zodiac on February 16, it’s the perfect time to honor the bond between humans and their four-legged pals with a variety of home décor and gift products.

This diverse vignette will span multiple categories of home furnishings and décor, featuring a wide variety of decorative items and gifts adorned with lively canine motifs. Products included in Year of the Dog will include pillows, rugs, and printed items such as stationary and journals. Naturally, this First Look display will also showcase items for dogs, such as beds, toys, and pet supplies.

Storytellers—Each season, one First Look vignette highlights handmade products throughout the furniture, home, and gift categories. This year’s impressive artisanal works display will showcase storytellers—the creative minds who channel their passion, conviction, and determination to create inspiring handcrafted pieces that make an impact on the world. This vignette will feature pieces by designers like Jen Mayrand of Badass Babe, who recycles spent ammunition to create gifts that support veterans’ organizations, and Joe Moore of Olivina, a body-care company dedicated to sourcing simple, natural, and healthy ingredients.

Pantone’s Color of the Year

pantone logoAt the conclusion of each year, Pantone unveils the color that will set the mood for the fashion and home furnishings trends of the months ahead. For 2018, the leading provider of color-match and home-design tools selected Ultra Violet (Pantone 18-3838), a dramatic purple hue that evokes creativity, passion, and an air of mysticism. Leaning slightly toward the cooler end of the color spectrum, the deep indigo is similar to the shades favored by beloved creative minds such as Prince and David Bowie.

In addition to being a bellwether for emerging styles, Pantone’s color of the year always reflects larger societal trends. The brand chose this year’s color with the knowledge that many people are living through complex, challenging, and often fearful times. With Ultra Violet, Pantone offers inspiration to face events with optimism and personal empowerment. As noted by Pantone Vice President Laurie Pressman in an interview with the Associated Press, the color is reminiscent not only of freedom and fearlessness, but also of the serenity that comes from thoughtful introspection.

Pantone will explore the impact and execution of this and other prevailing color trends on Tuesday, January 30, in a workshop entitled, PANTONE Color Institute Presents: Inspiring and Expressing Color: Defining the Essential Color Trends for Home in 2018.

 

Ahead of the Curve

Las Vegas Market also showcases the most impactful trends of the day with Ahead of the Curve, a program that calls on professional interior designers to offer their unique insights into current home furnishings trends. Moderated by Kate Bergeron, Luxe’s style editor, the Winter 2018 Ahead of the Curve program benefits from the expertise of Julia Buckingham of Buckingham Interiors, Benjamin Johnston of Benjamin Johnston Design, and the team of Ron Woodson and Jamie Rummerfield, representing Woodson & Rummerfield’s House of Design.

Together, these thought leaders will highlight a few aesthetic themes that seem to encompass the overarching trends of this year’s top home furnishings collections. These themes are: 90’s Simplicity, which will showcase the juncture of retro and modern styles in simple, understated designs; Imperfect is the New Perfect, which will explore how natural, timeworn textures are adding depth to today’s home furnishings; Heavy Metals, which will highlight the prevailing trend of mixed-metal designs; and Flora + Fauna, an exploration of how these timeless motifs are breathing new life into interior spaces.

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furniture tech

This Is How Technology Is Changing the Furniture Industry

Professionals in the home furniture industry understand that offering customers the best possible service requires incorporating the latest technologies. For example, innovations like self-driving trucks could make furniture delivery much more convenient in the not-too-distant future. Other emerging technologies will offer additional benefits.

Customers expect convenience. Technology helps to provide it. That’s why furniture industry professionals should monitor the development of the following major tech trends. Implementing them in the right ways may enable them to substantially improve their services going forward.

furniture

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality gained widespread popularity thanks to the success of the game Pokemon Go! However, gaming certainly isn’t the only industry to potentially benefit from this rapidly-developing technology.

Put simply, augmented reality allows users to superimpose virtual elements on top of the “real world” via digital devices. Right now, the tech is primarily restricted to mobile phones and tablets, but it will also have applications for wearable headsets in the future.

Retailers in various industries have already experimented with using augmented reality to help ecommerce customers make informed shopping decisions. Popular cosmetics retailer Sephora, for example, offers a feature on its app that allows customers to apply virtual makeup to a selfie. This gives people a better sense of whether or not they wish to buy a particular product.

This same concept can be applied to the furniture industry. Shopping for furniture online can be tricky. Seeing an image and description of a couch or desk is one thing. Knowing what it will look like in your own home is something else entirely.

With AR, customers could superimpose images of a piece of furniture onto images of their homes. This would make it easier to find the right item online. It could also drive more people to brick-and-mortar stores.

 

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality, when applied to the furniture industry, takes the potential applications of augmented reality a step further. With virtual reality, customers who are unable to reach a brick-and-mortar store at the time could browse a virtual showroom, with realistic renderings of the various items they would otherwise find at the store. This makes them easier to assess when compared to simply looking at images online.

Virtual reality will also allow customers to more thoroughly plan the overall interior design of their homes. Wearing a VR headset, customers will be able to arrange virtual renderings of multiple pieces of furniture into different positions. This is potentially useful for many, since buying a piece of furniture often involves taking into account how it will complement all the other fixtures in a given living space. Ideally, customers want all of their furniture and fixtures to conform to a unified design aesthetic. Virtual reality will make it easier to achieve this goal.

VR 

 

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the increasingly popular trend of designing home products that can be linked to the internet. This allows customers to control them remotely.

For example, the IoT has dramatically changed how people buy home thermostats. In the recent past, a thermostat was a simple wall unit that needed to be adjusted manually. Now, there are home thermostats that can be adjusted remotely via smartphone. Through apps, users can customize their settings, limiting the amount of energy they use throughout the day.

The furniture industry will also benefit from this trend. Although most furniture requires no adjustment, some pieces can be manipulated to serve different purposes. The obvious example is a reclining chair – someday soon, you may be able to control your recliner with an app. A similar product would be a smart sofa, which could unfold into a bed with nothing more than the click of a few buttons on your phone. You wouldn’t even need to be in the room to adjust it.

This concept also applies to outdoor furniture and fixtures. Imagine a “smart” patio umbrella that you can open or close remotely. If you accidentally leave the umbrella open on a day when bad weather is expected, you don’t have to worry about it blowing over, even if you’re not close to home. You may simply be able to close it with an app.

Not all of these developments are expected to come to fruition in the immediate future. That said, it’s a smart idea for those working in the furniture industry to continue exploring them. Once again, technology makes it easier to offer customers the service they expect. These technologies in particular will soon change the way the average person buys and enjoys their own home furniture.

Millennials

7 of the Best Recruiting Tips for Furniture Business Leaders

The Internet has transformed the recruitment process over the past two decades, greatly expanding the variety of opportunities available to companies and job seekers alike. Online recruiting tools have enabled business leaders to pore through an international expanse of qualified candidates with more speed and accuracy than ever before, while at the same time empowering professionals to thoroughly research a multitude of employment options.

The World Wide Web has greatly expanded the recruiting playing field, and while this has its benefits for companies seeking top talent, it also requires business leaders to be extremely diligent in their hiring efforts. In order to keep up with the competition, furniture companies of all sizes must take an active approach to recruiting that not only responds to the firm’s current needs, but also anticipates future challenges and growth.

The following are some key tips to keep in mind when seeking out new team members for your furniture business:

  1. Be Proactive.

It may be tempting to delay serious recruiting efforts until they become a necessity. However, if you wait until your business has a clear need to fill a particular role, it’s likely that the empty position will have already caused operational delays and lost sales.

businesswoman

To avoid the negative repercussions of an understaffed team, you must approach recruiting proactively. It is not enough to simply set aside time and resources for recruiting at a later date; in order to connect with the best candidates, you should make a habit of conducting recruiting activities on a regular basis. In doing so, you should make a clear distinction between hiring and recruiting. While you’ll only hire when you’ve identified a need to expand your team, your recruiting activities should be an ongoing effort shared by multiple members of your company.

Business leaders should allow mid-level managers to share some of the recruiting responsibilities. In fact, their job descriptions should include regularly scheduled recruiting tasks. These individuals are in the best position to detect gaps in their current teams and aid in the development of job listings that capture the essence of their departmental goals. In order to keep your managers accountable to your broader recruitment game plan, you might consider scheduling regular recruiting strategy meetings to ensure that all managers are on the same page regarding the company’s objectives and are working diligently to meet them.

  1. Practice Networking.

Recruiting is one operational area in which you should never hesitate to ask for help. A significant portion of the recruitment process is networking, and business leaders should explore every avenue when seeking the candidates who could one day become their most valued employees.

You most likely will not be able to offer employment to every qualified candidate that you interview, and the same fact holds true for your competitors. For this reason, it can be effective to develop a rapport with other businesses in your sector in order to share qualified candidates for open roles. While some business leaders may hesitate to share attractive candidates with their competitors, research has demonstrated this practice to be mutually beneficial. According to Scott Wintrip, author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant, business owners who introduce talent to at least eight other companies describe hiring leading candidates at a much faster pace than their peers who overlook the value of networking.

Your current employees are an extremely valuable—yet often overlooked—recruiting resource. By encouraging them to search their networks, both personal and professional, for qualified job-seekers, you can greatly expand your recruitment potential. You might even consider introducing an incentive program for referrals, offering employees bonuses for recommending new hires who remain with the company for a specified period of time.

Former employees who left the company under positive circumstances can also help you connect with other skilled workers in the industry. When seeking ideal candidates for positions in sales, you might even find attractive prospects elsewhere in your company. Individuals working in various aspects of your operations will often possess the knowledge and enthusiasm to excel in customer-facing roles and may be eager to apply these skills to increase their earnings in a sales environment.

  1. Know What You’re Looking for

To make the most of your recruiting efforts, it is important to be specific in your job listings and requests for employee referrals. Each position should have a detailed, task-oriented description that clearly outlines the skills and experience required for the role. You should also carefully consider the type of attitude that your ideal candidate would have, thus ensuring that you are seeking out individuals whose personalities will mesh well with your existing team and company culture.

research

The time you invest in creating a highly detailed job listing will result in a much more efficient recruiting process, thus enabling you to fine-tune your recruitment strategy. Rather than simply asking your industry contacts if they know anyone who is searching for a job, you will be able to take a more direct approach by inquiring after individuals who, for example, have experience managing a retail environment or providing fast-paced customer support.

  1. Conduct Hands-On Interviews.

While a typical verbal interview can provide a valuable introduction to a candidate’s personality, it rarely offers an opportunity to assess his or her skills. Including a hands-on portion in your interview process will enable you to evaluate candidates with a greater degree of confidence. For example, you might design sample exercises to observe how candidates handle sales calls or customer service scenarios, or you might give them the opportunity to showcase their abilities alongside one of your existing team members by allowing them to assist with real customer interactions.

  1. Cultivate an Inspiring Culture.

In order to attract high-quality employees, your business must be a place where experienced, skilled individuals want to work. As a business leader, you hold the responsibility for creating an empowering, structured, and rewarding work environment that will give your employees the tools they need to thrive. You should ensure that your managers approach their jobs with a positive, uplifting attitude and are capable of leading with clarity, empathy, and vision. You should also take the time to create and communicate your company’s mission, policies, and values.

In order to attract the best candidates, your recruiting strategies should center on the mutual goal fulfillment. While seeking qualified candidates to support your business’ continued success, you should also operate with a dedication to helping employees meet their highest potential and fulfill their professional objectives.

furniture

The Top 7 Furniture Trends You Need to Watch in 2018

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

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

  1. Comfort

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

interior designer

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

  1. Dramatic Wood Grains

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

  1. New Neutrals

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

home
  1. Warm Tones

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

  1. Metallic Accents

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

  1. Industrial and Recycled Pieces

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

home furniture
  1. Simplicity

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

shopper

4 of the Best Questions to Ask Prospective Furniture Buyers

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

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

  1. How do you feel about your current furniture?

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

furniture

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What other stores and products have you considered?

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

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

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

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

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

furniture

4 of the Most Recent Achievements at Ashley Furniture

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

  1. Promoting STEM Education for National Manufacturing Day

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

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

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

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

  1. Celebrating the Launch of a New Industrial Automation Lab

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

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

  1. Establishing the First Ashley Furniture Campus in Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ransomeware

What Every Online Retailer Needs to Know about Ransomware

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

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

What Is Ransomware?

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

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

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

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

The Furniture Industry: A Likely Target?

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

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This Is What the Future of Furniture Delivery Could Look Like

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

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

  1. Consolidated Shipping

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Advancing Technology

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

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

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

  1. Inventory Management

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

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

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3 Exciting Factors That Will Shape the Future of Furniture

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

  1. Widely Accessible Augmented Reality

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

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

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

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

  1. Developments in 3-D Printing

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

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

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

  1. Innovative Manufacturing Materials

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

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

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

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

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

Shapes

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

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

Colors

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

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

Materials

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

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

Styles

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

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

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