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5 Things to Expect at the Upcoming High Point Market

High Point MarketTwice each year, the High Point Market sends a surge of excitement throughout the home furnishings industry. The biannual home furnishings and décor expo is a staple on the calendars of leading retailers, designers, and manufacturers, who are all gearing up for the next fall market, scheduled for October 14 to 18, 2017.

Previous High Point Markets have featured an extensive selection of new product introductions, professional development opportunities, engaging style presentations, and more. The upcoming event will be no exception—read on to find out what’s in store for guests at the 2017 Fall High Point Market.

  1. An Expansive International Event

High Point Market is the largest home furnishings trade show in the world, welcoming over 75,000 attendees to its showrooms twice per year. The event brings visitors from more than 100 countries to High Point, North Carolina, and at each market, approximately 10 percent of those in attendance travel from outside the United States.

Located about 70 miles north of Charlotte, High Point’s downtown district transforms to accommodate an unrivaled selection of home furnishings showrooms. Spanning 180 buildings, the High Point Market’s exhibitors fill 11.5 million square feet of showroom space. Each market features over 2,000 exhibitors, presenting opportunities for guests to see tens of thousands of new products.

  1. Numerous New Products

couch

Each High Point Market presents an opportunity for furniture retailers and designers to unveil their newest creations to an extremely broad audience. For the 2017 fall show, the High Point Market Authority will team up with several experts in home furnishings design for the latest iteration of its New Product Premiere program. Developed to help market attendees navigate the myriad of new products and style trends that will be on display during the show, the New Product Premiere program will feature exciting new content shared across the High Point Market’s social media profiles. Following an initial Twitter Chat on August 30, market organizers and Style Spotters will fill the weeks leading up to the fall market with exclusive product previews shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The market will also feature a number of special events making the launch of new collections by leading home furnishings companies. For example, day one of the event will include an elegant cocktail party hosted by High Point Market Title Sponsor Lexington Home Brands. Here, the high-end retailer will debut its latest indoor, outdoor, and lifestyle products, including its new lifestyle collection by designer Barclay Butera.

  1. A Sneak Peek at Emerging Trends

As market attendees view newly released products from the most influential designers in the home furnishings industry, they will likely notice several colors, shapes, patterns, and materials that seem to dominate each showroom floor. The High Point Market Authority has organized multiple programs to guide attendees as they explore the latest trends influencing home furnishings.

For several years, the High Point Market Style Spotters have enhanced the market experience by providing expert insights on the looks and pieces that dominate each event. Comprised of several pairs of leading designers from trendy brands including Ishka Designs and Parker Kennedy Living, the Style Spotters are responsible for the events and presentations that pinpoint each market’s prevailing style trends. For the fall 2017 show, this group of home décor experts will host Style Spotters Live, a panel discussion showcasing the top products and trends from the showroom floor. Following this event, each team of Style Spotters will lead market attendees on an exclusive tour of their favorite showrooms.

Market attendees will also have a chance to glimpse the style trends of the future with a program hosted in partnership with Fashion Snoops. Over the course of the market, the trend forecasting agency will facilitate pop-up booths, a digital trend report, and a buyer’s guide to help guests navigate trends. This unique program will begin a day before the official market launch with a presentation entitled, “Culture to Product, A Forward Look into Spring 2018 Market Trends.”

  1. Insightful Speaking Engagements

living room

At High Point Market, furniture industry professionals will find no shortage of opportunities to learn from some of most influential entrepreneurial and creative minds in the business. This fall’s keynote series will feature a presentation from Paula Wallace, the founding president of the Savannah College of Art and Design, who will explore the many ways in which design can enhance and transform communities. In addition, guests will hear a keynote address from Drew and Jonathan Scott, the widely recognizable stars of HGTV’s Property Brothers. Also the founders of Scott Living, Drew and Jonathan will offer insight into the value that meticulousness can offer your business in a presentation titled, “Big Picture, Small Details: Why We Sweat The Small Stuff.”

Besides the keynote series, attendees can also broaden their horizons during multiple educational sessions within the Design Viewpoints Series. Designed to provide quality professional development opportunities for designers, these engagements allow attendees to earn CEU credits while exploring topics such as global business, luxury product development, and design in the digital age.

  1. Unique Opportunities for the Hospitality Industry

The fall 2017 market will feature a unique concentration of product displays and professional resources for the hospitality industry. Professionals seeking the latest furnishing trends to enhance their hospitality businesses will find showrooms created by more than 75 leading hospitality suppliers. They’ll also have the opportunity to take guided showroom tours with brands such as Baskerville and Global Design Americas. On October 15 and 16, the High Point Market Authority will host a number of special engagements for the hospitality industry, including presentations from leading designers, including Christopher Guy, and a panel discussion on the foundations of hospitality.
 

 

 

 

 

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Las Vegas

This Is What Happened at the Summer Las Vegas Market

lasvegasmarketlogoHeld biannually at the 5-million-square-foot World Market Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, Las Vegas Market is the preeminent furniture and home décor expo in the western United States. The market’s organizers have continuously strived to reach new heights since its launch in summer 2005, presenting a new array of engaging displays, new product announcements, and exciting opportunities for networking and professional development twice each year.

The Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market continued this tradition by setting new records for attendance and retailer participation while showcasing a number of new trends. The following are a few highlights from the most recent Las Vegas Market.

What Was New?

The Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market demonstrated the market’s growing popularity among buyers and retailers in the home furnishings, gift, and décor sectors. It featured a record-setting number of new temporary displays, welcoming over 150 first-time temporary exhibitors, which brought the number of temporary displays at the Pavilions to more than 500. Within the World Market Center, attendees perused 72 new or expanded showrooms spanning over 160,000 square feet of new floor space. Brands unveiling never-before-seen showcases at the most recent summer market included Home Insights, Turnkey, Vanguard Furniture, and Zuo Décor.

The increasingly diverse market attendance allowed many companies to reach out to new clients. One exhibitor of handmade wares, Funky Rock Designs, found that 80 percent of all its orders were from first-time customers. The greater attendance was due in part to record-setting participation from industry groups and associations, with nearly 40 organizations represented.

Attendance Trends

Las Vegas Market has grown its attendance exponentially in recent years, welcoming the highest number of buyers ever during the most recent winter market. The Summer Las Vegs Market continued this trend, welcoming a comparable number of attendees to its home furnishings showrooms. While the number of furniture buyers held steady, the event welcomed significantly more gift buyers, reporting a 6 percent year-on-year growth that marks the sixth consecutive year of expansion in this category. In addition, outdoor furnishings companies observed an uptick in buyer activity, and market organizers tracked a 12 percent gain in casual and outdoor furniture shoppers compared to summer 2016.

Market organizers also attributed this year’s sustained surge in attendance to heightened engagement from the interior design sector. While the majority of interior designers present at this summer’s Las Vegas Market hailed from Nevada, California, and Arizona, the event saw an 11 percent boost in attendees from the Midwest and a 25 percent rise in designers from northeastern states.

All in all, the increased attendance at the Summer Las Vegas Market provided ample opportunities for home furnishings companies to connect with new clients. Event organizers including Robert Maricich, the CEO of International Market Centers, noted that the recent growth in both new buyers and repeat attendees has garnered the event heightened industry attention and inspired new advocacy efforts.

Benefits and Opportunities

With more than 800 home furnishings design and retail companies in attendance, including multiple top-100 retailers, the Summer Las Vegas Market provided ample opportunities for industry professionals to familiarize themselves with the latest trends. This year, market organizers also observed an upsurge in engagement from many new regional markets. The event’s expanding attendance included an influx of guests from the West Coast, the Midwest, and Mexico. More specifically, the market saw an 11 percent rise in registrations from the Midwest region, as well as a 25 percent increase in attendees from northeastern states.

These trends solidify the market’s position as the West’s leading home furnishings trade show; increasingly, the event is attracting home furnishings professionals who live too far away to conveniently travel to the biannual High Point Market in North Carolina. In addition to praising the geographic diversity of attendees, sellers were also pleased to find a vast array of product categories, including an enlarged temporary exhibit area.

While offering numerous opportunities for home furnishings professionals to get a closer look at the products changing home décor trends, the Summer Las Vegas Market also enables attendees to forge new business relationships, reinvigorate old ones, and advance their professional skills and industry knowledge. Throughout the five-day event, attendees gained new insights form special events including the FIRST LOOK trend presentation, Ahead of the Curve seminar, and the #ViewonVegas showcase featuring influential designers’ top market picks.

Looking Forward

Recently, International Market Centers fell under the ownership of the Blackstone Group. This acquisition will allow the firm behind the Las Vegas market to access new resources that will allow it to grow and advance in new ways. In the future, the Las Vegas Market plans to enhance its role as the leading market destination on the West Coast, continuing to offer an increasingly diverse array of products and educational opportunities for today’s leading home furnishings and décor professionals.

Keep an eye out for more information about the next Winter Las Vegas Market, which will take place from January 28 to February 1, 2018.

office furniture

Here Are the Most Significant Trends Impacting Office Furniture

The contract and office furniture industry has been expanding steadily in recent years, with much of its growth attributed to the increasing success of smaller furniture firms. As the sector remains on track to exceed 2016 sales, a number of factors are influencing the spaces where companies choose to set up shop, as well as the furnishings they choose to fill them with. Here are the growing trends in modern office furniture and design today.

  1. Collaboration

Seeking to harness the innovative spirit and team-oriented culture of successful Silicon Valley ventures, many companies have borrowed the open-office floorplan seen at a number of prominent tech startups. This is led to a drastic decline in individualized space—while the average amount of office space dedicated to each employee was approximately 400 square feet in 1965, now, companies allocate just 151 square feet per each employee. Moreover, a much smaller portion of today’s office spaces are separated or obscured by walls. Cubicle clusters and multi-person workstations are common in today’s offices, and some companies are opting not to have assigned seating at all.

office meeting room

While moving away from private offices to open workspaces might require an adjustment period for more seasoned professionals, open floorplans present a number of potential benefits. They encourage workplace cultures that are not only more collaborative and creative, but also more transparent and egalitarian. For example, many executives are choosing to set up their workspaces within the open office environment, and those with their own offices are more likely to work within accessible, open-facing spaces. In addition, the use of glass walls—particularly to enclose conference rooms—is helping firms create working environments that feel collaborative and transparent (literally and figuratively).

  1. Technology

As the tools employees use to complete their work become more advanced, their workstations must evolve to accommodate them. Office furniture designers are continuously responding to the needs of today’s tech-empowered workforce with considerations such as wire management systems, USB charging ports, and adjustable desks. As technology has allowed many workers to untether themselves from the traditional office, many companies are also incorporating temporary workspaces into their office designs. These unique spaces might exist as hubs to be used by remote employees when they visit the office, or they might be collaborative spaces where employees can gather together to work on a project using their laptops or tablets.

As modern businesses become more digitally empowered, they will need to rely on technology such as cloud storage to keep their information safe and secure. For this reason, firms will likely require less physical storage in their office spaces going forward, thus demonstrating just one way how technology impacts not only what office furniture a company purchases, but how the office operates. Essentially, the advent of smart objects and the Internet of Things has resulted in modernized office spaces where functions like lighting, security, and even meeting-room scheduling are controlled by an intuitive, interconnected network.

  1. Functionality

As technology enables employees to adopt increasingly mobile working strategies, companies are making efforts to ensure that the time spent in the office is as worthwhile and productive as possible. This necessitates choosing furniture that adds value to the workplace, whether by enhancing efficiency or improving employee comfort and morale. Standing or adjustable desks, temporary laptop docking stations, and other forms of flexible furniture are emerging to accommodate the basic day-to-day needs of the 21st-century office.

office furniture

Although individual employee spaces are dwindling in size, they are also becoming more specialized. While private offices were once reserved for a company’s leadership, some business organizations are beginning to allocate space by need rather than seniority. For example, a product development engineer who spends the bulk of his or her time in the office would benefit from a dedicated workspace, while an executive who spends the majority of the workday meeting with clients and partners might choose to make use of the office’s temporary workstations.

This trend is representative of a larger move toward activity-based office design. Rather than furnishing their offices to accommodate individual employees or departments, companies are planning their workspaces based around functions. For example, a modern office space might feature a blend of cubicles, large media-enabled meeting rooms, smaller collaborative spaces, and private hubs for temporary individual work, as well as dedicated spaces for employee fun and relaxation.

  1. Culture and creativity

Firms are going to greater lengths to incorporate their unique value propositions into every aspect of their business, including their office spaces. It’s become more common for companies to choose unique, eye-catching furnishings in hues that match their brand color schemes, and to incorporate artistic aspects that reflect the organization’s philosophy and “personality.” In addition to inspiring employee engagement through collaborative seating arrangements, companies are also integrating design aspects that encourage networking and creativity (e.g., whiteboard or chalkboard walls, game rooms, and open lounge areas) to further enhance their organizational cultures.

  1. Comfort, wellness, and morale

There’s no doubt that the workplace environment can have a significant impact on employee mood and productivity. In one survey of LinkedIn professionals, 77 percent reported feeling happier in office spaces with art, 74 percent described it as inspiring, and 27 percent noted that thoughtful décor had a positive impact on their productivity.

office furniture

Companies are making a greater effort to design workspaces that promote a productive, open, and casual environment that is conducive to overall happiness and health. Many employees are benefiting from the option to use standing desks and spend more time moving throughout the office, reducing the numerous detrimental impacts of sustained sitting. In addition, businesses are striving to incorporate design principles that inspire a sense of serenity and counter the sterile office stereotype. For example, natural lighting, loft-style architecture, and the use of wood and other organic materials are becoming popular ways to enhance the office aesthetic while creating a more open, “natural” environment.

cybersecurity

7 Important Tips to Protect against Cybersecurity Risks

As a growing number of consumers choose to do their shopping from the convenience of their smartphones and home computers, a number of industries are increasing their digital presence. The home furnishings sector is no exception; in recent years, e-commerce has comprised a dramatically increasing portion of furniture sales. From 2009 to 2015, furniture businesses saw a 168 percent increase in online sales, with e-commerce activity making up 15 percent of all furniture industry sales in 2015. During the same period, brick-and-mortar business increased by just 13.8 percent.

While the rapidly expanding world of e-commerce is providing new growth and marketing opportunities for furniture business leaders, it is also presenting a number of new risks. When interacting with customers in the digital realm, companies must contend with a myriad of threats to the efficiency and overall stability of their operations. The threat of malicious activity perpetrated by cybercriminals should be chief among the concerns of both newly digital and established e-commerce companies. When paired with a lack of due diligence regarding cybersecurity, a successful cyberattack results not only in financial losses, but also significant damage to a brand’s image and consumer confidence.

These are a few tips that retail leaders should be aware of as they navigate the increasingly digital business landscape:

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  1. The rate of cybercrime is climbing.

It is important for leaders in the furniture industry, as well as professionals throughout every sector, to understand current trends in cybercrime. As more industries choose to interact with customers via a broader array of digital touchpoints, they provide new motivation for criminals to attempt to compromise their online operations. Even as cybersecurity measures become more advanced, instances of cybercrime in the retail sector are increasing in their scope, frequency, and severity. In 2015, over 500 cases of cybercrime impacted the retail sector, causing 164 instances of large-scale data loss. In 2016, the BDO Retail RiskFactor Report identified data breaches and similar cyber threats as the most pressing challenges currently facing the retail sector, noting that each retailer studied experienced an average of eight cyberattacks per year. More recently, the WannaCry ransomware attack demonstrated the potentially devastating impact of a well-orchestrated global cyberattack, bringing down major companies and public utilities around the world while highlighting the importance of concentrated cybersecurity efforts.

  1. Ransomware is an increasingly prevalent digital threat.

As cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin become a more commonplace method of carrying out secure, anonymous digital transactions, cybercriminals are seizing the opportunity to extort these untraceable funds from unsuspecting victims. Many tech experts cite Bitcoin as a driving force behind the prevalence of ransomware attacks, in which criminals compromise a firm or individual’s data and hold it hostage for ransom. The attackers threaten to leak or destroy their victims’ data unless they receive a lofty amount of Bitcoin, forcing individuals to pay up or risk losing highly sensitive information. Ransomware attacks frequently infect networks via successful phishing attempts, and for this reason, they can be difficult to detect. Oftentimes, a company or individual does not realize that they are the target of an attack until they are locked out of their systems. To prevent instances such as these, preemptive cybersecurity measures are absolutely necessary.

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  1. A diligent backup strategy is your best defense.

In the digital business landscape, data is a key component of business success. A company’s informational resources not only drive its day-to-day operations but provide the tools and insights to spur long-term innovation. Naturally, this valuable asset is most often the target of a cybercriminal’s schemes.

Organizations that take measures to copy, save, and protect their data lessen their risk of suffering operational interruptions or financial losses in the case of a cyberattack. A professional backup service can be the most effective solution to a company’s data redundancy needs, as these firms are equipped to provide off-site, consistently monitored storage services. The automated processes facilitated by a dedicated backup firm can remove some of the threats associated with alternative storage methods, such as cloud storage or onsite backups. While a firm may find it convenient to back up their data using onsite external storage, such methods run the risk of damage or theft and may violate cybersecurity standards governing the management of sensitive data. In addition, a company’s own external backups will rarely be sufficient to restore the entirety of their data should a breach occur.

  1. Consider all potential vulnerabilities.

Even if a furniture retailer does not currently operate an e-commerce platform, it likely uses a number of digital tools to serve customers and operate efficiently. Business leaders must consider every digital access point when assessing their operations for potential vulnerabilities, ensuring that each digital touchpoint is adequately defended by anti-virus and anti-malware applications. For example, point of sale (POS) systems have recently become popular targets for cyberattacks, as they are integral to a firm’s operations and contain a great deal of sensitive contact information and financial data. Moreover, a successful attack on a POS system can grant a hacker access to additional devices throughout an organization’s digital network.

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  1. Education is key.

While employees are the driving force behind a business’ success, they can easily become an organization’s greatest liability if not properly educated on cybersecurity threats. In addition to ensuring that only necessary and qualified individuals have access to a firm’s most sensitive data, business leaders should also ensure that their employees are aware of the most common forms of cybercrime and proper strategies to avoid them. They should know how to identify potential phishing attacks and understand the importance of safety filters on e-mail platforms and web browsers. Additionally, businesses should encourage both employees and customers alike to create strong passwords, which can provide an extra line of defense against cybercrime.

furniture

4 Exciting Design Trends to Watch in the Second Half of 2017

The first half of 2017 is complete, so we can form a better picture of the design trends that are driving demand in the furniture industry. Furniture professionals have already had an opportunity to explore the sector’s latest offerings at major expos, including the winter and summer Las Vegas Market. The spring High Point Market has also passed, and designers, manufacturers, and retailers alike are now awaiting the Fall High Point Market in October. As we head into the second half of the year, here are a few of the trends that have saturated the furniture sector or are beginning to take hold:

  1. Metal Finishes

In 2017, metal finishes moved to the forefront of home décor. Brass, rose gold, copper, and various other brushed metals are providing a pop of natural color in every room of the house, appearing in everything from kitchen light fixtures to accents on upholstered furniture. Furniture designers and home owners are increasingly opting to combine multiple metal finishes in a single space or piece of furniture, which can lend a more casual, natural feel, whereas a single texture might feel too controlled. A similar effect stems from pairing metal with glass, which is evident in stylish mirrors such as those designed by Michael S. Smith for Mirror Image Home, or in light fixtures designed by Ralph Lauren for Visual Comfort.

metal furniture

As polished metal finishes become staples of home décor, another trend is adding an elegant flair to metal pieces: the color black. Dark shades are emerging as a popular trend in metal-finished furnishings. Multimedia pieces combining various metals or multiple materials—such as metal and glass—continue to catch the eye of trend-seekers.

  1. Craftsmanship and Artistry

Consumers are favoring pieces that showcase the skills and creativity of furniture designers and artisans. Simple, practical pieces that offer quality and functionality—such as chairs recently released by Ethnicraft and Oly—draw the eye with intricate detailing within their materials. Rather than featuring eye-catching patterns or upholstery, these pieces showcase fine detailing in the texture of materials such as wood.

furniture

While a number of companies are highlighting beauty through simplicity, others are creating more vibrant pieces that double as artistic focal points. Pieces such as Global View’s abstractly designed accent pillows or unique seating by HC28 provide a pop of color while drawing the eye with unique lines and patterns. Another prime example of furniture as art is Cappelini’s recent redesign of Joe Colombo’s 1969 Tube chair. The original product attracted attention as the first modular armchair that you could reposition for different seating positions. Updated with new manufacturing technology and materials, the updated piece honors the shape and function of the original while providing an eye-catching focal point.

  1. Rounded Lines and Vibrant Patterns

A number of furniture designers are currently turning to irregular shapes and angles to add a subtle amount of style and contrast to otherwise understated contemporary pieces. Unexpected curves, gradually tapered heights, and dramatic angles on major pieces such as sofas and coffee tables lead the eye throughout the room and provide a contrast against unique wall coverings, particularly the organic textures and designs that are on-trend this year.

furniture

As the larger lines that form sofas, tables, chairs, and other bigger pieces contribute to the overall ambience of a room, designers are using smaller lines to create intricate patterns that add new depth to existing design schemes. Patterns such as herringbone and chevron have become popular in backsplashes, wallpaper, furniture finishes, and upholstery, often appearing in neutral color schemes that derive texture from contrasting materials such as porcelain or stone. This year, consumers will likely continue to see geometric patterns in flooring, wall coverings, textiles, and furnishings alike.

  1. White and Pastels

This year, furniture companies and interior designers are relying on the color white to add an aura of calm and refined simplicity to spaces throughout the home. All shades of white are popular in seating, bedding, wall coverings, light fixtures, and virtually every other home furnishings category, with textured finishes and materials such as gesso, plaster, and resin adding a bit of depth to the otherwise clean design. The industry’s interest in the color white extends to materials including metal and stone, and it is especially common in the kitchen, where light color schemes have recently dominated. Even so, it is becoming routine to see swathes of dramatic, darker colors set against light backdrops, as consumers increasingly choose colors like black, gray, and dark blue for cabinets and islands.

white furniture

In keeping with the current industry preference for light and airy color schemes, blush pink is currently one of the most widely used colors in home furnishings and decor, appearing on fabrics, lamps, wall hangings, accessories, furniture, and more. Commonly seen in a lacquered finish, this light, fun shade can add a youthful ambience to a number of rooms. For a more sophisticated take, many designers are turning to home furnishings in slightly muted pastel shades. Providing a new take on saccharine hues such as mint green and baby blue, more mature tones such as sage and dusty blue are adding a gentler touch to wall coverings, upholstery, furniture, and other décor staples.

furniture

4 of the Most Significant Trends in Furniture Manufacturing

Technology impacts every industry in a variety of ways: from presenting new possibilities for sales and marketing to enabling companies to reduce their impact on the environment, digital innovation is changing the way people work, create new products, and live their lives. For furniture companies, technology has become a crucial consideration in not only advertising, selling, and delivering products to consumers, but also in creating new items efficiently.

While the $25 billion US furniture industry continues to expand, driven by a surging housing sector, it still has room to grow. According to IBISWorld, increasing foreign imports prevent it from reaching its full potential, and for many firms, technology presents an exciting new growth opportunity:

  1. Virtual Prototyping

The advent of advanced 3D imaging tools and, more recently, virtual reality has unlocked a new world of possibilities for furniture prototyping. Rather than expending the time and resources to create physical models of their products, furniture designers can now create digital representations of them. This promises to add a great deal of speed and flexibility to the overall product development process. In addition to improving speed to market, virtual prototypes also allow designers more freedom to correct mistakes, test new ideas, and customize items to meet consumer preferences.

computer

The potential for greater personalization is one of the most significant benefits of virtual prototyping. In addition to enabling furniture companies to more easily create products to unique customer specifications, virtual modeling also provides high-quality media for use in 360° models and interior design tools. Beyond enhancing the interactivity of a furniture company’s e-commerce platform, virtual prototyping can present new marketing opportunities while cutting costs on traditional advertising photography.

  1. Smarter Production

Advanced cutting machinery is one of the most significant innovations to recently impact furniture manufacturing. Capable of processing a variety of materials from woods to plastics and composites, computer-controlled cutting machines known as CNC routers allow furniture manufacturers to create products with greater precision, speed, and quality. On a basic level, these technologies work by processing CAD designs into g-code, which provides directions for the automated manufacture of physical products. In this way, computer-controlled machinery has enabled manufacturers to save valuable time and money and can have a positive impact on both a company’s customer service and bottom line.

  1. Sustainability

A number of furniture companies have recently made sustainability a core component of their business strategy. Sustainable manufacturing is important to these companies not only because of its cost-saving benefits, but for ethical reasons as well. It’s also increasingly important as consumers shop with a growing amount of social consciousness.

lumber

Furniture manufacturers can increase their sustainability in a variety of ways. By assessing the life cycles of their products, they can minimize the environmental impact of each stage in their supply chain. Organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council work to help companies establish safe, sustainable lumber supply chains.

Additionally, the Sustainable Furnishings Council has issued several guidelines on sustainable furniture production. These promote the use of formaldehyde-free materials composed of recycled and/or recyclable content whenever possible. The organization advises upholstered furniture companies to use organic fabrics such as soy-polyurethane blends or latex rubber, as well as batting and packaging materials containing materials such as down or organic cotton rather than petroleum-based substances.

At the same time, the responsible manufacturing standards established by the International Organization for Standardization guideline ISO 14001 provide further sustainable best practices for energy use, waste management, handling hazardous materials, and resource consumption in the manufacturing sector.

Furniture companies are also considering sustainability in their overall design philosophies. By creating furniture that is highly durable and intended for long-term use, they can limit the need for replacement and reduce the amount of resources consumed by the industry over time.

  1. Technology Investment

Recently, the Centre for Industrial Studies (CSIL) conducted a survey of the top Asian, European, and North American upholstered furniture manufacturers. Designed to explore the most pressing challenges and leading solutions in the industry, the study revealed prevailing opinions about emerging manufacturing technology in the furniture sector, as well as how companies plan to harness these new tools.

The final report shows that 47 percent of manufacturing leaders hope to increase their company’s use of technology, while 70 percent report having a medium or high likelihood of increasing investments in manufacturing technology in the coming years.

However, 28 percent of manufacturers said they had only a minor propensity for making technology investments. Around 11 percent who do not use advanced digital solutions said they planned to implement them in the near future, while 12 percent reported that they had no plans to adopt advanced or automated manufacturing solutions.

There is no doubt that there are benefits to advanced technology for furniture manufacturers, but many barriers can stand in the way of implementation. In addition to concerns over initial installation costs and training resources, some firms struggle to convince their employees to get on board with advanced or automated technologies. It is possible that, in the future, it will be necessary to change this perspective to avoid being left behind. As technology continues to become the standard in furniture manufacturing, many of these companies may begin to innovate not only to increase their efficiency and competitiveness, but also to attract a new generation of tech-empowered workers.

ecommerce

3 of the Best Ways to Create a Sustainable E-Commerce Strategy

Technology and sustainability are currently two of the most significant factors driving furniture industry trends. Now more than ever, consumers desire a retail experience that is convenient, intuitive, and as close to instantaneous as possible.

At the same time, however, they seek the assurance that the companies they support are having a positive impact on the world. In fact, a recent Nielsen study involving participants from 60 countries found that 55 percent of consumers would be willing to pay a higher price for a product or service from a company with a commitment to environmental stewardship.

ecommerce

The world of e-commerce is growing rapidly. At $97.3 million, total US online retail sales in the second quarter of 2016 alone were up 15.8 percent from the year prior. This rapid e-commerce growth has extended to the furniture industry, where some 15 percent of all 2015 sales took place online.

The logistical and technological resources necessary to create an engaging e-commerce platform can easily increase a company’s carbon footprint. The following are strategies furniture companies – and firms across every sector – can utilize to weave environmental consciousness into the fabric of their e-commerce strategies.

Tip #1: Consider Energy Efficient Web Hosting and Design

The amount of energy required to load a web page can vary based on its design and server needs. Websites that include a limited amount of resource-draining applications – such as Flash videos or JavaScript widgets – require less processing power to load and are therefore more energy efficient.

Companies can also make their retail websites more sustainable by using images as efficiently as possible. While high-quality pictures are a necessity in a retail sector such as home furnishings, firms should consider using lower-resolution photos on search result pages in order to conserve processing power.

Other web design adjustments that can increase the load speed of a website and decrease its energy requirements include the use of browser caching and the use of printer-friendly page options. The color of a retailer’s website can even impact its energy efficiency. Because bold or dark colors require more energy to load, simple page layouts with a large amount of white space will yield faster page load times.

Tip #2: Develop Sustainable Packing and Logistics Strategies

Shipping is a key strategic consideration for any online retailer, but for a furniture company, logistics can pose significant challenges and opportunities. Tasked with delivering cumbersome and often-fragile items in a safe and timely manner, furniture companies must take extra care to craft efficient and sustainable logistics strategies.

They can begin with packaging. Inefficient packaging not only requires a greater amount of energy to transport, but can also create excessive pollution. Furniture companies should strive to improve their logistics sustainably by developing packaging that uses eco-friendly materials, such as responsibly-sourced cardboard that is Cradle to Cradle or Forestry Stewardship Council certified. Companies should avoid using Styrofoam, which is not biodegradable, and instead seek alternative, sustainable filling materials.

shipping box

In designing their packaging, furniture retailers should aim for efficient boxes that are as streamlined as possible. In addition to reducing the cost of packaging materials and allowing for more efficient shipping, this can also help increase a company’s speed to market, offering new value to consumers.

Another simple way to improve the sustainability of furniture shipping practices is to reduce the amount of paperwork included in the box. Retailers should use electronic invoices whenever possible and consider allowing customers to opt to receive warranty information and instruction manuals online.

Furniture companies can gain an advantage in pursuing their sustainability goals by partnering with a logistics service provider. Certain providers with a commitment to green operations may offer payment options to help offset a retailer’s carbon footprint, and logistics firms can also provide data analysis tools to assess a company’s environmental efficiency.

In addition, online furniture retailers must ensure that their reverse supply chain is just as efficient as their initial delivery strategy. Because online purchases often carry an increased likelihood of returns, it is important to develop environmentally sustainable methods of facilitating product returns, repairs, and replacements. This is a boon not only for the environment, but also for a company’s customer service and brand image.

Tip #3: Harness Customer Engagement

By involving consumers in their sustainability initiatives, furniture retailers can have a positive environmental impact that extends far beyond their own operations. One potential strategy is to offer sustainability-minded incentives, such as donations to ecological organizations or pledges to offset carbon emissions, to new social media or website subscribers.

As furniture retailers develop online brand images that complement their e-commerce offerings, they can use social media platforms to encourage a greener lifestyle. For example, a company may launch a blog wherein they offer not only furniture design trend news, but also easy tips for sustainable living.

Online furniture retailers seeking to improve their sustainability initiatives might also find that they can accomplish this by involving customers in their logistics processes. Services such as UPS My Choice or UPS Access Point allow consumers to update and personalize their delivery times and locations. This may decrease the inconvenience, financial cost, and environmental burden posed by missed deliveries and repeated delivery attempts.

office chair

These Are the Motion Furniture Trends You Need to Know

In recent decades, motion furniture—furniture that reclines or features moving parts that can be adjusted for comfort—was notorious for prioritizing function over style. Buyers often relegated these pieces to far-off entertainment rooms, renovated basements, or living room corners, rather than make them the focal points of a room. However, as advancing technology makes it more possible for manufacturers to offer better function in a sleeker, more subdued package, motion furniture is gradually taking a more central role in home interior design.

Read on to learn more about the factors driving the most significant changes in the motion furniture sector.

Technology

reclining sofaTechnology has spurred the development of new motion furniture products since the early 2000s, when the advent of flat screen televisions caused many consumers to seek a more theatrical home entertainment experience. Tech innovation has made motion furniture one of the only categories to undergo consistent changes to its fundamental design. While aesthetic trends influence the look of virtually every home furnishings product, technological advances are changing the nature of motion furniture manufacturing, use, and repairs.

More advanced motor systems have allowed manufacturers to develop seating with several different motion mechanisms. Today’s most popular motion sofas and chairs offer users several ways to recline, including separate functions to adjust the head rest, ottoman, and lumbar support. New motion technology is also facilitating the development of more versatile, user-friendly motion furniture.

For example, a new base system and power conversion kit created by Evolution Incorporated allows companies to transform manual motion mechanisms into electrically-powered systems. This has created exciting new opportunities for promotional demonstrations on the sales floor and allowed companies to save valuable warehouse space. At the same time, it has also made it easier for customers to customize and repair their seating sets.

In addition to facilitating more convenient and efficient motion furniture designs, technology has also led companies to introduce new features designed for the modern, technology-immersed lifestyle. Today’s top motion seating arrangements include cleverly concealed USB ports and plugs that allow people to simultaneously charge and use their smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices from the comfort of their couches.

A growing number of motion furniture producers are also offering Bluetooth functionality. One such company, Klaussner, recently released an app that allows users to connect to their motion sofas via Bluetooth and adjust their seating directly from their smartphones or tablets. In addition to allowing users to adjust three power mechanisms, the app also includes a memory function to allow users to save their favorite seating positions.

In recent years, features such as speakers and reading lights have added further value to motion furniture collections. As time goes on, these innovations are allowing motion furniture to not only offer enhanced comfort, but also to serve as a command center for the most advanced home entertainment systems.

Health Benefits

As motion furniture technology improves, companies are able to offer products with health benefits as well. Sofas and recliners with added lumbar support have become popular, as has motion furniture with built-in massage functions. As motion technology becomes more advanced, adjustable beds are becoming an attractive sub-category for consumers seeking home furnishings that promote health and wellness. With a variety of adjustable metrics, motion beds allow customers to configure sleeping positions that help relieve conditions such as sleep apnea, heartburn, acid reflux, and poor circulation.

Motion furniture is also facilitating healthier habits in the workplace. Sitting for long periods of time is associated with a number of health risks, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and cardiovascular disease. However, adjustable desks are allowing employees to spend more time on their feet while in the office, while at the same time helping companies accommodate an increasingly mobile workforce.

Consumer Trends

A recent survey conducted by Home Furnishings Business’ parent company, Impact Consulting Services, found that 47.3 percent of respondents count style among their chief concerns when purchasing motion furniture—although just over 52 percent reported that style wasn’t a potential barrier to purchase. Although the majority of consumers still prefer manual motion mechanisms, a growing number are beginning to appreciate power and automated reclining mechanisms. In addition, 52.1 percent of survey respondents said they’re willing to pay $50 more for a power mechanism.

Although preferences regarding motion mechanisms vary, one motion furniture trend prevails: companies are making a concentrated effort to design motion seating that more closely resembles traditional stationary pieces. Some designers are achieving this by adding legs to motion furniture, while others are exchanging dated shapes and fabrics for sleek, modern lines and materials. Furniture manufacturers are also appealing to consumers with new levels of convenience. For example, a newly redesigned seating system by Franklin offers increased maneuverability with a removable back panel, allowing for easier delivery.

Market research suggests that retailers’ attempts to blend style, comfort, and efficiency are paying off. When asked by Impact Consulting to rate their recent motion furniture purchases on a scale of one to seven, 27.6 percent of consumers gave their products a score of seven—the highest possible rating—while 31 percent ranked their purchases a six.

furniture

This Is How Ashley Furniture Is Advancing Manufacturing

ashley furniture logoAs the owner of Ashley Furniture licensee Factory Direct Enterprises, Eugene Chrinian guides the operations of 13 Ashley Furniture Homestore locations throughout New Jersey and Metropolitan New York. In this capacity, Eugene Chrinian champions Ashley Furniture’s mission of providing customers with the best possible value, while at the same time remaining on the forefront of developments in furniture design, logistics, and manufacturing.

In recent months, Ashley Furniture has launched initiatives that, in addition to increasing its own manufacturing capabilities, have also bolstered the training resources available to manufacturers across several industries. These are a few of the many ways that Ashley Furniture has positioned itself as a leader in the highly competitive world of furniture manufacturing:

Partnership with Western Technical College

western technical college logoA new partnership between Ashley Furniture and Western Technical College will help prepare the next generation of skilled workers to use state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies. Based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Western Technical College offers more than 100 programs designed to impart modern career skills to workers in a variety of competitive industries. The school boasts extensive industry relationships and high job-placement rates, striving above all else to prepare students for successful careers. Thanks to the generosity and leadership of Ashley Furniture, Western Technical College students will now be able to develop their expertise in the state-of-the-art tools that are streamlining manufacturing across a number of sectors.

Ashley Furniture donated six Yaskawa robots and three simulated training machines to Western Technical’s new Integrated Technology Center in downtown La Crosse. In addition, Ashley donated a portable training robot to the school’s Independence, Wisconsin, campus to facilitate advanced instruction in rural environments.

To ensure that the school’s instructors are well equipped to incorporate Yaskawa’s robotic technology into their lesson plans, Ashley Furniture also provided a generous grant to fund certification courses for faculty members. Made possible by the Ron and Joyce Wanek Foundation, a philanthropic organization headed in part by Ashley Furniture’s chairman and founder, the grant will allow faculty members to update their knowledge in time for the fall 2017 semester.

The addition of Yaskawa robots and training simulators will add new depth to Western Technical College’s Electromechanical Technology Program, thereby allowing the school to expand its professional certification offerings and provide local businesses with new professional development opportunities. Combining general education, theoretical instruction, and hands-on technical training, the Electromechanical Technology Program provides a pathway for students to earn an associate of applied science and subsequently seek employment in the manufacturing sector.

Over the course of the program, students gain experience with programmable logic controls, digital and analog systems, and circuit operations, as well as computer-controlled machinery, automated systems, and numerous other prominent manufacturing technologies. With its newly expanded electromechanical technology curriculum, Western Technical College will be the only technical school in its region capable of providing certification in all levels of robotic technology.

Award-Winning Leadership

Ashley Furniture’s generous donation to Western Technical College demonstrates not only its commitment to innovation and efficiency, but also its dedication to professional development. With a mission to provide its employees with the necessary support and opportunities to shine, Ashley has succeeded at developing a thriving and inclusive workforce over the past several decades.

The Manufacturing Institute recently recognized one of Ashley Furniture’s key manufacturing leaders. In a reception held in Washington, D.C., on April 20, Ashley Furniture manager Wanda Cartrette received the Women in Manufacturing STEP Ahead Award. Each year, the award acknowledges women who have exhibited excellent leadership within the science, technology, engineering, and production sectors of manufacturing.

The award program is just one aspect of The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead initiative, which aims to attract and support exceptional female workers in the manufacturing sector. Wanda Cartrette certainly embodies these values; after launching her manufacturing career as an assembly-line worker at Ashley Furniture in 1991, Ms. Cartrette leveraged a knack for process improvement and innovation to rise through the ranks. She now serves as the Lean Six Sigma Manager for Ashley Furniture’s upholstery operations in Wisconsin and the Corporate Idea Network Manager for every Ashley facility in America.

Responding to Trends

The leadership of experienced, dedicated individuals such as Wanda Cartrette and Eugene Chrinian allows Ashley Furniture to deftly respond to emerging market trends. One trend that is currently having a significant impact on manufacturing and supply chain needs across various sectors is e-commerce.

The Home furnishings sector is one of the fastest-growing segments of the e-commerce market, and online furniture sales growth has begun to outpace sales at brick and mortar retailers. To prepare to meet the demands of the thriving online retail sector, Ashley Furniture Industries recently broke ground on an historic expansion at its headquarters in Arcadia, Wisconsin.

Marking the largest renovation completed at the company’s Arcadia manufacturing facilities in over 45 years, the company will add 500,000 square feet of additional space, including an E-Commerce Fulfillment and Distribution Center, in order to improve its speed to market. Slated for completion by February 2018, the new center will serve as a valuable addition to Ashley’s manufacturing pipeline, allowing the company to store a greater amount of finished products for shipment across the globe.

e-commerce

How to Create the Best Online Shopping Experience

In recent years, e-commerce has accounted for a rapidly-growing percentage of furniture sales. While sales at brick and mortar stores rose 13.8 percent between 2009 and 2015, online sales increased by an astonishing 168 percent.

Even so, the online furniture sector makes up little more than 5 percent of total e-commerce sales, and Furniture Today recently found that 70 percent of furniture companies have not yet launched meaningful e-commerce efforts. A plethora of growth opportunities await furniture retailers that make the most of e-commerce sales.

Here are a few ways that companies can optimize their websites:

  1. Present a Value Proposition

A value proposition conveys to consumers exactly what a company is selling, how the product will serve them, and why shoppers should choose it over competing alternatives. It is especially important for furniture retailers to promote their products with a clear, strong value proposition in the world of e-commerce, where shoppers need only hit the back button on their web browsers to explore other options.

online shopping

Businesses create online value propositions with the words and images they choose to include on their websites. Ideally, a customer visiting an online furniture retailer would encounter bold, concise statements and images that offer a clear idea of the style, price point, and variety of products that the company sells.

Retailers also offer value propositions through the individual descriptions of products listed on their websites. In writing these descriptions, furniture professionals should strive to include only the most relevant information, carefully considering the kinds of details that customers are actually seeking before making a purchase.

  1. Make the Most of Images

Product pictures play an integral role in most online shopping experiences. Consumers generally prefer to see what they’re buying, and this is especially true when they are purchasing items to furnish their homes. Therefore, it is important for furniture retailers to consider more than the mere inclusion of images on their websites. Rather, they must think carefully about the size, location, and quality of the pictures that they present.

A case study conducted by Visual Website Optimizer demonstrated that brands can improve their conversion rates by increasing the size of the images on their e-commerce platforms. In a separate experiment, a retailer increased search bar conversions by 100 percent by adding drop-down images to the search function. This demonstrates that, by envisioning how images fit into the overall online customer journey, furniture retailers can use product images to create a stronger value proposition and increase the likelihood of online sales.

Furniture retailers should also ensure that their product images are of a high enough quality to accurately convey the colors, textures, and other unique features of their pieces. Additionally, providing pictures of furniture in use or as a part of a larger room ensemble can serve to provide a more robust value proposition and spark the imaginations of potential customers.

  1. Create a Personalized User Experience

In the era of e-commerce, consumers are accustomed to quick, convenient, and customized service. By meeting and even exceeding customers’ expectations for a personalized and innovative online shopping experience, furniture retailers can keep up with the competition and encourage shoppers to return to their websites time and time again.

Automated website features that save lists of viewed products, offer personalized suggestions, and otherwise fine-tune the shopping experience for each individual consumer can greatly enhance retail websites. Furniture companies may also consider personalizing their online retail experiences based on geography.

Companies with multiple locations can include features to automatically display the contact information of the stores nearest to website visitors. Options that allow shoppers check the product inventory at local stores can add further value to the omni-channel shopping experience

  1. Take Advantage of Data Analytics

E-commerce provides robust information on customers and their shopping habits. This allows companies to create products and promotional strategies that better meet consumers’ needs and preferences. It is important for furniture companies to closely track website traffic and conversion data, including the amount of time shoppers are spending on specific pages, which links are attracting the most attention, and the website features most and least likely to convert clicks to sales.

online business

Businesses should consistently strive to improve their online experiences, frequently testing how design enhancements impact website conversion and investigating customers’ buying habits. They may then leverage these insights to improve customer engagement and encourage further sales through more intuitive marketing efforts.

For example, a furniture company’s sales data might indicate that shoppers who purchase beds are extremely likely to buy other items for their bedrooms. Rather than squandering a promotional opportunity by continuing to advertise beds to these consumers, the company might choose to adjust its targeted advertising strategies to display promotions for dressers, lamps, night stands, and other bedroom décor.

  1. Adopt a Consistent Design Strategy

Being aware of a few simple design principles can help furniture business leaders create a more aesthetically-pleasing and engaging e-commerce platform. The presence of a clear visual hierarchy – a color palette used to differentiate different website elements – will make it far easier for customers to navigate the website while drawing their attention to its most important aspects. A visual hierarchy should include colors for the website background, base text, and accent text. In this way, companies can use color accents to draw attention to calls to action and hyperlinks.

When developing an e-commerce platform, furniture leaders should also remember Fitt’s law, which states that larger items are more likely to catch the eye and attract clicks. Companies should ensure that the most vital information on their websites contrasts with the rest of the page in both size and color. At the same time, they should tone down the appearance of words and images that are irrelevant to consumers or do not help to generate sales.