Business

furniture

How to Improve the Customer Experience in Furniture Retail

Furniture retail has taken a hit in recent years due to a slump in home buying and a significant decrease in spending on home furnishings. In fact, the home furnishings market has seen a 25-percent drop in consumer spending over the last 25 years. This reduced spending correlates with a decline in homeownership among younger adults. In the mid-1970s, over half (52 percent) of adults 24 to 34 years of age owned a home. Today, less than a third (29 percent) of adults in that age group are homeowners. Renters and those living with family are less likely to invest in home furnishings, and this has negatively affected many furniture retailers’ bottom line.

Despite these trends, it appears that furniture retailers are approaching the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Retail spending as a whole is improving, and the furniture market is poised to experience a boost in sales as more young people start to buy homes. The huge Millennial generation, which is projected to comprise 73 million people by 2019, is now the largest group of homebuyers. More young people buying homes is good news for furniture retailers, but it doesn’t guarantee that customers will start pouring through store doors and dropping large sums of money.

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Industry experts have been providing retailers with guidance on how to increase and improve store visits. Although e-commerce dominates other areas of retail, the furniture industry is still a brick-and-mortar business that relies heavily on in-store purchases. Business leaders in the industry must stay focused on making their stores successful if they want to take advantage of upcoming opportunities. The following provides an overview of suggestions for retailers to improve the overall shopping experience and, in turn, secure more sales.

 

Integrate Technology into Shopping Experiences

Although many consumers still prefer to shop for furniture in-person, retailers should not overlook technology’s ability to attract customers and make it easier for them to find the products they want. At the most basic level, all furniture retailers should have a well-designed website that provides engaging content to hold the attention of prospective customers. Such a website serves as a digital storefront where customers can find product images and descriptions along with reviews and other resources that will make it easier for them to decide on a purchase once they are inside the store.

Beyond an informative and easy-to-use website, retailers can enhance the in-store experience by integrating useful technologies into the store layout. Kiosks with apps that provide customer reviews and shopping guides can build customer confidence and direct them to the items they are looking for. Offering augmented reality (AR) capabilities on store kiosks, apps, and websites is another way to improve furniture shopping. AR gives customers the opportunity to see how an item of furniture will look in their home and/or next to other pieces before they make a purchase. Although AR technology requires a significant initial investment, it can lead to more sales after customers virtually “try out” the furniture.

 

Improve Retail Floor Design

While optimizing store layout is important for all retailers, it is even more critical in the furniture industry. The showroom floor is where store managers can display complementary products and encourage customers to purchase a set of items rather than just a single piece. It also gives retailers the opportunity to show off big-ticket items and create displays featuring products found on the store website.

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To make the most of their retail space, storeowners should display product groupings designed for both small and large living spaces. Retailers can take it one step further by customizing their displays with those items that customers in the local neighborhood are looking to buy. This type of segmentation requires research, but it can also lead to increased sales and improved inventory management. Regardless of the products on display, it’s important to have a clean, uncluttered showroom floor that customers can easily navigate from the front to the back of the store.

 

Don’t Forget the Basics

Certain store improvements may be impossible for some business owners to implement, but all furniture retailers can do a few basic things to enhance their customers’ shopping experiences. In addition to following the above tips for a better store layout, retailers should make it a point to thoroughly train their employees. Managers and sales teams with in-depth knowledge of the products they are selling can educate customers and help them find what they need. This type of quality service can increase sales and help establish long-term customer relationships.

Along with investing in their employees, all furniture retailers need to understand their market. Running a successful furniture store requires good advertising and wise product selection, but neither of these can be accomplished without understanding the customer base. Market knowledge also informs product pricing and helps ensure retailers can offer the value and personalized attention that will help them remain competitive.

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An Insider’s Guide to the Las Vegas Market – What You Need to Know

lasvegasmarketlogoFurniture and home decor professionals from across the country gather at the biannual Las Vegas Market to see the latest styles and trends in home furnishings and interior design. The expansive market features more than 4,000 brands across over 5.4 million square feet of showroom space. In addition to furniture for all rooms in the home, the products on display include bedding, textiles, housewares, floor coverings, lighting, and wall décor.

The 2018 Summer Las Vegas Market takes place July 29 through August 2. Organizers of the five-day event are looking to build on the success of the 2018 Winter Market, which saw a record number of buyers and suppliers in attendance. Those planning to take part in the event can plan ahead so that they know what to expect when they get to Las Vegas. Check out this quick guide for valuable information about the Las Vegas Market.

 

Registration Details

The Las Vegas Market is free to attend. Registration for the event, however, is limited to those who work in the home furnishings, gift, and design trades. This includes furniture retailers and manufacturers, interior decorators, architects, and product distributors.

In addition to government-issued photo identification, all attendees are required to provide proof-of-trade documents to show that they are a member of the home furnishings and/or design industries. Las Vegas Market officials accept business cards and business licenses as well as previous Market purchase orders/invoices to establish proof-of-trade status.

Although guests are welcome to register for the Market at the on-site registration tent, event organizers recommend that attendees register online prior to their arrival. Those who register before the show can pick up their badges using scan-and-go kiosks at the registration tent and select partner hotels (Aria and the Golden Nugget).

 

Where to Stay

The Summer Las Vegas Market is partnering with over two dozen Las Vegas properties to provide attendees with special hotel rates for booking dates from July 28, 2018, to August 2, 2018. Depending on where one stays, daily rates at the partner hotels range from $28 to $270.

Attendees can choose to stay on the Las Vegas Strip or at one of the off-strip partner hotels, including Marriott Las Vegas, Springhill Suites, and Signature at MGM. Available properties also include non-gaming hotels such as Hilton Grand Vacations Club, Mandarin Oriental, and Elara.

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The Best Way to Get Around

To save on airfare, those flying into Las Vegas can book a flight with one of the Las Vegas Market’s partner airlines. Partners include WestJet, Air Canada, and United Airlines. Copa Airlines and Delta Air Lines are also offering discounted airfare for event attendees. Available discounts include rates up to 15 percent off the regular price.

After arriving in Las Vegas, Market attendees can rent a car or choose from other available transportation options, including taxis and on-demand car services such as Lyft and Uber. Low-cost shuttles from McCarren International Airport to Las Vegas hotels are also available. Attendees staying at select host hotels can also take advantage of complimentary shuttles to and from Las Vegas Market every morning, afternoon, and evening of the event.

 

Making the Most of the Market Experience

With so much to see and do at the Las Vegas Market, it can be difficult for both first-time and experienced attendees to know where to start. Fortunately, the Las Vegas Market offers numerous tools and resources to make it easier to plan for and explore the event.

The Market Planner is a new digital tool that allows attendees to create and save custom itineraries outlining the sessions they want to experience and the exhibitors they want to meet. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the Las Vegas Market app is another valuable attendee resource. The app, which is updated prior to each Las Vegas Market, includes floor plans, an exhibitor directory, seminar schedules, and a listing of available dining options.

Along with digital tools, Las Vegas Market offers a variety of print publications to help attendees get the most out of their visit. Available publications include the comprehensive Market Resource Guide, the Designer’s Guide to Las Vegas Market, Pavilions Magazine, and the First Look style guide, which highlights the top new trends and products featured at the Market.

 

Things to Do Afterhours

After a long day of exploring products and attending seminars, Market attendees can unwind at on-site happy hour bars or the spacious Grand Plaza Courtyard, which offers refreshments each evening of the event. Off the Market grounds, a number of fun activities are available for those who want to enjoy local attractions. Market organizers suggest side trips to the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory, the Neon Museum Boneyard, and the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts. More information about what to see and do during the Las Vegas Market is available at www.lasvegasmarket.com.

bedroom

The Top 10 Bedroom Furniture and Décor Trends You Need to Know about

Often referred to as a sanctuary, the master bedroom is one of the most-used areas of the home. The room is where the average person spends one-third of his or her life sleeping, but it is also where people relax and wind down from the day before drifting off. To get the most out of such a key space, it’s important to focus on comfort and design while remembering to add a personal touch. Take a look at what’s new in bedroom furniture and décor with this list of the latest bedroom trends:

 

  1. Four-Poster Beds

4 post bed

In addition to buying bigger mattresses, many people are welcoming the return of four-poster beds. These classic pieces have been around for centuries and are now making a comeback in bedrooms with enough room to accommodate them. Unlike their ornate predecessors, however, most modern four-poster beds feature a clean and simple style that stands out without overwhelming the space.

 

  1. Calming Colors

Comfortable furniture and bedding are definitely necessary for proper relaxation, but calming décor can be just as important. Mixing shades of gray and white with pastel tones and pops of soothing blues and greens is a bedroom design trend that supports rest and slumber.

 

  1. Unique Accents

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Adding unique accents is an easy way to complement a neutral or subdued color palette in the bedroom. Trends in this area include intricate wallpaper, contrasting floral patterns, and eye-catching ceilings with bright colors and/or textured treatments. Designers are also making a statement by adding texture to the bedroom with accent walls of wood or concrete.

 

  1. A New Twist on Headboards

Although it is an often-overlooked furniture piece, the headboard can be an important design feature in the bedroom. Today’s trends favor either a minimal headboard or a prominent piece that showcases one’s personal style. Low or almost nonexistent headboards are perfect for those who want to show off an accent wall. Others are choosing to make the headboard itself a focal point by incorporating textured upholstery and repurposed material into the piece.

 

  1. Metallic Details

bedroom

Using metallic accents throughout the home is a design trend that remains strong. In the bedroom, metal lamps and light fixtures in copper and gold tones are in fashion. Bedside tables and bed frames with warm metallic details are also on trend among those looking to create a sophisticated look.

 

  1. A Touch of Luxury

Combining practical features with luxurious design elements is a trend that is helping to turn the bedroom into a dreamy retreat. Luxury in the bedroom starts with soft fabrics such as cashmere, mohair, and faux fur. Velvet is especially popular, and it is showing up on pillows, cushions, bedding, and upholstery. Furniture with carved features is also on-trend, and many people are opting to replace their boring ceiling fans with classic chandeliers or other eye-catching fixtures.

 

  1. Nightstands and Bedside Tables

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In many bedrooms, the nightstand is simply a place to put a clock, lamp, and some nighttime reading material. And while it’s important that they serve a purpose, nightstands and bedside tables certainly don’t have to be boring. Modern pieces from Ashley HomeStore and other retailers focus just as much on style as they do on utility. Those who want something a bit more casual can join the current trend of repurposing chairs, stools, and even old luggage trunks to serve as their bedside table.

 

  1. Dark Furniture

While white furniture is still a great choice for many design schemes, dark wood furniture is a classic that is seeing a resurgence in popularity in the bedroom. In fact, the use of dark wood is a design trend that is showing up throughout the home. Deep brown and even black furniture, which has long been out of fashion, is back in style. In addition to supporting a modern luxe look, brown, ebony, and other dark tones coordinate well with a variety of colors and designs.

 

  1. Spots for Relaxation

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For many people, the bedroom is much more than a sleeping spot. Those with kids or roommates may even find that their bedroom is the only place in the house where they can be alone and enjoy some peace and quiet. The need for a peaceful retreat is fueling a trend to create cozy sitting areas in any bedroom space not taken up by a bed and other essential furniture. One or two comfortable chairs along with a footstool and/or small end table provide the perfect spot to enjoy a book or some quality alone time.

 

  1. The Bed-in-a-Box

Rolled like a sleeping bag and compressed into an easily transportable size, the bed-in-a-box is a convenient and affordable mattress option. Once out of the box, the mattress begins expanding until it reaches its full size and is ready to provide a good night’s sleep. The bed-in-the-box trend started with online companies, but the mattresses are now available through a number of furniture manufacturers and retailers, including Ashley HomeStore. Sales of beds-in-a-box have doubled in recent years and still show no signs of slowing down.

security

4 of the Best Ways to Protect Customer Data

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

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

 

  1. Have a Strong Privacy Policy

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

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

 

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  1. Know What Information Is on File

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

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

 

  1. Get Rid of Unneeded Data

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

 

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  1. Provide Proper Security for Any Stored Information

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

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

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

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

furniture

Top Reasons for Ashley Furniture’s Amazing Success

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

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

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

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

 

Quality Products

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

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

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

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Commitment to Efficiency

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

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

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

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Focus on People and Community

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

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

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

furniture

This Is What Is Happening Right Now in Furniture Manufacturing

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

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

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

 

Millennials Are Driving the Market

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

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

 

furniture

 

Quicker Delivery Is in High Demand

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

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

 

More Consumers Are Renting

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

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

 

Online Retail Continues to Grow

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

 

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Retailers Are Catering to Environmentally Conscious Shoppers

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

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

 

wood desk

Here Are the Top Things to Know about Furniture Woods

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

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

 

Why Choose Wood Furniture?

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

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

 

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Getting to Know Hardwoods and Softwoods

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

 

Furniture Hardwoods

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

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

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

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

 

wood chair

 

Furniture Softwoods

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

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

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

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

 

Other Wooden Furniture Products

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

letters

How to Connect with Customers through Personalized Emails

Using modern marketing channels to reach out to customers is a good practice for any business in retail, particularly furniture sales. In addition to costing much less than many traditional marketing strategies, digital approaches such as SMS messaging and email campaigns are very effective. In fact, email is still one of the most effective marketing tools any business can use to reach customers across all demographics, including the sometimes-persnickety millennials.

Although using email communication is an affordable and effective strategy, business owners and marketers must find a way to stand out among the dozens of daily emails their customers often receive. This is where personalization comes in. Personalization is very important to today’s consumers, who have come to expect businesses to cater to their individual interests, needs, and wants.

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Despite the fact that most consumers are expecting a personalized experience, research shows that upwards of 70 percent of businesses owners are still failing to personalize their customer emails. Fortunately, delivering personalized email communications does not have to be complicated. Read on for an overview of effective personalization tactics that can increase email open rates and get more customers to shop in your store.

 

Start by Getting to Know the Customer

It is very difficult to personalize any marketing strategy without the right customer information. One way to learn more about those on an email subscriber list is through sign-up forms that ask for basic personal details as well as information about customers’ occupations, interests, and shopping habits.

Business owners can also learn more about their customers by following their online behavior. The email links they click on and the offers they sign up for can provide insight into their preferences. All of this information can then be used to segment an email list to send more personalized and targeted communications in the future.

When collecting data and personal details from customers, it is important to let them know that the information will be used to provide relevant offers and a more personalized experience. As concerns over data sharing continue to grow, more people are becoming cautious about signing up for offers that require certain information. Business owners who practice transparency build trust with customers and will have a better chance of collecting the info they need to operate a successful personalized campaign.

 

Address Recipients by Their Name

Every email sent to a customer should begin with a greeting that uses his or her first name. Thanks to email subscription forms, a customer’s first name is one of the easiest bits of information to gather. Also, most email services enable users to customize messages with a recipient’s name, so there is no reason not to use it. Starting a message with “Dear friend,” “Hello customer,” or another generic greeting will not encourage many people to read anything beyond the opening line.

 

Add Personalization to Subject Lines

Along with using first names in every email greeting, adding a name and other personalized info to the subject line is a surefire way to get more customers to open and read an email. In fact, recent studies have shown that a personalized subject line can increase email open rates by over 40 percent. More people reading an email means more people shopping for products and signing up for offers, which is the goal of any marketing campaign.

e-mail

Send Messages at the Right Time

Instead of sending out an email to an entire subscriber list at the same time, it is more effective to deliver messages when each recipient is most likely to read them. In many cases, there will be time zones to consider, along with other factors, that will help determine what time is best for customers. A/B testing and email marketing platforms can offer the data and other tools that business owners can use to customize delivery times for each person on their email list.

In addition to considering time zones and consumer habits, business owners should focus on sending timely messages that advertise current sales. Also, sending out emails about a seasonal or limited-time offer creates a sense of urgency, making recipients feel the need to act quickly to avoid missing out. Special personalized offers sent on customers’ birthdays are also very effective.

 

Don’t Forget to be Human

Email personalization works best when it is apparent that there is an actual human behind the message. Some of the easiest ways to do this include using a conversational tone and first-person pronouns throughout the email. Depending on the nature of one’s business, it might also be a good idea to send emails that include emojis to help a message seem more friendly and informal.

In addition, ending each message with the name and perhaps a photo of an actual person shows the reader that someone took the time to reach out to them personally. All messages should also include a reply-to email address so that customers can easily reach the company without having to search online for contact info.

employee engagement

Practical Advice on How to Improve Employee Engagement

Maintaining a positive, productive, and profitable workplace requires employees who are engaged in their job and committed to giving their best every day. Engaged employees work harder and are willing to go the extra mile because they feel connected to their company. In a retail environment, such as furniture sales, employees who are committed and dedicated to their work help to increase sales and annual revenues while promoting customer loyalty and satisfaction. Satisfied employees are also much less likely to leave their jobs. Reduced employee turnover means that furniture retailers can save on the significant costs associated with hiring and training new workers.

Despite the many benefits that come with employee engagement, many business owners are failing or simply not trying to cultivate an engaged workplace. In fact, recent research found that nearly 35 percent of the American retail workforce is disengaged from their jobs. Fortunately, retail business leaders who are interested in boosting engagement among their employees can find success by following a few simple tips.

 

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Make Communication and Positivity a Priority

Communication is a crucial aspect of business operations for companies of all sizes. Business leaders who communicate their expectations to each employee will have greater success in attaining overall company goals. In addition to providing clear guidance and instruction, prioritizing communication in the workplace also involves embracing transparency and accessibility. Retail employees who view managers and owners as another part of the team that is available to assist them will have a deeper sense of investment in their work and the company.

Focusing on positive communication and taking time out to thank employees for their work are other ways that business leaders can improve workplace morale and engagement. Overly critical work environments are stressful and prevent employees from speaking their minds. Supportive and positive workplaces, on the other hand, foster engagement and motivate employees to perform at their very best.

 

Hire and Provide Support for Strong Managerial Staff

Much of the responsibility for promoting employee engagement lies with managers. The most successful managerial staff members are those who want their people to succeed and will provide the support and guidance they need to do so. Effective managers also understand their employees’ strengths and value their contributions to the company.

When hiring from outside sources or promoting from within, business leaders should focus on finding managers who possess the leadership traits needed to improve engagement among workers. Providing ongoing coaching and holding managers accountable for employee engagement are keys to continued success. Research has shown that companies with supportive managerial staff have employees that are 67 percent more engaged than those at non-supportive organizations.

 

management team

 

Implement Recognition and Reward Programs

It should go without saying that an employee who feels respected and valued for his or her work will be more motivated to continue supporting the company’s goals. Offering a simple verbal “thank you” can go a long way in showing appreciation for outstanding employees, but managers and business owners can take things a step further by providing employee rewards and incentives.

Recognizing employees with a “Wall of Fame” board, an employee of the month party, or shout out on social media can all be part of a rewards program. In the furniture retail industry, employers can motivate associates with leaderboards for top sales or number of hours worked during a busy season. Offering employee discounts for outstanding work is another way that retailers can engage sales associates while making them feel valued.

 

Give Employees Room to Grow

The potential for internal growth plays an important role in driving employee engagement. Regardless of the type of work that one does, it is difficult to remain engaged when daily tasks never change. For this reason, business owners looking to attract and retain top talent should examine the growth opportunities they provide to potential and current employees.

Although managers often correlate growth opportunities with a salary increase or a new job title, many employees can get the same satisfaction from growing within their current position. Providing employees with training and new leadership opportunities can be all that is needed to increase their engagement and break up the monotony of their day-to-day work.

 

employee

 

Do Something outside of Work

Along with allowing a little time for fun in the workplace, business leaders can promote employee engagement by organizing social events. Social activities outside of work give employees the chance to interact and develop personal relationships with one another in a relaxed environment. When teams of workers enjoy each other’s company, they are often more productive professionally.

Employees’ personal schedules can sometimes make it difficult for everyone to attend any one event, so companies should try to organize several throughout the year. Activities can include a company softball tournament or barbecue, weekly happy hour, or an evening at a professional sports venue. Bringing employees and managers together for volunteer projects also provides a way to increase engagement while maintaining a positive presence in the local community.

phone

8 of the Best Tips for Successful SMS Marketing

Marketing via short message service (SMS) offers furniture retailers and other business owners with the opportunity to send customers permission-based text messages highlighting upcoming sales, product promotions, and in-store events. In addition to providing a cost-effective way to reach customers, SMS marketing can help to generate leads and track consumer preferences.

One of the main reasons why SMS should be part of any business’ marketing strategy is the fact that so many people use text messaging on a daily basis. Outside of face-to-face conversation, texting is one of the most commonly used forms of communication in the United States.

The preference for communicating via text has led many US consumers to expect messaging from the businesses that they support. Consumers have also shown a willingness to read the messages that businesses send. In fact, the open rate of promotions and offers sent via text is approximately 98 percent. Compare that to the 22 percent of promotional emails that are read, and it’s easy to see why SMS marketing makes sense for retail businesses. Fortunately, launching an effective SMS campaign to boost your business’ success can be relatively simple with a few pieces of practical advice.

 

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  1. Respect Your Customer

It’s important for business owners to understand that sending business text messages to customers who have not agreed to receive them is not only bad form — it’s also illegal. You should respect potential customers and the law by ensuring that you invite users to opt into an SMS messaging list using an automated agreement form or another method. When someone agrees to receive messages, business owners can add another layer of transparency by sending a confirmation message that provides information detailing when and how often texts will be sent and what kind of content they’ll contain.

 

  1. Provide a Reason to Opt In

Recent surveys have found that approximately 90 percent of today’s consumers would like to use text messaging to communicate with businesses. Just because consumers are willing to use business messaging, however, does not mean that they’re ready to have their phones flooded with useless information. Offering value in the form of exclusive deals, purchase and delivery updates, and relevant news will provide users with motivation to opt in and even look forward to receiving business messages.

 

  1. Make It Easy to Unsubscribe

While this may seem counterintuitive, providing customers with an easy way to opt out of future messages is a good practice for any SMS campaign. Businesses that do their job of offering value-based messages will not likely see a large number of users opting out just because it’s easy to do so. Ensuring that subscribers have the ability to opt out is also required by law.

 

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  1. Don’t Waste Characters

Getting to the point quickly is important when you consider that each message must be limited to only 160 characters. Be sure to make every character count by using concise language to provide value and build customer relationships. Use short words whenever possible and ensure that the message leads with a compelling statement. Ultimately, the goal of SMS marketing is to motivate customers to act, so it’s also important to use some of the available characters for a direct call to action.

 

  1. Recognize the Importance of Timing and Frequency

In addition to being annoying, a text message sent in the middle of the night isn’t going to encourage many people to act on an offer. The most effective SMS campaigns use timely messages sent during regular business hours. It’s also important for business owners to manage the frequency of their messages so that users remain engaged, but not overloaded with updates and offers. One text per week is a good idea for most retail businesses.

 

  1. Focus on Personalization

The ability to personalize messages is one of the top benefits of SMS marketing. While texting already feels more personal than other forms of marketing communication, it can seem even more friendly when a person’s name and location are included in the message. Business owners can also use SMS to customize offers based on their customers’ buying habits and specific interests.

 

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency

Regardless of the content, personalization, and value of a message, there is no guarantee that customers will follow through when actually responding to an offer. Business owners can maximize the chances that they will be able to get people to do what they want by creating a sense of urgency within the message. One of the easiest ways to do so is by promoting an exclusive sale with a looming end date that is clearly communicated in the offer. Using links that send customers to a web page with a countdown timer can also create a sense of urgency.

 

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  1. Use Messaging to Increase Sales

The purpose of any SMS marketing campaign is to improve brand awareness and, ultimately, increase profits. One effective use of SMS messaging is referred to as an “abandoned cart reminder.” Retailers who conduct business online can send this type of message to customers who added items to their cart but did not follow through in actually buying them. Simply helping customers to complete a purchase via SMS can help business owners to improve their bottom line.