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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.

 

wood chair

 

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.

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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.

e-mail

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.

 

employee

 

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.

child

A Focus on the Latest New Style Trends for Kids’ Rooms

When it comes to rooms for kids, creating a fun space that is also functional and stylish is often the goal. A space that can stand up to heavy use but incorporates design elements that promote creativity and imagination provide the perfect spot for the youngest members of the family to play, learn, and rest.

The latest style trends in kids’ rooms embrace function and frivolity in a way that is pleasing to both kids and adults. Recent trends also focus on comfort and sustainability while incorporating a design flexibility that makes it easy to adapt to a child’s changing needs and preferences. The following highlights some of the latest trends driving child-friendly furnishings and décor.

 

Neutral Shades and Colorful Accents

Often, few areas in the home are as colorful as a kid’s bedroom or playroom. While vivid colors are still in vogue, neutrals like white, beige, and gray have become very popular in children’s furniture and décor. Brightly colored dressers, tables, and bedding are being replaced by pieces in subtle green, pink, and blue hues.

The muted palette gives parents the opportunity to add striking pops of bright color using accent walls and decorative items. Combining neutrals with sophisticated vivid hues such as golden yellow provide an easy way to create fun-looking spaces that complement other rooms in the home.

 

playroom

 

Metallic Finishes

The use of gold, silver, copper, and other metal colors in interior design is a recent trend that continues to gain traction. Now, metallic design elements on lighting fixtures, walls, and furniture are finding their way into kids’ rooms.

Dressers and tables featuring metal accents are a particularly popular trend for 2018. Parents are also using metal headboards and full-metal beds to act as eye-catching centerpieces in their children’s bedrooms. Although metallic elements can complement all types of décor, the modern look of metal can be particularly helpful in creating a more mature look in rooms for older children and teens.

 

The Natural Beauty of Wood

While metal furniture and metallic finishes are gaining popularity, wood-based furnishings remain the top choice for kids’ rooms. One reason for this is that both solid and manufactured wood pieces are very durable and capable of holding up to bumps, scrapes, and rough handling. When the daily wear and tear begins to take its toll, parents can repair the pieces, often without much effort. Wooden furniture can also be repainted to fit a specific design scheme, making it particularly popular among do-it-yourselfers.

In addition to stained and painted wood pieces, unfinished natural furniture is also trending in kids’ rooms. More parents are starting to appreciate natural wood for its rustic appeal and purported health benefits.

 

child bedroom

 

Reusable Pieces

This year, many parents are passing over age-specific furniture for pieces that can grow with the child or fit into other areas of the home. The trend toward reusable furniture is particularly popular in nurseries. Instead of buying limited-use items such as changing tables, small bookshelves, and baby-themed décor, parents are investing in dressers, full-size furniture pieces, and neutral accessories that won’t be out of place in an older child’s room.

 

Sustainability

The rising popularity of natural and reusable kids’ furniture is part of a larger consumer trend driven by a concern for the environment. Many people today are looking to lessen their environmental impact by purchasing eco-friendly products, including sustainable furniture.

In addition to improving the health of the planet, sustainable furniture typically lacks the chemicals that some studies have linked to health issues in humans. Modern parents’ commitment to the environment and health of their families is also helping create a greater demand for natural textiles such as jute, cotton, and wool.

 

Staying Organized

As families with children already know, kids can be very messy. Finding a place for the various toys, clothes, and books in kids’ rooms is certainly not a new challenge. A recent trend to simplify one’s living space by getting rid of excess stuff is leading many parents to tackle the mess problem before it happens.

Parents are decluttering kids’ rooms so that they only contain essential items along with a few well-loved toys and accessories. Open storage spaces such as wall shelving and baskets are also trending in 2018. These solutions help kids’ rooms stay organized by making it easy for children to clean up.

 

toys

 

Getting Creative

Parents may be downsizing the number of items in their kids’ rooms, but they are not doing it by sacrificing creativity. Incorporating fantasy themes, creative ceiling designs, and playful furniture is all part of a trend to create fun bedrooms that promote imaginative play. Building hideaway spots and permanent forts is also part of the trend. Additionally, many parents are turning their kids’ beds into oversized toys by adding canopies, ladders, poles, and other playful design elements.

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.

 

phone

 

  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.

 

unsubscribe

 

  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.

 

hurry

 

  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.

bedroom

Introducing What to See and Do at the 2018 Spring High Point Market

High Point MarketTwice a year, the nation’s home furnishings industry leaders visit High Point, North Carolina, to learn about the latest products and trends in home furniture and décor during the highly anticipated High Point Market. The biannual trade show features five days of education and networking activities for furniture retailers and manufacturers, designers, architects, and other professionals focused on home interiors.

Each High Point Market brings together more than 75,000 attendees for exhibits and presentations across 11.5 million square feet of show space. At the 2018 Spring Market, taking place April 14-18, attendees will have the opportunity to learn about thousands of new home furnishings products. Keep reading for a preview of what else guests will experience during the event.

 

A Focus on the Latest Trends

With tens of thousands of people on hand to learn about what’s next in the furnishings and interior design industry, High Point Market organizers put new and emerging trends at the center of the event’s programming. The 2018 Spring Market will highlight trends in luxury interiors, customizable and one-of-a-kind furniture, and eclectic design. Market programs will also focus on antique and reproduction décor along with eco-friendly and toxin-free home furnishings.

To help track the latest trends and hottest new looks on display, the High Point Market Style Spotters will be exploring showrooms throughout the event and sharing their top style and product picks online. Each year, eight fashion-forward designers make up the Style Spotters team; they host a panel discussion highlighting what attendees should look for at the Market. Following the discussion, which is dubbed Style Spotters Live, the designers will lead attendees on a tour of their favorite showrooms. At the 2018 Spring Market, Style Spotters Live will be held on the morning of Tuesday, April 17.

 

Professional Tips and Insights

Outside of the activities on specific styles and trends, Market attendees will have the opportunity to get tips and insights into how to grow their business and improve their professional knowledge and skills. Highlights of the Market’s professional learning activities will include the Design Viewpoints Series, a four-part seminar presented by the High Point Market Authority and the American Society of Interior Designers.

The 2018 Spring Design Viewpoints Series seminars will help design professionals learn how to develop legal contracts to protect their business interests and increase company profits through design fees. The Series will also include seminars on attracting new clientele and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

bedroom

Presentations from Business and Home Furnishings Leaders

Each High Point Market includes a number of presentations from top industry professionals and business experts. Market organizers offer the main presentations as part of the event’s keynote series, which features the people and ideas helping to advance the latest business and home furnishings trends.

Attendees at the 2018 Spring Market will hear from Trisha Yearwood, who will discuss her business ventures and tips for building brand awareness. The country singer and entrepreneur will address the Market audience while filming a special broadcast of her Facebook Live show, T’s Coffee Talk.

Alongside Yearwood, author and consumer futurist Doug Stephens will offer insight into how retail is changing and what business leaders can do to maintain and grow their customer base during the transformation. Following his keynote note on April 15, Stephens will host a book signing.

 

Hundreds of Exhibits

Many High Point attendees make the biannual trip to North Carolina to build new business relationships and see what the top companies in home furnishings and design are offering to industry professionals. Each year, more than 2,000 exhibiting companies show up at the Market to present their latest products and services.

Throughout the event, exhibitors host activities featuring food, entertainment, networking, and product introductions. The 2018 spring show will also feature a number of exhibitor-sponsored educational events, including workshops, seminars, and presentations.

 

Entertainment and Social Activities

To help attendees wind down after a long day of education and exhibits, High Point Market features a variety of social events. From early breakfasts and luncheons to evening receptions and cocktail parties, there are plenty of fun activities to enjoy each day of the Market. There are also a number of special events presented with support from exhibiting companies and the High Point Market Authority.

On Saturday and Sunday of the 2018 Spring Market, musical artists Con Brio and Lee Ann Womack will put on concerts for attendees as part of the Stars Under the Stars event. Con Brio will perform on Saturday, April 14, and Lee Ann Womack will take the stage Sunday evening. Free food and beverages will be provided at each concert, which will start at 7:30 pm.

In addition to the two performances, the spring show will feature Third Night, an exhibitor-sponsored gala with live music and themed showroom parties. The gala will be held at the Market’s Hamilton Wrenn Design District on the evening of April 16.

business

Here’s How to Create Your Perfect Home Office

With nearly 4 million Americans working from home at least half of the time, blending one’s work and one’s living space is becoming increasingly common. Because of this, the home office has evolved from a glorified computer closet lined with a few books into an important and necessary space in many households.

Even those who don’t use their home as a remote workspace appreciate having an area to go to when it’s time to pay bills, send an e-mail, or help the kids with their homework. A home office is also the perfect place to hide away and delve into a new novel. Regardless of how a family uses the space, there are ways to improve the style, comfort, and functionality of a home office with minimal effort.

The following are some simple tips for creating the perfect at-home work area:

 

Start with the Necessities.

While specific needs and style preferences will vary from one person to the next, there are two items that virtually every home office needs: a desk and a chair. No matter how big the area is, these two pieces will serve as a design focal point and provide the main space in which people are likely to do most of their work.

To find a suitable desk, individuals should first consider how much room they have to work with. The next things to think about are functionality and style. If the desk’s main purpose will be to support computer-based activities, then it’s vital to find a piece with features such as built-in wiring holes and a CPU compartment. Those who will do a lot of printing will want to find a desk with storage or enough surface space to accommodate printing equipment, paper, and files.

Pairing the right desk with the perfect chair should really be more about comfort and support rather than aesthetics. Most people do the majority of their work from a sitting position. Therefore, it’s essential to find a chair with ergonomic features such as lumbar support, as well as adjustable armrests and seat height. It’s also a good idea to select a chair that rocks, bounces, tilts, or swivels, because these motions make it easier for people to sit for extended periods.

 

home-office

 

Consider Personal Needs and Preferences.

When combining the right chair, desk, and office accessories, it’s important to ensure that the space reflects the user’s specific needs and preferences. Along with using paint and décor to improve the office design, incorporating functional pieces can add a bit of style while supporting productivity.

Floor and table lamps are appropriate for any home office, and they often come in a set to provide a tied-together look. Other accessories to consider include anti-fatigue mats, flexible footrests, and adjustable stools, all of which can make those long workdays less stressful on the body and thus, more productive.

Those who prefer to do some of their work from a standing position will find that today’s furniture manufacturers offer a variety of adjustable desks that users can lower and raise to make it easy to alternate between sitting and standing. Some desk options even offer programmable height settings and adjustable electric lifts.

 

Cut the Clutter with Organization and Tech-Friendly Designs.

An easy way to keep papers and other essential items organized is to strategically employ bookshelves, file cabinets, and lift-top coffee tables. Those with a smaller office space can combine hanging file folders and simple storage carts with creative solutions such as baskets, storage cubes, and floating shelves to ensure a clutter-free workspace.

In today’s tech-driven world, people need computers and other electronic devices to stay engaged and on top of work responsibilities. To keep one’s home office looking tidy, however, it’s important to keep any accompanying wires, cords, and accessories, such as chargers, organized and out of sight. This is easily accomplished by using wiring channels, multi-outlet surge protectors, or something as simple as a cable tie. Tech-friendly desks and end tables with built-in electrical outlets, USB ports, and cord compartments are also options for those looking to keep their workspace looking sleek, modern, and uncluttered.

 

home office

 

Keep the Space Flexible.

In addition to ensuring that there is a place for everything, individuals can maximize the space in their home office by embracing a flexible layout that they can easily reorganize to accommodate different work habits and positions. A flexible layout also makes it easier to add or remove furniture and accessories as needed.

For many people, their home office must also serve one or more purposes outside of providing an area for work. Incorporating multifunctional furniture pieces and seating arrangements offers a simple way to keep the space comfortable, functional, and adaptable to the needs of the entire family.

storefront

Spotlight on Top Ways to Conquer Today’s Retail Market

The retail industry in the United States is definitely in transition, but that doesn’t mean the market is declining. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Economic forecasts suggest that retailers can expect to see continued market growth in the retail sector throughout 2018. The growth is driven in large part by a strong labor market that is providing consumers with more disposable income to spend on their favorite products.

While the outlook for retail is very encouraging, those in the industry cannot simply stand back and wait for the profits to come to them. With more consumers willing to let go of their hard-earned cash, increased competition among stores is expected to continue. Today’s consumers have a wide range of choices when it comes to where and when they want to shop, and this is leading them to hold elevated expectations about their shopping experiences.

In order to attract these consumers, it’s important for business owners in home furnishings and other industries to adapt and optimize their business models so that consumers want to shop with them. Following are some of the ways that retailers can thrive in today’s growing and changing retail market.

 

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Optimize Store Layout

Despite reports signaling the death of brick-and-mortar stores, many consumers still prefer to visit physical locations rather than do all of their shopping online. This is especially true of those looking for new furniture. Creating a great in-store experience that encourages customers to purchase depends on a number of factors, including the store layout.

An effective store layout features a path that encourages customers to explore the entire store from front to back. This ensures maximum exposure to products and makes it easier for shoppers to find what they want. Furniture retailers who focus on maintaining a clean and orderly store that looks and feels good will also find that customers will likely stay there longer. The more time people spend in a store, the greater the chances are that they’ll spend money.

In addition to optimizing store layout for customers, furniture retailers who also sell products online may want to rethink the way they use their floor space. Making adjustments to create an area specifically for fulfilling the delivery of online orders could enhance the customer experience and improve business efficiency.

 

Invest in Operational Excellence

Improving business processes has always been a major focus of profitable business strategies. In today’s tech-driven world, business owners have more access than ever to tools that can support operational efficiency. These tools cover needs in areas ranging from inventory to human resources.

Investing in IT systems that digitize the inventory and supply-chain management process can increase profits by saving time, improving consistency, and avoiding product shortages and surpluses. These systems can also ensure that the right products are available when and where customers are looking for them.

 

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Embrace Established and Emerging Technologies

Along with using technology to improve operational efficiency, business owners who want to stand out in today’s retail landscape should embrace its ability to enhance consumer engagement. Simply having a good website may not be sufficient to gain a market share in today’s digital world. New tools are available to help connect businesses and customers like never before, and smart retailers are taking advantage of this opportunity.

Using mobile applications to engage with consumers is now common throughout the retail industry. Business owners can take this engagement one step further by expanding mobile connectivity so that customers can chat directly with salespeople via their smartphone or another connected device. Leveraging digital tools to create more in-store, online, and mobile payment options is another way to put technology to good use.

Some of the advanced technologies that companies are embracing include artificial intelligence and augmented reality, which provide a digitized and immersive recreation of real-world environments. AR technology is particularly well-suited for the home furnishings industry because it can give customers the ability to see what a certain product would look like in their home.

 

Consider New Business Partnerships

 

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Although it may seem counterintuitive in what is now such a competitive retail environment, collaborating with other businesses can be mutually beneficial. Sharing insights and market data with similar businesses is one way that retailers can increase consumer satisfaction and improve sales.

Large national retailers have even embraced inventive partnerships that include shops-in-shops and pop-up stores, which can help freshen in-store inventory while introducing customers to new products. Although these types of strategies may not be feasible for smaller retailers, they demonstrate how partnering with other businesses can boost sales and consumer engagement.

One partnership strategy that businesses of all sizes can use is co-marketing. Launching a co-marketing campaign can give two or more complementary brands the ability to reach more potential customers than they would be able to by themselves. Co-marketing can also establish positive long-term relationships that can help retail businesses remain successful in a highly competitive and ever-evolving industry

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This Is Why Sustainable Furniture Matters

With more people embracing the idea of green living, sustainability is a term that has become commonplace in conversations about everything from transportation to consumer goods. A new generation of adults who have grown up with a concern for the environment is driving these conversations forward and creating a demand for companies to create products using sustainable processes and materials. In the home furnishings industry, designers and company leaders are responding to this demand by offering quality pieces made from materials that reduce waste and are safe for the environment.

While some environmentally-conscious consumers choose to buy used furniture or pieces made of reclaimed materials, many are finding a variety of new-built sustainable furniture options that are as stylish as they are eco-friendly. As interest in decreasing one’s carbon footprint continues to build, consumers can expect to hear more about the trend toward sustainability in home furnishings. Here are some of the reasons the trend continues to gain momentum:

 

Modern Consumers Care about the Environment

In recent years, the relationship between consumers and the products they buy has changed. Rather than simply seeking the goods and services that give them the most satisfaction, modern consumers are reconciling their consumption habits with their commitment to social responsibility. For many, environmental issues are at the top of the list of concerns shaping their buying decisions.

environmentAccording to a recent personal consumption report from The Hartman Group, 87 percent of adults are part of what the Group calls the “World of Sustainability.” This includes those whose values, attitudes, and purchasing decisions are affected by the social, cultural, and environmental matters that they care about.

Another study from the global consumer-based company Unilever found that one-third of consumers buy from brands committed to advancing social and environmental good. The Unilever study also found that the majority of shoppers in both developed and emerging economies feel better about purchasing sustainable products.

This desire for and willingness to buy eco-friendly and responsibly produced products is also president in the home furnishings industry. The latest Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study from the Sustainable Furnishings Council suggests that most people are interested in sustainable furniture. In fact, 90 percent of respondents said they would buy eco-friendly home furnishings as long as they could afford it. Even more (97 percent) of respondents expressed a general concern with environmental issues.

 

Furniture Industry Leaders Are Committed to Sustainability

To show their own concern for the environment while reaching consumers who value sustainability, many furniture companies are offering eco-friendly options in their stores. Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., one of the world’s largest home furnishings manufacturers, is helping lead the way in this area by using responsible materials and implementing sustainable practices in its manufacturing facilities and HomeStores across the country.

Since it was founded in 1945, Ashley has refined its materials and processes to stay ahead of design trends and consumer preferences. Today, the company manufactures furniture using not only solid wood, but also engineered wood, which is one of the most sustainable materials available in the furniture industry. Ashley also remains committed to using adhesives and water-based paint finishes that reduce formaldehyde and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.

Each year, Ashley’s commitment to the environment also leads the company to recycle more than 280,000 tons of wood by-products and over 1,500 tons of metal. Because energy reduction is a major company-wide goal, Ashley Furniture also uses efficient lighting, intuitive machine controls, and advanced delivery logistics in its facilities and delivery fleets.

 

Responsible Manufacturing Is Good for Business

constructionIn addition to protecting the environment, furniture companies that are focused on responsible manufacturing have the opportunity to improve their bottom lines. By meeting the demand of consumers looking for sustainable products, they can increase sales and attract a loyal customer base. Improving manufacturing efficiency and decreasing energy consumption also enables companies like Ashley Furniture to reduce their overall operating costs.

Today, adopting sustainability as part of a business philosophy is more important than ever. A company that is mindful of its environmental and social impact has a competitive advantage in a market driven by consumers who value organizations working to contribute to the greater good.

 

Sustainability Doesn’t Have to Compromise Style or Durability

Most people in the market for new furniture would likely pass up a sustainably-made piece if it didn’t appeal to their personal sense of style. Fortunately, new materials currently used in the industry make it easy for manufacturers to create furniture that is durable, stylish, and sustainable.

The engineered wood used widely by companies such as Ashley Furniture is a renewable material manufactured with the same woods that comprise traditional lumber. Engineered wood products can be used for a variety of furniture designs and applications. Additionally, because they lack knots and a specific grain or texture, the products accept paint finishes very well and can be covered with a number of decorative surfaces. Highly resistant to warping or cracking, engineered wood is also extremely durable, making it an excellent choice for those who want sturdy furniture with a minimal carbon footprint.

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This Is How Ashley Furniture Gives Back to the Community

ashley furniture logoDedicated to social responsibility, Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., works to give back to the customers and communities that have helped it become one of the largest home furnishings manufacturers in the world. The company’s charitable giving programs have focused on a variety of areas, including art, health care, education, and youth development. Ashley Furniture also contributes time and resources to assist individuals and families affected by natural disasters.

The following programs and activities outline just a few of the ways the company is working to make the world a better place:

 

Advancing Disaster Relief Efforts

Since its founding more than seven decades ago, the company has directed hundreds of volunteer service hours and millions of dollars toward natural disaster recovery efforts worldwide. Ashley Furniture most recently announced that it would help distribute over 4,700 mattresses throughout Puerto Rican communities ravaged by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in late September 2017, pummeling the island territory and leaving many residents without shelter and other necessities.

Ashley Furniture donated approximately $1 million worth of mattresses in partnership with local Ashley Furniture HomeStores operated by the family-owned Puerto Rican company Mueblerías Berríos. With support from the US Army National Guard and Puerto Rico’s First Lady, Beatriz Isabel Rosselló, Mueblerías Berríos employees delivered the mattresses to homes in more than 70 cities across the island.

In addition to helping people recover from Hurricane Maria, Ashley Furniture provided much needed relief to individuals recovering from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which severely damaged communities in Texas and Florida in 2017. Ashley donated $2 million in furniture products and discounts through local Ashley HomeStores to help families get back on their feet.

 

Spreading Holiday Cheer

Alongside its work in disaster relief, Ashley Furniture oversees a variety of activities to help those who are less fortunate. For the last two decades, company employees have supported these efforts through Ashley’s Angels, a volunteer-led nonprofit group that distributes food, clothing, and toys to children from disadvantaged backgrounds each holiday season.

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Ashley’s Angels works in partnership with dozens of school districts in Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to identify families that will benefit from the program. After the group selects the recipients, volunteer shoppers from the Ashley community come together to purchase, wrap, and load the gifts onto Ashley trucks, which deliver the items to families in mid-December. In 2017, Ashley employees raised over $262,000 to provide holiday cheer for more than 1,350 children from 60 school districts. Ashley’s Angels has raised over $3 million, benefiting more than 20,000 children, since its creation in 1997.

 

Improving the Lives of Children in Need

Another way Ashley Furniture demonstrates its commitment to the community is through its Hope to Dream program. Launched in 2010, the program provides mattresses, bed frames, and bedding for underprivileged children aged 3 to 16. Throughout the year, over 430 Ashley HomeStores across the country donate a portion of each mattress sold to help support the program. Ashley also partners with professional sports teams and organizations such as United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to ensure that Hope to Dream benefits as many children as possible.

In 2017, Hope to Dream participants across the country celebrated the program’s seventh anniversary by working toward a goal of providing brand-new beds for 10,000 children. By the end of the year, they had exceeded their goal with a total of just over 12,000 beds. Ashley Furniture continues to advance the program, adding to the more than 50,000 beds it has provided to children nationwide.

 

Supporting Arts, Entertainment, and Family Fun

Each August, tens of thousands of people gather in Arcadia, Wisconsin, for three days of music and fun activities during the Ashley for the Arts festival. First held in 2009, the event provides low-cost family entertainment while raising money for Ashley for the Arts, an initiative that supports Wisconsin schools, children’s charities, and other nonprofit organizations.

Alongside a lineup of great musicians, the festival, which takes place at Arcadia’s Memorial Park, features a car show, fireworks, circus performers, interactive children’s activities, and an art and craft fair with over 100 vendors. The festival also includes the annual Pursuit of a Cure 5K Run/Walk benefitting the American Cancer Society and local emergency response services.

In its first decade, the Ashley for the Arts festival grew from a relatively small event attended by a few hundred people into one of Wisconsin’s largest fundraisers. The 2017 festival attracted over 50,000 attendees and raised more than $425,000. All of the proceeds from the event went to a group of over 40 organizations. In addition to more than a dozen area school districts, beneficiaries included local churches, youth groups, and various community organizations.