Technology

furniture

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

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

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

First Look Trends

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

The following are the Winter 2018 First Look Trends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pantone’s Color of the Year

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

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

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

 

Ahead of the Curve

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

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

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furniture tech

This Is How Technology Is Changing the Furniture Industry

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

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

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Augmented Reality

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

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

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

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

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

 

Virtual Reality

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

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

VR 

 

The Internet of Things

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

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

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

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

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

furniture

The Top 7 Furniture Trends You Need to Watch in 2018

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

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

  1. Comfort

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

interior designer

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

  1. Dramatic Wood Grains

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

  1. New Neutrals

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

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  1. Warm Tones

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

  1. Metallic Accents

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

  1. Industrial and Recycled Pieces

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

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  1. Simplicity

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

furniture

4 of the Most Recent Achievements at Ashley Furniture

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

  1. Promoting STEM Education for National Manufacturing Day

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

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

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

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

  1. Celebrating the Launch of a New Industrial Automation Lab

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

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

  1. Establishing the First Ashley Furniture Campus in Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ransomeware

What Every Online Retailer Needs to Know about Ransomware

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

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

What Is Ransomware?

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

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

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

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

The Furniture Industry: A Likely Target?

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

furniture

This Is What the Future of Furniture Delivery Could Look Like

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

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

  1. Consolidated Shipping

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Advancing Technology

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

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

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

  1. Inventory Management

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

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

furniture

3 Exciting Factors That Will Shape the Future of Furniture

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

  1. Widely Accessible Augmented Reality

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

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

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

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

  1. Developments in 3-D Printing

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

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

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

  1. Innovative Manufacturing Materials

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

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

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

furinture

This Is What Ashley Furniture Has Been Up to Lately

ashley furniture logoAs the largest furniture retailer in North America and the top furniture manufacturer in the world, Ashley Furniture has developed a significant presence in many communities. The brand is not only dedicated to providing consumers with the best value on stylish and high-quality home furnishings, but also committed to giving back to the communities in which it operates.

In recent months, the company has done a great deal to support families in need while also receiving widespread recognition for its commitment to philanthropy and employee engagement. The following are some of the most recent news stories from Ashley Furniture:

  1. Ashley Helps Students Further Their Educations

A key aspect of Ashley Furniture’s ongoing efforts to enrich communities is its commitment to education. Each year, the company awards scholarships to help the children of its team members pursue their academic goals. It recently announced that it had awarded over $245,000 in scholarships to students who met these criteria and are heading off to college in 2017.

A total of 100 deserving high school graduates received scholarships under two programs: Ashley Grants in Aid, which awards a one-time scholarship of $2,000 to college-bound students; and the Wanek Engineering and Design Scholarship, which awards $3,333.33 to high school students planning to pursue secondary degrees in engineering or design.

In addition to helping fund the education of incoming college freshman, Ashley Furniture also facilitated an exciting learning opportunity for the junior high and high school students of Ashley employees. Over the summer, the company’s sponsorship allowed 23 children to attend the National Flight Academy Program, a week-long experience that offers students a uniquely engaging introduction to STEM topics.

During the program, students stay in a multi-story facility that serves as the world’s largest aircraft carrier simulator. As they take part in a variety of educational activities, or “missions,” students have an opportunity to build their interpersonal skills, learn to think on their feet, and engage with technologies such as flight simulators and virtual reality programs.

By allowing students to see through the eyes of a naval aviator, the National Flight Academy Program helps to introduce students to a variety of STEM-based career paths. Ashley furniture hopes to provide this opportunity to an even greater number of students in the future and has announced that it will sponsor 50 program participants in 2018.

  1. Ashley Furniture Contributes to Natural Disaster Relief Efforts

Ashley Furniture’s philanthropic endeavors extend far beyond education. Throughout its history, the company has shown a commitment to helping those most in need in whatever way it can. Recently, Ashley furniture teams across the country joined forces in an effort to assist communities impacted by severe hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

hurricane relief

In the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Harvey, employees at Ashley Furniture officers, retail centers, manufacturing facilities, and distribution hubs have participated in a flood drive gathering food and personal hygiene items for individuals displaced by these natural disasters.

Additionally, Ashley furniture has partnered with local retail locations and relief organizations in both states to help families find stable living arrangements as quickly as possible. The company also plans to provide over $1 million in products and discounts to residents of affected states.

  1. Dr. Ronald G. Wanek Recognized as Philanthropist of the Year

Each year, the National Speakers Association – a nonprofit that provides resources and networking tools to a diverse array of public speakers – holds an awards program to recognize noteworthy speakers who have demonstrated a strong commitment to philanthropy. Named after the founder and chairman emeritus of the National Speakers Association Foundation, the Nido R. Qubein Philanthropist of the Year Award highlights individuals both within and outside of the origination, but the 2017 awards program recognized a longstanding member: Dr. Ronald G. Wanek.

The Ashley Furniture Industries founder and chairman has prioritized philanthropy throughout his professional career. Since establishing the Ronald & Joyce Wanek Foundation with his wife in 1998, he has channeled tens of millions of dollars into areas including education, veteran’s affairs, and medical research. The Wanek family is particular concerned with the fight to cure type 1 diabetes, and to this end, the foundation recently awarded a $50 million grant to The City of Hope.

  1. Delivering A Good Night’s Sleep to Kids in Three States

Since 2010, Ashley Furniture’s Hope to Dream program has provided mattresses, bed frames, and bedding to children who do not have beds of their own. Recognizing that a safe and comfortable place to sleep is vital to children’s overall health and happiness, Ashley partners with local sports teams and nonprofit organizations to host Hope to Dream celebrations at stadiums and ballparks.

kids bed

In addition to providing children with their own beds, these fun-filled days also include plenty of snacks, exciting activities, and opportunities to hang out – and even dance – with star athletes. Over the summer, Ashley partnered with sports organizations including the Clearwater Threshers, Nashville Sounds, and Gwinnett Braves to give children in Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia an incredibly special day at the ballpark.

  1. Ashley Furniture Named One of America’s Best Workplaces

Once per year, Forbes partners with research firm Statista to assess the vast landscape of American workplaces. In their most recent study, the organizations surveyed 30,000 workers to glean which employers offer the greatest value to their employees. Forbes’ 2017 list of America’s Best Employers includes Ashley Furniture, which has been committed to employee development and engagement since its founding in 1970.

As the company has grown from a single 35-employee manufacturing facility to a global enterprise comprising over 26,000 people, Ashley furniture has continued to support the continued professional growth of its team members. As described by president and CEO Todd Wanek, “Our employees are the heartbeat of our organization.” This is demonstrated in the company’s financial investments in its employees; in recent years, it has channeled over $1 billion into employee development, particularly efforts to engage and empower employees with technology.

marketing

5 Tips That Will Help You Create An Excellent Brand

Developing a clear, consistent, and—above all—memorable brand is one of the most challenging tasks facing business leaders today. In order to gain customers’ attention and present them with an attractive value proposition, companies must develop a well-formed identity that clearly communicates how they intend to improve customers’ lives. Following are some steps that business leaders must take to create or hone the image of their brand:

  1. Know your identity.

Before you can present a robust brand image to the furniture-buying population, you must first develop a firm understanding of your company’s brand identity. A brand identity should include not only the products and services that you provide, but also the ideals and causes that you support through your operations.

business branding

In the early stages of brand development, it can be helpful to draft a company mission statement that defines your organization’s goals and values. This can help to ensure that you do not stray too far from your original business objectives and help to guide you in your efforts to provide unique, high-quality products to consumers.

While expanding upon your company’s brand identity, you should focus not only on its goals, but also its capabilities. Keeping in mind your resources and market niche, you should examine the strengths and challenges facing your brand. This can help you to identify opportunities for improvement going forward, including areas where your brand can benefit from partnerships. However, while working to maintain a consistent and attractive brand identity, you must also ensure that you only associate your company with organizations that complement and elevate your own brand.

  1. Understand your market.

In order to separate your brand from the competition, you must become aware of where you stand in the broader furniture market. Business leaders must make a habit of researching news, trends, and consumer tastes in their industries in order to identity both risks and opportunities. This should include aesthetic trends throughout the furniture and interior design sectors, as well as emerging best practices throughout the furniture manufacturing and distribution sectors.

With a strong knowledge of current market trends, furniture business leaders can develop an understanding of their own offerings as compared with those of their competitors. This will allow them to take advantage of gaps in the current industry, focus on their unique areas of expertise, and become trusted advisors in a particular market niche. While honing their industry knowledge, business leaders in the home furnishings industry should also provide professional development opportunities for sales representatives and other employees at their companies. They should also embrace customer service as a core value.

While independent research can provide a great deal of insight to business leaders seeking to develop and promote their brands, one of the best ways to begin crafting a strong company image is to determine how consumers view your organization. Consider facilitating customer surveys or focus groups to glean customer opinions, and pay attention to engagements on social media websites and customer review platforms to gain a better understanding of your customers’ praise and concerns.

  1. Be honest.

In many cases, companies attempt to promote their brands solely based on consumer trends and expectations, merely presenting what they believe customers would like to see rather than what they are capable of offering. When developing your image, take care to avoid creating false expectations. While this may attract customers initially, a failure to live up to your own promises will negatively impact your image in the long run.

business

Instead, you should strive to make authenticity one of the core qualities of your brand. This means not only being honest about your brand’s positive attributes and offerings, but also being forthcoming in regards to your own shortcomings while actively seeking ways to remedy and prevent them.

  1. Hone your communication skills.

After you’ve spent a considerable amount of time pinpointing your company’s values, strengths, weaknesses, and target demographic, you must make the most of these efforts by clearly communicating your brand. In order to be noticed and remembered, the visual representation of your brand should be thoughtfully designed, consistent, and representative of your ideals and expertise, while written communication should reflect a similar tone and value proposition. Brand representations—from the name of your company to the colors that use on your website—should be a cohesive and coherent reflection of your overall identity as a company.

Developing positive relationships with customers should be a core goal of your company’s communications. Your promotional efforts should help customers understand how your brand can meet their specific needs, in addition to clarifying what sets your company apart from the competition. You could also consider offering value via your branded communications with content such as educational blog posts, podcasts, social media pages, or incentive-based communications such as referral programs. At the same time, you should be receptive to feedback from consumers and provide ample opportunities for your customers to share their opinions and engage with your brand.

  1. Focus on quality.

A high-quality product or service is one of the strongest promotional tools. You should ensure that you provide the same quality that you promise to customers and strive to exceed their expectations. This does not necessitate providing “premium” products or services or operating outside of your normal realm of expertise. Ensuring that your products, processes, and employees create an excellent customer experience will make it clear that your brand is trustworthy and help to engender lasting customer loyalty.

office furniture

Here Are the Most Significant Trends Impacting Office Furniture

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

  1. Collaboration

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

office meeting room

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

  1. Technology

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

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

  1. Functionality

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

office furniture

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

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

  1. Culture and creativity

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

  1. Comfort, wellness, and morale

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

office furniture

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