Technology

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.

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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.

cybersecurity

7 Important Tips to Protect against Cybersecurity Risks

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

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

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

business
  1. The rate of cybercrime is climbing.

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

  1. Ransomware is an increasingly prevalent digital threat.

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

business
  1. A diligent backup strategy is your best defense.

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

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

  1. Consider all potential vulnerabilities.

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

business
  1. Education is key.

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

furniture

4 of the Most Significant Trends in Furniture Manufacturing

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

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

  1. Virtual Prototyping

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

computer

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

  1. Smarter Production

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

  1. Sustainability

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

lumber

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

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

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

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

  1. Technology Investment

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

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

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

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

office chair

These Are the Motion Furniture Trends You Need to Know

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

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

Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Benefits

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

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

Consumer Trends

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

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

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

furniture

This Is How Ashley Furniture Is Advancing Manufacturing

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

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

Partnership with Western Technical College

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

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

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

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

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

Award-Winning Leadership

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

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

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

Responding to Trends

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

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

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

e-commerce

How to Create the Best Online Shopping Experience

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

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

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

  1. Present a Value Proposition

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

online shopping

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

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

  1. Make the Most of Images

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

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

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

  1. Create a Personalized User Experience

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

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

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

  1. Take Advantage of Data Analytics

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

online business

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

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

  1. Adopt a Consistent Design Strategy

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

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

millenials

3 of the Most Effective Tips for Marketing to Millennials

As the largest generation in the history of the United States, millennials are already having a significant impact on the economy. By 2020, the generation will make up an estimated 30 percent of US retail sales, spending some $1.4 trillion per year. As individuals born throughout the 1980s and 1990s transition into adulthood, establish their careers, and begin to build homes and families, their effect on several industries is poised to grow even larger.

millennialMillennials already buy more furniture than any other collective group, being responsible for 37 percent of total home furnishings sales in 2014. Their buying power has continued to increase significantly in recent years, and they now comprise the fastest-growing market segment in the furniture sector. Between the peak home-buying ages of 25 and 45, millennials are likely to ramp up their furniture-buying activities going forward.

It’s quite clear that millennials represent a huge business development opportunity for furniture companies. One of the most effective ways for brands to cater to this highly-influential generation is via marketing. To do so, they must become more in tune with millennial lifestyles, preferences, and styles.

  1. Consider Millennial Culture

By understanding the causes and values that are important to their millennial customers, companies can reach them on a more meaningful level that is likely to garner lasting loyalty and trust. Market researchers have observed that millennials tend to value individuality and, therefore, likely to seek out and enjoy personalized shopping experiences.

For this reason, furniture retailers should strive to make in-store experiences unique for customers, positioning their brick-and-mortar locations as resources for detailed product information, style advice, and a guided shopping experience. When possible, companies can also implement features such as personalized recommendation emails or online home design tools to offer mobile shoppers a more individualized experience.

Millennials also tend to be quite socially conscious. They are aware of what is going on in the world around them and frequently dedicate themselves to causes that seek to better it. For this reason, it benefits retailers to take advantage of cause marketing whenever possible.

By leveraging resources to support a humanitarian cause, a company can establish a kinship with consumers while demonstrating that it is a socially responsible organization. Research conducted by Cone Communications concluded that over half of millennials – specifically, 66 percent – are more likely to give their business to companies they perceive as socially responsible.

Corporate social responsibility initiatives are an excellent opportunity for organizations to inspire customer loyalty and strengthen their brand images. However, it is vital that companies are authentic in their social engagement efforts. Consumers are likely to pick up on philanthropic initiatives that are shallow and merely for show. As a result, it is important for brands to choose causes that are making a genuine impact, be consistent in their contributions, and make their activities known to consumers.

For example, Ashley Furniture’s A Hope to Dream initiative partners with communities and the NFL to ensure that local children have quality beds and bedding. The company’s Ashley for the Arts program brings approximately 30,000 people to Arcadia, Wisconsin, for a music and arts festival with plenty of local flavor.

  1. Leverage Technology to Your Advantage

Technology is firmly engrained in the millennial lifestyle. It has served as the foundation for many of their social experiences and continues to be an integral part of business, entertainment, and daily life. As such, millennials are well-versed in engaging with both individuals and organizations over the web. This means that businesses have a good chance of reaching them in the online spaces where they reside.

technologyIn many cases, online interactions are the preferred form of communications for these digital natives. One study by the Center for Generational Kinetics discovered that, if given the option, 40 percent of its millennials would choose to conduct customer service interactions completely online.

In addition to helping firms improve the efficiency of their customer service, taking full advantage of technology to market products and interact with consumers can help furniture companies provide a more modern and engaging customer experiences. Companies that maintain an active presence on social media platforms are inviting customers to engage with them in a familiar and easily accessible way while at the same time providing a visual introduction to their products.

When incorporating technology into their marketing strategies, furniture companies should carefully consider which social platforms to be active on based on their targeted demographics. This will help ensure that they are funneling resources only into the platforms frequented by their prospective customers. In order to track the success of their social media engagement strategies, it is also crucial that companies set up platforms to collect data on the results of their social media activity.

  1. Keep an Eye on Style Trends

As the millennial generation grows to comprise a greater and greater segment of the furniture-buying population, millennial tastes and preferences are beginning to influence aesthetic trends in the furniture sector. Historically, consumers have often associated complex and ornate furniture with elegance and quality. However, millennial shoppers are increasingly favoring simple and sleek styles. Clean lines and monochrome color palettes with minimal ornamentation allow millennials to display their individuality through their own unique accessories.

However, millennials do appear to favor complexity in one regard. When it comes to modular and multipurpose furniture, millennials are drawn to pieces that will allow them to save valuable square footage in their small living spaces and enjoy a great deal of functionality from a single product.

As technology is interwoven within the millennial lifestyle, brands are likely to have an easier time marketing pieces designed to accommodate common technologies. In addition, the social awareness of this generation has made sustainably sourced materials an incredibly powerful selling point.

las vegas sign

One of the Most Influential Furniture Markets Is Quickly Approaching

lasvegasmarketlogoIn April, registration officially opened for the Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market. For over a decade, the market has provided professionals from all corners of the home furnishings and décor sectors an exclusive look at the latest trends in home design while offering industry leaders a chance to showcase their latest products.

The next iteration of this biannual industry exhibition will be no exception. Set to take place from July 30 to August 3, 2017, the Summer Las Vegas Market is poised to be a can’t-miss event featuring an unprecedented array of attractions.

On the Rise

The recent Winter Las Vegas Market smashed attendance records, welcoming more buyers and exhibitors than any previous winter market. Held from January 22 to 26, the event filled an astounding 5 million square feet with showrooms and product exhibitions, adding 170,000 square feet of entirely new or expanded showroom space.

The winter 2017 event also marked the first time that the market displayed more than 4,000 brands and product lines. This record-breaking selection attracted interested buyers from all 50 states and 80 countries, leading to attendance increases in virtually every major product category.

As the weather warms, anticipation for the Summer 2017 Las Vegas market is on the rise. International Market Centers—the organizers behind the industry-leading High Point and Las Vegas markets—have already revealed a few details about its next trend-setting event.

What to Expect

This summer, the Las Vegas Market will once more feature over 4,000 product lines spanning a comprehensive selection of categories. The event will feature more buyer resources than ever before, with organizers projecting an influx of activity throughout the market’s gift and furniture displays. Specifically, organizers expect a wealth of new offerings in gift categories such as housewares and artisanal products, while the casual and outdoor furniture exhibitions are also primed for increased activity. In addition, the Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market will feature exhibitions from each of the top-15 bedding manufacturers.

To accommodate its ever-expanding number of exhibitor partners, the Las Vegas Market is adding a number of new, permanent showrooms and temporary showcases. Attendees will discover a record-breaking number of exhibiting companies in the Home Furnishings category in section B2, while C13’s Casual showroom will feature temporary displays from several first-time exhibitors.

In addition to perusing product displays at their leisure, market attendees will have the opportunity to learn from the experts during designer-led showroom tours. They will also have access to a vast selection of educational panels and seminars focused on a variety of industry-relevant topics, from home design trends to best practices in furniture retailing.

The Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market will include the return of staple industry events and award programs, including the 7th Annual “Up on the Roof” Gift for Life fundraiser and the 3rd Annual ANDYZ Design Awards. As in previous years, the Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market will also offer a variety of amenities to enhance the buyer experience. Convenient resources will include complementary breakfasts; a mothers’ lounge; Internet-equipped workspaces for buyers, designers, and journalists; and a networking area for international attendees.

What’s New?

International Market Centers has made a number of updates to the Las Vegas Market program in anticipation of a record-breaking summer event. This year, the summer market will feature a streamlined sign-in system and a larger area in which to process onsite registrations. Attendees who have pre-registered for the market will also be able to take advantage of multiple off-site locations, including the Golden Nugget and the Aria Resort and Casino, that offer expedited badge pickup.

Market organizers recently introduced a new online resource to help attendees prepare for the market experience. Featuring insight from a number of home furnishings thought leaders, DesignOn LVMkt will present a series of insightful and informative blog posts focused on industry news, new products, and emerging design trends. It joins a host of other helpful web-based resources, including the online catalog gallery and online market planner.

A number of new organizational partners will join the Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market to develop exciting new events and exhibits around their unique industry niches. Incoming partners include the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, the Las Vegas Spa Association, the PLATIN-Latin American Alliance, Sierra Pacific Crafts, and The Munce Group. These organizations join more than 30 additional trade and retail groups.

The Summer 2017 Las Vegas Market will also mark the event’s first collaboration with Luxe Interiors + Design, a prominent home fashions publication. On August 1, the magazine will host a panel discussion for the Las Vegas Market Ahead of the Curve program featuring a number of influential designers from the western home furnishings market. The discussion will focus on regional trends in home furnishings and décor and will include time set aside for audience questions.

Attendees will receive another preview of the latest home furnishings trends when the market releases its biannual FIRST LOOK guide. Encompassing showroom displays, tours, seminars, and promotional materials, the FIRST LOOK program revolves around a series of style themes that embody the aesthetic spirit of each new Las Vegas Market. Keep an eye out for it as the market approaches!