As the Las Vegas show approaches consider these ideas to give you a fresh focus on who your customers are. You are looking for a return on your investment. Properly preparing yourself for the furniture market is a process that will reward you with great dividends. Being prepared for your market trip will not only give you a plan on where to shop, but also a focus on what to buy, what not to buy and why.
The three main segments for a successful market experience begin at your store:
- Pre-Market process
- Working the Market
- Post Market
Seek input from your salespeople, your operational staff, run appropriate merchandising reports, seek information on the latest trends in the furniture industry and determine items to be eliminated from your lineup. Their total commitment can ensure that you are headed in the right direction with your merchandising processes.
Understanding and utilizing the appropriate merchandising reports will position setting the standards of performance using GMROI (gross margin return on investment) to determine the effectiveness of your merchandising program. I recommend that you review each category and drill down within each looking at the individual vendors and individual items within each vendor. This will help to ensure that you don’t buy goods that will compete with something you already have and plan to keep in your lineup.
You want to buy predetermined styles, retail price points and quantities that you have deemed to meet your customers’ needs. Merchandise you have selected to eliminate becomes your target shopping plan.
In order to get the edge and insight in furniture fashions and trends read the industry’s trade publications and public shelter magazines. In the public shelter magazines you will see how the general public is being influenced in creating the home furniture environment it desires. This information will give you the insight to know what to look for during market and should help to make your time at the market productive.
Work The Market
Your plans should be set to look at new introductions and the best sellers within each vendor’s lineup. This is not necessarily the time to buy as much as the time to gain information that you need to make your future merchandise decisions objectively.
Take notes and plenty of digital photographs. At the end of each day save some time to review what you saw and compare it with your merchandise plans. You want to take photographs of merchandise that you’ve committed to and merchandise in which you are seriously interested in. Also take digital photographs of displays that you would like to emulate in your showroom.
Your shopping plans should include the time to shop your competitors’ vendors. Also include shopping vendors with whom you are currently not doing business with because their products may fit your merchandise program in the future.
Find the time at market to position yourself to get to know the people with whom you do business. Come prepared to give them not just negative feedback, but also positive feedback on what they have accomplished that is good for both your company and theirs. Attend the after-hours functions. The vendors are investing both time and money into knowing you and meeting your merchandise needs.
You are preparing your merchandise program for your post-market buying decisions. This can be done when you return home or at the end of each day while you are at the market. Decisions should not be made until you have had the opportunity to shop the complete merchandise presentations for any particular category. When a decision must be made in advance to lock up product distribution, you should be prepared with the information you have attained and brought with you from your pre-market preparation.
Meet again with associates who have a direct effect on the selling and the flowing of the merchandise. Inform them of your decisions: what the new trends are, the colors and the finishes, etc. They need to understand your plan in order to maintain a succession of discontinued product elimination and the introduction of the new product. Inform the merchandise operational staff about new vendors and how their systems tie into your systems and processes. Let all of your team members know how their input was helpful in making the decisions.
Bob Moorman is a senior business analyst and consultant for JRM Sales and Management, Inc. JRM is a consulting and training company specific to the home furnishings industry, www.jrmsales-mgmt.com. Bob’s extensive career in retail management included JC Penney where he held several key management positions and was a corporate senior buyer.