Roseville, CA—The North American Home Furnishings Association (NAHFA) has recently hired Washington, D.C.-based Grayling, a leading government relations company, as its lobbying firm of record, replacing long-term lobbyist, John Satagaj, who’s retiring. Continue Reading →
Roseville CA—Next Generation-NOW (Next Gen, Next Gen NOW), North American Home Furnishings Association’s (NAHFA) young professionals group has put together an impressive list of panelists and discussions for their inaugural Next Gen Day (NGN Day) at High Point Market. Registration is still open for this FREE day of education. Continue Reading →
Roseville, Calif.—The North American Home Furnishings Association announced today an exclusive partnership with Flonomics, a global leader in people counting and video analytic technologies with extensive expertise in helping furniture retailers improve their overall store performance. Continue Reading →
Roseville, CA—Next Generation-NOW will host the inaugural Next Gen Day at the October High Point Market on Monday, October 21. Hosted by NAHFA, High Point Market Authority, High Point University and Ashley Furniture Industries, this free event features a full day of activity focused around broadening the participation and interest of the next generation in the home furnishings industry. Continue reading →
September 4, 2013
Jaime Fernandez, marketing director at GDC Home, a family-owned home furnishings and decorating store, uses her company’s blog to interact with customers. She showcases new trends and creates contests to move readers to action.
Can furniture stores cut through the online chatter and use blogging as a way to effectively interact with their customers? Not only are successful furniture stores doing just that, they are having fun with the platform and increasing the bottom line, too.
“Because we are such a visual industry, the more eye candy the better,” says Jaime Fernandez, marketing director at GDC Home, a family-owned home furnishings and decorating store with three locations in the Charleston, South Carolina, area.
Fernandez often uses her company’s blog to illustrate new trends and ideas and to move readers to action. She admits, it’s small on words and heavy on beautiful pictures. The goal when they started the blog in 2010? It’s another way to interact with and inspire our customers, she says.
Interacting with customers is the holy grail in any retail industry but furniture retailers are in a unique position because they can use their blog to communicate their message over multiple platforms. You’re setting up your staff to fail if you don’t take into account why blogging is important and make time for it.
Know The Goal
As in any effective marketing tool, it’s important to first understand the goal of a blog and create a strategy to achieve the goal.
Contempo Space, a contemporary furniture manufacturer and retailer with a showroom in Passaic, New Jersey, first dipped its toes in the blogosphere nearly two years ago as a way to ramp up its online presence. Shortly thereafter, it added an e-commerce component.
“We use our blog to notify customers of company developments like new product lines, trade show appearances, sales and coupons, and to show custom pieces we’ve built for other customers,” says Chris Sansone, web strategist for Contempo Space.
Tim O’Brien, president of Tropical Salvage in Portland, Oregon, works with artisans in Indonesia to reclaim old, quality product and gives it new life in solid furniture. O’Brien prefers to use its Salvage Blog (which he affectionately calls Slog), to address engaging subjects relevant to the company’s work and goals rather than feature random contemplations that amount to chirpy natter common on other blogs, he says.
Furniture retailers without a physical presence can just as effectively use a blog to engage with customers. “We deeply care about design and strive to offer heirloom-quality, lasting finds that enrich one’s life and bring harmony, balance and happiness to one’s interior,” says Wendy Estes, co-founder of web-based Layla Grayce which includes thoughtfully curated collections of items for the home, women and children.
“We’re constantly stumbling across fabulous ideas and incredible designers, and it’s important to us that we share these influences with our customers to help create and encourage their design vision.”
Customers are responding and, more importantly, reacting. “I keep going back to the Layla Grayce site because it’s simply stunning, from the layout to the actual products being sold,” says Desiree Miller from Atlanta, Georgia. “I’m inspired every time I go to the site. I daydream when I read the blog, and sometimes even take the ideas and run with them in my own home. I have taken ideas from the site and re-created them in my own home.”
Recently, Miller saw a holiday painting that incorporated a monogram that she wanted to make. “It seemed simple enough to duplicate, so I tried it at a local art shop,” she says. “Mine wasn’t as good as the professional artist’s, but it was good enough to put on my mantle for the holidays.”
Miller’s experience is exactly what furniture retailers want to see happen with their blogs: Not only eyeballs reading them but also customers taking it to the next level by acting upon that inspiration.
Content is King; Marketing is Queen
Gary Vaynerchuk’s famous line from the 2008 Blog World Expo is just as true today as when he shared it during his presentation: “Content is King, but marketing is Queen and the Queen runs the household.”
It doesn’t matter how mind-blowingly original or well-written and laid out your content is if your customers don’t see it. Successful furniture retailers with blogs think beyond just the content itself.
“We cross-promote every blog post on our Facebook page, which we’ve set to automatically tweet out as well, and code all images to include a ‘Pin It’ button so customers can easily share them on their Pinterest boards,” says Estes. “In addition, we promote our Instagram feed through our blog, where we have also hosted several extremely successful ‘Pin to Win’ contests, collaborating with vendors and requiring customers to pin products from Layla Grayce in order to be entered to win gift certificates towards those vendors’ products on our site. Because of the viral nature of Pinterest, we found that requiring customers and entrants to pin our products has led to significant increases in sales for those vendors.”
Pinterest has also allowed many new customers to find their way to Layla Grayce’s blog and then to its website. “Many of our images wind up on Pinterest—either by us or re-pinned by readers—where they go viral and drive people from new or untapped markets to our blog,” notes Estes. “Facebook is another strong driver: Once we share a blog post to Facebook, oftentimes our followers share the post elsewhere, resulting in increased traffic to the blog. We have found that when you truly engage all social media platforms, you begin to see your efforts come full circle.”
Sansone is equally religious when it comes to distributing their posts on other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and, like Estes, realizes there is value in being visible on various social media platforms even if one specifically doesn’t drive the sale. “Facebook and Pinterest are both great for us because they’re visual,” he adds. “Telling people what you’re doing is the best when you’re face-to-face or on the phone, but we have this photography of these one-of-a-kind furniture pieces that nobody’s ever seen before, and those platforms lend themselves to that kind of visual posting. We get at least some customers every month from both Facebook and Pinterest.”
Analyze your Analytics
While some may find it time-consuming to review their analytics, it’s actually meant to be a time saver. Successful retailers monitor their analytics carefully so they know what content to provide to their readers and customers. “Based on our analytics, our blog readers are very loyal,” says Estes. “We’re incredibly grateful for a large readership each day. Customers seem to interact the most with posts that are rich in imagery, original content and ‘how-to’ type material. Of course, our giveaways are always a big hit, receiving hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of comments.”
Another reason analytics are important is because strong traffic doesn’t always equal conversions, says Sansone. “One of our early blog posts was something about the furniture in Mad Men and it exploded. Actually, it still gets traffic over a year later. Never brought us one customer though. If you have the resources to be everywhere and go with the ‘branding at all costs’ model, then go big and go wide. But for the rest of us, it pays to know what kind of posts bring people into the showroom.”
Analytics can also show you where your traffic is coming from such as through web searches or other social media sites like Pinterest. Armed with that data, you can make your posts more effective by making sure to distribute your content in the places people are looking.
Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan
Every single person admitted that managing their blog is time consuming. “You can’t just slap up some picture and say a few words,” says Fernandez. “There is research and photo credits and a lot of times, an abundance of information to sort through.”
To maximize your time and effectiveness, create an editorial calendar and be consistent with your posting, recommends Estes. “Try to post once a day and make the content engaging and unique and the copy loose and informal,” she adds. “We try to mix up ‘promotional’ posts, in which we feature products or sales, with ‘get to know us’ and editorial posts.”
Avoid Blogging Pitfalls
“Perhaps the biggest challenge to date is staying ahead of the schedule,” says Estes. To combat this pitfall, Layla Grayce creates posts in advance. Estes is a fan of features like “Designers We Love” or “Top 10s”. She also pulls in other resources and knows that having a successful blog is a team effort. “We’re lucky to have a group of designers, writers and strategists who have joined forces to make the blog a success, which makes all the difference.”
Don’t have access to analytics? Switch your platform, says Fernandez, who is in the process of moving the store’s blog. Also, she recommends to start simple and stay fresh.
Not marketing your blog is a common and costly mistake.
“It can be disheartening to pretty up a bunch of photos and put together the most eloquent words to describe the finest nuances of their beauty, and then realize a week later that only you, your boss and your mother ever saw it,” jokes Sansone.
Megy Karydes is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in national and local magazines and websites. She’s always on the hunt for great stories. Contact her at KarydesConsulting.com.
September 4, 2013
To work effectively with others, you first need to know how you attack life. I am going to take you on a colorful journey that will better describe hue you are and how you live your life, through the colors your eyes go to without thinking. Continue Reading →
September 4, 2013
The furniture industry gets younger every year. In order to embrace the new generation of retailers and welcome them into the business, RetailerNOW features a different member of the Next Generation NOW social network in every issue. Next Generation NOW is the premiere social scene for the new era of furniture professionals. Join the conversation at social.ngnow.org!
For this month’s spotlight, we introduce 30-year-old Mandy Jeffries, of Colfax Furniture in Greensboro, North Carolina.
: Tell me about your industry history.
MJ: My mom and my aunt started Colfax 49 years ago. It’s always been a female-owned family business. I was not raised in the furniture industry at all. It was always my choice. I went to college and did a double major, then got my Masters in business. Then the economy tanked. My mom said, “You know, I need some help if we’re going to take this business to the next generation. Do you want to get into it?” So I did about five years ago. I started in merchandising, buying products and learning about the business, and I worked my way up to general manager.
: How have you seen the industry change since the store opened as far as its perception of women?
MJ: It’s still not good. They just did a “Top 40 Under 40” in Home Furnishings Business. Seventy-five percent of them are men. When my mom started the business, they kicked her out of High Point Market, saying a woman shouldn’t be there. We still get that persona. I go to markets a lot, and I have a male buyer who will say I’m his girlfriend. And he’s 50-some years old, so that’s really fun for me too. [laughs] I think it’s gotten a little bit more accepted, but it’s still a man’s world.
: How do you overcome that?
MJ: We prove it in the business. I don’t discuss it, I don’t take it personally. It actually gives me a little bit more drive to do better.
: What are some of the benefits that you see in Next Generation NOW?
MJ: I really enjoy it. Especially on the east coast, there are not a lot of next generations. When the business owners die, they haven’t passed it on to anybody. The furniture industry is very stuffy. It’s a much older, male generation. So Next Generation NOW has been great for me because I meet likeminded people who are my age, that are experiencing the same things I am. I don’t care where they are, they know exactly what I’m going through. You look at my mom, she grew up with all the reps. She has her own network of people. But this is my life. I work six days a week, ten-hour days. This is my social life and everything else with it. It’s been very exciting for me to be able to meet people that I can relate to.
: What advice do you have for new retailers?
MJ: It’s so tough right now. I would say be small. Don’t try to be big. In today’s economy, being big is not worth it. You have to your hands on everything at all times to face the economy and find good people to work. It’s almost impossible to make a new business succeed, especially in furniture.
: What advice do you have for those that have been in the business for a long time?
MJ: Stick with it. Don’t give up. It’s so crucial to go to markets and symposiums. Network with people because that’s going to be your refresher. When I went to San Antonio, I came back so refreshed, so revitalized about the business. You get new ideas. We’re not all perfect. We’re not here making millions of dollars. We need each other to be successful. I think people that have been in the industry for a long time forget that. They think their way is the best way, and that’s not the case. We have to learn from each other.
: What are the biggest challenges that store owners face today?
MJ: Employees and customers. Customers are much more demanding today than they’ve ever been. You go to the grocery store and they want to negotiate for milk. It’s a whole new breed. As far as employees, with the employment laws, to employ people, it’s gotten very tough.
: How does your store integrate technology?
MJ: We have our website and we are upgrading our sales to more tablets on the floor. That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to do. It’s tough because the furniture industry is so far behind the times. We’re 20 years behind every other industry. So having the resources available to be able to do things that are geared towards furniture has been really tough for us. I think our website has been a huge step in the right direction.
:Why do you think the industry is so behind?
MJ: I have no idea. When I got into it and we were shopping for computer systems, I couldn’t believe what our options were. Everything we do is behind the times, even as far as our vendors not putting prices on the web for me to look at pictures and pricing. I don’t have time to chase you down, get a catalog, get a price list—it should all be readily available. I think it has to do with the older generation dominance in the furniture industry; they don’t know technology.
: Do you think there will eventually be a big trend of stores switching to solely online sales?
MJ: I think that there’s a market for it, but I don’t think that’s the main thing that’s happening. Furniture is always going to be an item that a customer will want to touch, feel, smell—they want to sit on your sofa. I’m not saying that there’s not going to be a push for it, but I don’t think it will be the bread and butter of the furniture industry.
Next Generation NOW (NGN or Next Gen NOW) is a community of young, passionate and engaged home furnishings professionals. Next Gen NOW seeks to give a voice to the unique needs of future generations entering the workforce to educate the industry on how to attract and keep young talent. Connect with members online at ngnow.org or on twitter @ngnow.
September 4, 2013
If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer you are required by law to collect and remit sales taxes to the states in which you do business—unless you’re doing business in Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware or Oregon, the only states without sales and use taxes. If you are an online or remote retailer you are required by law to collect and remit sales taxes only in your own state and in states where you have a physical presence, such as a warehouse or distribution center, regardless of where you do business. Currently, it is the responsibility of the purchaser to remit sales tax on purchases made online or remotely.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), brick-and-mortar retailers collect 100 percent of sales tax on purchases while online retailers collect 18 percent. The NRF reports that this inequality in sales tax collection results in an estimated $24 billion loss in sales taxes each year. Granted, the $24 billion includes all retail sales, not just home furnishings. Uncollected taxes, however, mean less money in your town, your county, your state. Uncollected taxes mean online or remote retailers not currently required to collect and remit sales taxes have a pricing advantage.
This spring, the U.S. Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act and the bill (H.R. 684) has gone to the House of Representatives. This summer, the House Judiciary Committee referred it to the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law; there is no timetable for consideration.
If the Marketplace Fairness Act becomes law it would create a national, legal framework under which brick-and-mortar, remote and online retailers would be treated equally.
Under the proposed law, states that wish to enforce the collection of these taxes must simplify their sales tax laws and they have two options for doing so.
A state can join the 24 states that have voluntarily adopted the simplified measures outlined in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA).
A state can meet simplification mandates listed in the bill, which include notifying retailers prior to rate changes; designating a single state organization to handle state tax registrations, filings and audits; establishing a uniform sales tax base; using destination sourcing to determine sales tax rates (i.e., a purchase made by a consumer in New York from a retailer in Texas is taxed at the New York rate and paid to New York); and providing free software for managing sales tax compliance.
The main objective of this bill is to give states the authority to collect these sales taxes—but only if they simplify their processes for retailers.
If signed into law, the bill would require remote retailers to collect and remit sales taxes wherever they do business, regardless of whether they have a physical presence in the state. Retailers with annual gross receipts in total U.S. remote sales under $1 million would be exempt.
Opponents of the bill purport they are against new taxes or raising taxes—this bill is neither. This is not a new tax; it is a bill to enforce the collection of existing taxes.
The Marketplace Fairness Act simply shifts the responsibility of sales tax collection. As of now, consumers are supposed to track and remit taxes on their online purchases but there is little or no enforcement to ensure that this happens. The proposed legislation would shift this responsibility back to the online retailer just as it is currently the responsibility of the brick-and-mortar retailer. It would also empower states and local governments to enforce state and local sales tax laws if they simplify and streamline their processes. The collection of these taxes could also offset the need for new or higher local tax rates.
Lawmakers need to hear from their constituents—the people and businesses this proposed law benefits. They need to know how this bill could make a difference in your community. More than 200 businesses and organizations, including the North American Home Furnishings Association, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, National Governors’ Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, International Council of Shopping Centers and Amazon.com, support the bill.
Lisa Casinger is NAHFA’s government relations liaison.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 422-3778.
September 4, 2013
A report on up and coming upholstery trends
The past year has seen a huge shift toward embracing color. Following the lead of the exciting things happening with color on the fashion runways with apparel, home furnishings is also totally embracing the color trend in upholstery. Using everything from bold and bright to pastel and tonal, a shift is taking place to step outside the neutral box and make a statement.
Blue is one of the biggest and best selling trend colors in upholstery right now. The popularity of blue can be explained by the versatility this color provides. A bold turquoise can be used to make a clean and modern statement or a crisp shade can be used to make a coastal scheme dreamy. On a whole sofa or as a pop on a chair or pillow, any space created with blue feels airy and effortless.
Orange is an unexpected color that has really become a trend in upholstery. It can be used as a bold pop or toned down into a rust shade to create the perfect look of sophistication and polish. Orange is popping up in gorgeous woven fabrics and rich velvets.
With emerald green being Pantone’s color of the year, emerald has been all over upholstery in 2013. With the emphasis on emerald, other tones of green have also become popular. Everything from pastel mint to chartreuse to deep forest green has been showing up and making its impact on upholstery. One of the reasons green is so strong in furniture is due to its ease of working with many different color schemes and palettes. For example, an emerald green can work with black and white to create a sophisticated and masculine look, chartreuse can work with grays and neutrals to create a transitional look and mint can work with white or coral to create a modern and even quirky look. Green can translate into so many different tones to create the perfect look for any personality.
With the movement into color, we are seeing typically unconventional shades, such as pink, being experimented with and even embraced. A pop of pink in a room can add the perfect level of interest and individually. Mixing pink with black and white to create a sophisticated look or popping pink in with yellows and blues to create a quirky and urban feel are both right on trend.
Graphic and Chevron Patterns
Graphic trellis patterns and chevrons are making a huge impact, not only in furniture, but also in fashion. Upholstery has really taken this look right off the runways and translated it into the home. These patterns and prints are usually seen as bright pops of bold color mixed with crisp white to create a fresh and modern look.
Stripes have always been a staple in upholstery but are taking a fresh turn to compliment the color movement. Stripes are a classic standby that can be used to tie any room together. On trend right now are bright, bold stripes as a way to bring a rainbow of colors into a room as well as menswear inspired stripes using masculine colors like gray, navy and black.
Black and White with a Twist
A black and white color scheme is a classic staple in both furniture and fashion. A fresh trend on the classic black and white is popping a bright and unexpected color into the palette to create a bold and fearless statement. This can be done with turquoise, emerald green, yellow, pink or any striking color.
The timeless texture of velvets in new bold, bright and fresh colors is an up and coming trend in upholstery. The color breadth of gorgeous and rich velvets is now growing to include every color under the rainbow.
Menswear looks are being used as a trend to tie colors together in a scheme and to make a look polished and refined. Choosing a few bold colors or patterns and mixing with a menswear stripe, texture or houndstooth is a great way to create a refined look.
Gray as the biggest neutral
Gray continues to be a big trend in upholstery. Gray is seen as the new neutral and has become the bestselling color for many upholstery manufacturers. Gray can be used to create any look you choose from modern and fresh to rich and refined.
Meredith Spell is president and creative director of Younger Furniture. She is the daughter of CEO and founder of Younger Furniture, Mike Younger. Meredith handles all merchandising, marketing and branding at Younger.