THE FUTURE FOR FURNITURE RETAILING

Most furniture showrooms look more or less the same, with only minor variations to the details.

Generally, the showrooms retailing more expensive furniture have less display, with more circulation and open space and the showrooms retailing less expensive furniture have more items on display - packed in tighter, with less open space and less circulation space. Some have dividing screens in one form or another while others do not - and just place everything into an open space.

Most showrooms have large posters - illuminated or non-illuminated - of people sitting on the furniture, with some positive marketing words about the product or the brand.

The reason for the two concepts of layout display mainly relates to the perceived upmarket and exclusivity of the expensive furniture - that due to its higher purchase price, requires the sale of fewer items to cover the overheads.

The lower priced furniture is more often promoted in discount sales - and customers generally perceive a packed showroom displaying items crammed in together, as an indication that there is a bargain to had - which is sometimes true and sometimes not.

So is this the “end-all” and “be-all” of furniture retailing?  Definitely not.

First of all let’s look at the new kid on the block, E-COMMERCE.

The furniture industry is only just dipping its toes into the e-commerce world- as the belief has been that furniture, like cars - will only be sold where customers can feel and  touch the products.

This is not entirely correct, as a young company INTERIOR DEFINE established in Chicago in 2014, has proven. After only 5 years in business, they now have stores in 6 major cities in the USA. However, they are not major showrooms.  They are smaller stores, displaying enough product to demonstrate the general comfort and quality of manufacture. They don’t refer to them as showrooms.

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They call them “GUIDESHOPS” and their main function is to finalise the selection the client has made online, using Interior Define’s 3D software to select the furniture style, details of back heights, cushion types, legs if applicable and fabrics or leathers. The customer is also given samples of their chosen fabrics at that time.

Each item is made to order at the time of purchase however,  there is still a 8-12 week lead time for most orders. The plus for Interior Define, is that they don’t need to carry a lot of stock or pay rent for large showrooms. 

This is the beginning of a trend that will snowball as e-commerce takes a stronger hold on retailing, with the advent of the generations born into the digital age becoming the dominant customer base.

Even the ultimate big furniture store IKEA has taken the shift to e-commerce seriously and is beginning to shift it’s strategy from large to smaller format stores and to e-commerce, in a response to changes in shopping habits worldwide.

All this before the 5G technology networks are established which are apparently going to not only increase the speed of connecting online dramatically, but also connect all the technologies from cloud computing to artificial intelligence, into  one source.

We don’t however, believe that “bricks & mortar” showrooms will ever disappear from the retailing scene, as the social interest of discovering and experiencing is a very human activity.  Consider that Apple and now Amazon, both major e-commerce retailers, have invested heavily in their B&M stores.

But what of the current showrooms that are still the norm today?

The two basic retail functions are “discovery“ and “buying”.   Most showrooms naturally try to cater for both of these functions however, they generally lean more towards the buying side of things.

 The “discovery” is when the customer is encouraged to explore and indulge in an experience, that is more uplifting because of the environment and the way the product is displayed, that contributes to the feeling that they are in a special place that has unique products - which in turn makes them feel good to be there therefore, reinforcing their decision to “buy”.

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Todays retail world requires a showroom that has drama in its design elements, especially its lighting and is in many respects like a theatre stage set, that also has a strong connection to the e-commerce world, in the way it presents information about the products.

The way to achieve this is to create a backstory for the brand, based on its beginnings or one written as a fictionalised story that is credible for the company.

Then, use that backstory to form the basis of the showroom theming. If the theme is based on fiction, that should be stated in a subtle manner

Good theming enhances the customer experience, possibly peaks their curiosity and showcases the strength of your products and your company. 

It’s generally a win-win for the customer and the retailer.

We can advise you regarding the production of your backstory, your theming and also assist in designing your shop or showroom.

To continue the conversation, phone 0438 709 970 or email design@designfocus.com.au

Robyn & Peter Rektor