Triple Whammy Hits Home Retailers
By George Anderson
Traditional furniture and related home furnishings retailers are getting hit from pretty much all sides.
According to a piece by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, companies such as Pier One Imports and The Bombay Co. are finding that increased competition from discounters such as Target, economic issues facing the middle class and new style preferences are creating stiffer challenges for them than those faced before.
“It is a confusing time in home retail,” said Karin Miller, principal of Miller Merchandising and a member of the RetailWire BrainTrust. “Our jobs as merchants have been pretty easy for the last decade because the customer has told us time and time again that they want more of the same. Now that has changed.”
Richard Hastings, senior analyst for Bernard Sands, said it has become increasingly difficult for retailers to differentiate from the competition.
“There’s an enormous shaking out taking place,” said Mr. Hastings. “These are some of the most discretionary expenditures imaginable, and they’re ubiquitous — there’s absolutely no marketing advantage to be had at this point. If the same styles are available everywhere, then what do you do?”
While many businesses have struggled, some are doing relatively well. Williams-Sonoma’s West Elm business emphasizing modern designs has performed well, as have Ethan Allan Interiors and J.C. Penney with its Chris Madden designer line.
“The modern look is growing by a larger percentage than any other look, but it’s off a small base,” said Ms. Miller. “Modern customers are estimated to be about nine percent of the total population.”
Moderator’s Comment: Why do you believe so many furniture and home goods retailers have been seemingly caught unaware of the shifts in the consumer marketplace?
Do you agree with Richard Hastings that the same styles are available everywhere? If yes, how do retailers create a point of difference in the minds of consumers? –
George Anderson – Moderator