Will Furniture Stores Hold Furniture – AVB’s CEO Jim Risto was quoted in a column this week by furniture industry authority Clint Engel.
An article predicting the demise of an independent home appliance dealer. Given the gravity of the discussion, we’re sharing Engel’s editorial in its entirety below:
Will Furniture Stores Hold Furniture
A headline in Pam Danziger’s Forbes piece says it’s all over for independent home goods stores, or it will be soon:
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Danziger then sets out to show the ways the deck is now stacked against mom and pop. Their share of all furniture sales is tanking, but the big ones are getting bigger. They are late to the digital party and they are being eaten alive by e-commerce giants. And they’re focused on deep discounts and years of deferred interest instead of what’s most important: a great user experience that starts on their websites.
The bottom line is that home improvement stores, in general, are losing out to e-commerce, general merchandise and home improvement stores, but the biggest are in better shape thanks to their strong brand identities and sophisticated online strategies.
Danziger’s two main sources for this passage are the “Cylindo Study.”
’s top 100 retailers’ websites,” (not an entirely accurate characterization) and marketer Bill Napier scolded the industry. Napier has long derided many retail players for clinging to the brick-and-mortar past and failing to take bold steps in their digital strategies, and he’s making a point here.
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But here’s the thing: While many agree that a well-defined and executed digital strategy is more important than ever, many disagree that independents are actually at the losing end despite all the consolidation the industry has seen over the years. In fact, Danziger concludes that most companies with better websites, better e-commerce capabilities and effective use of digital marketing are more independent.
First, a little about the Cylindo report “Top 100 USA Furniture Retailers 2020 E-Commerce Merchandising & Indexing Ranking” conducted last June. Indeed, Cilindo’s methodology statement for marketing 3D furniture visualization technology does not mention the top 100 retailers that manufacture it.
‘s top 100, but Danziger does, and you can see why she’s confused. Many of the stores on the list, which are actually in the recent top 100 — names like Bob’s, Ashley Homestore, City Furniture — are easy for most people to recognize. But there are many exceptions.
Interior Define was the top performer based on 17 website features analyzed by Cylindo, including HD zoom, augmented reality and 360-degree product views (you know, the kind of stuff Cylindo sells). It is not a top 100 company. It’s not even on
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List of leading e-tailers. One list it appears, however, is a list of Cylindo customers.
There are a few more names that appear with top ratings that are not top 100 companies: Serena & Lilly, Blue Dot and Turk Furniture are high on the Cylindo list.
A piece from Napier predicts, “Within five years, 35 percent to 50 percent of small and medium-sized home retailers will go out of business,” and argues that “the arrogance of ignorance will ultimately destroy a great industry focused on brick-and-mortar retail and over-reliance on discounts and promotions — ‘Everything is 50 percent off and no payments until you die.’”
This is a very amusing subject and there is clearly some truth in it. But only some of it is true, and that’s the story’s big problem. In recent years, mom and pops aren’t just calling it quits, closing stores and losing land; It’s giant players too. It’s anyone who doesn’t keep up with the times. And when the Giants close, the closings are huge. Remember Pier 1 Imports and its hundreds of stores? Bankrupt and liquidated (today you can shop the assortment online with “partner brands” like Linens-N-Things and RadioShack). I’m sure they are killing it.
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Remember Sears? Once the largest retailer in the United States. It now operates 29 stores (according to Forbes). Art Van is gone. Many specialty bedding store chains have reduced their store counts. JCPenney is a shell of its former self. Yes, the independent furniture store category is on the wane, but how many stores have these giants and many others not named here versus the little guys actually closed?
An industry friend who until recently covered retail for a long time told me he had been hearing this kind of constant refrain for two decades – “How the independent channel is going the horse and buggy way. First Walmart is going to do them, then the home improvement chains eat their lunch, then the sellers who move to two-step distribution destroy them, and then Amazon destroys everyone.
And again, this is partially true. Some businesses were damaged. The big guys eliminate some of the little guys, some of the weak links, not everyone and not just the little players.
So whoever the winners are left standing and strategizing, there are tons of independent furniture stores right now, including those that have boosted their online profile by leveraging technology and marketing tools from one or more of the industry’s biggest buying groups. If you believe what they say about the business since the pandemic, it has helped them not only compete, but also win partnerships from the giants.
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An independent furniture dealer is no longer a competitive piece. But he’s in complete agreement on one key point: “Independents need a strong e-commerce site and a powerful digital marketing strategy to stay ahead of the pack.”
BrandSource members, which embrace both through the group’s marketing technology platform, “enjoyed nearly 30 percent growth in business last year, outpacing furniture industry growth by 15 percent and gaining significant market share from big-box chains,” he said, adding that the group’s wholesale exports and retail sales lead the industry. overcome (Risto noted that some of its members earned high marks in an analysis of Cylindo’s website.)
“I’m not saying that independents don’t face stiff competition there. They are But the customer’s preference for shopping local, combined with a sophisticated digital presence, is a powerful equalizer against the goliaths of home goods retail,” Risto said.
“By using martech tools correctly, BrandSource dealers can continue to take share for years to come. And I’ve got more news for Forbes: We’re not giving this business back.
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Last month, family-owned Mueller Furniture opened its third St. Louis-area store. It doesn’t sell online, but it has a strong website and has mastered SEO. How is business these days?
“Extraordinary,” said Mark Mueller, general manager, even as the retailer navigates the industry’s seemingly endless crisis of product delays.
The article makes some valid points. The industry has seen major consolidation since the 2008 financial crisis. The biggest players are getting bigger when you look closely at many independents, “moving to statewide, regional, national-style outfits. And I see the trend continuing,” he said.
But he noted that the big chains were also damaged. In St. Louis, there were five Art Van franchise stores and three or four Pier 1 stores. “It’s not just small or family businesses that are closing because they’re all gone.”
The End Of The Road For Independent Furniture Stores? We Beg To Differ
Mueller also doesn’t buy the argument that independents are shutting down for the reasons you often hear and the reasons cited by Forbes; He doesn’t think e-commerce giants have stolen much business.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the generational transition,” he said. Mark Muller is a fourth-generation leader, but many retailers aren’t interested in having the next generation take the reins, “or the older generation wants to get out of the business and have some retirement money. . They have worked for 30 years, 40 years and their only option is to retire. I think it’s more than just ‘online sellers are killing my business’.
He did not deny that some weeding was also going on. “There are a lot of average-run small furniture retailers,” he admits. “It’s hard to find great retail sales associates, and I think a lot of operations are either closed to good help or they don’t train the people they’re working with the way they need to be trained.”
And it’s true that many family-owned brick-and-mortar stores fail to invest in their websites as needed to attract traffic and convert customers by phone or email, or into in-store shoppers. It’s not easy, but it’s doable with the right partners. Muller has had a great handle on search engine optimization since the mid-2000s, says Mark Muller. In 2007, when the retailer operated just one small store, “we were indexing tens of thousands of pages, whereas a company with two large stores and $35 million in sales only indexed 10.” (Mueller declined to name such a big player, but note how he used the term
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