The High Deserts Social Network Blog…

661.942.1103 Buying Furniture for a living…Its harder than you think!

There is nothing more fun; or challenging, in my job than selecting new product. Since the time I was 15 and cleaning toilets I would watch the buyers prepare for the semi annual trip to the “Market”.

Market is “Furniture Market“.

This is where all new product is introduced. It’s a perfect envirnment for imagination and ideas. Long before Mrs. Consumer rejects your latest idea in great product. Long before the freight companies can destroy your lastest great idea for your store. No phones, no distractions. Perfect.

Markets have been in various locations throughout the years. There have been regional Markets in San Francisco, Dallas, Los Angeles, Tupelo, Chicago, and a few others I can’t remember. High Point North Carolina has always been the really big deal; although Las Vegas is now trying to dethrone High Point. High Point is the big time because all product was made within 15 miles of downtown High Point

Market locations come and go because the ambitious developer will build a new “Market Center” and set up low leases for the furniture manufacturers to get in on. Then as the years go by and the rents go up the factories simply move on to the next low rent site. It’s hard to justify paying a lot for a permanent showroom space you occupy, and do business in 2 weeks a year. There just is not enough money in furniture at any level to cover the costs.

Anyway… High Point is the big deal and I try to attend twice a year.  I have missed very few markets since 1991.

Mostly I go for the inspiration. New product, fresh opportunities, and to spend time with people I do business with. If a decision on distribution is to be made, putting a face to a company name is always a good thing.

It’s not by chance that Aven’s in Lancaster California is the only store on the west coast that represents Thomasville, La-Z-Boy, Flexsteel, Hooker, Stanley and Canadel all under one roof. I hone these relationships and work hard to justify their business.

That bit of horn blowing having been said…

The economic collapse has changed the way I need to buy for the store. Upholstery is all people are buying today.

I spent all day Saturday with Thomasville, La-Z-Boy and Flexsteel designers selecting new upholstered product for the floor to cover the next 6 months. Did I get it right…who knows? There is no shortage of effort trying. As I tell people who wonder why I would buy goods that don’t sell…”It took Ford 25 years to get the Mustang right again, despite years of trying”.

Trends in upholstery are going blue and teal this year. Grey is still the new black, and silver is very strong in finishes and in fabrics. It all follows women’s ready to wear.

Traditional is also making a comeback. I bought some skirted upholstery frames from La-Z-Boy and Flexsteel, and one very nice traditional bedroom from Thomasville, and 2 from Magnussen.

Casual upholstery is still most popular with color coming back. We won’t just have a floor of brown anymore…thank God.

Casual is the key to all our sales right now. Casual dining, casual occasional tables, casual upholstery. It’s just how we live.

All 3 upholstery factories we deal with produce all their fabric products here in the US with some leather now being more competitively priced here as well.

Thomasville is also expanding Casegoods production in North Carolina as well. Nice to see!

Wood product is far more difficult to buy than upholstery. Casegoods as we call them need to reek of value today in-order to sell in my store.

I visited Thomasville, Stanley, Hooker, Magnussen, and Howard Miller and only bought 3 curio cabinets, 3 bedroom, and 4 table groups among them all. In fact 2 bedrooms and all 4 table groups are all on order from Magnussen.  The third bedroom is from Thomasville.

I ordered nothing from several of our traditional suppliers. One of the Reps; and my friend, told me that he was “very disappointed…very disappointed”.

I was disappointed also. I didn’t fly all the way to NC only to spend 6 hours hours going thru showrooms only to find nothing I thought we could sell.

After so many years of bad business…why are these big importers so out of touch with what people will buy?

At Aven’s we did $280,000 with Hooker in 2009. We did $100,000 in 2010, and this year so far we have done about $15000. Pretty disappointing I would have to say. All the volume sold at levels of profit below what I need to stay open.

Our Thomasville volume and profitability is equally bad. From $350000 in 2009 to, $150000 in 2010.

The big old time factories in the east have been dictating what is offered to the consumer because they have controlled what is produced…shown at market…and therefore shown on furniture floors across America.

Now these old time decision controllers are just importers like thousands of others. They are frustrated by the fact that Mrs. America no longer sees value in what they offer. They are also frustrated by more efficient importers providing new opportunities to retailers across the county savvy enough to see the difference.

Given the thousands of choices now made available…consumers now buy what they want, and spend only as much money on it as seems a value.

We need to show value. And show products people actually want to buy.

There are still quality differences between varying price levels. The saying that you get what you pay for is still valid. There will always be consumers at every price level. Now however the bulk of America can choose reasonable quality at a reasonable price. The better quality goods simply are more stylish, better made and better finished. We will continue to show some of those higher quality products, just in a more sensible way.  The question is whether or not the consumer cares enough about her bedroom set, formal dining set, or occasional tables to pay the extra money to have it.

For me the days of recreational buying are over. For me to order it for my floor I need to be very sure it will sell…and sell at a price that defines me as a business and not a garage sale. The consumer needs to feel the value.

So how do I make up all that lost volume? I need to find something we can sell. Not continue to order goods at Market to make the big importers happy with me.

Lately we have been making up for it with more upholstery, casual dining, and TV console sales.

I am always looking for the next buying opportunity!

In the meantime I will “disappoint” whoever I need to, in-order to stock my store with products people actually want to buy.

Sounds easy…thanks for reading.


April 25, 2011 - Posted by | antelope valley furniture, LA County furniture, La-Z-Boy Southern California, Lancaster Furniture | , , , ,

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