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Our Share Of The Pie

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Market research identifies confident and non-confident buyers.

Each year the Home Furnishings Council in conjunction with the AFMA conducts marketing research aimed at learning more about how consumers view their home, home furnishings, and the shopping experience. The research has been designed to give us tips on how we can improve our marketing so that we may sell them more home furnishings.

OUR PIE NEEDS TO BE LARGER: The HFC decided about five years ago that our major job was to help increase the "size of the pie"... so that each manufacturer and retailer can compete for their share of a larger market for home furnishings products. This approach makes sense, because making the market bigger is something that is very difficult for a single company to do... but something that an industry group can accomplish. Think of it this way, if the pie on the left (chart A) is equal to 100% of today's market... then the job of the HFC is to make it more like pie B. Now when company X takes their market share (piece of pie) it is the same share, but equal to more dollars (same share, larger piece shown in chart B).

The pie has grown larger. Numbers compiled by Jerry Epperson of Mann, Armistead and Epperson (at right) show that the industry is in fact today receiving a larger percentage of consumer's disposable income than in 1970. This is the first time our share has increased since the seventies as you can see from the chart. What has caused this? Many things. Among them the fact that baby boomers are having children and nesting, the over 55's are moving or renovating, and we believe, the efforts of the aggressive communications program of the HFC have payed off.

Based on continuing consumer research, the HFC created HAVEN: Planning A Comfortable Home and HAVEN: The TV Show.

The third edition of our printed decorating guide is now in more than 3,000 retail stores with over 2,000,000 copies having been distributed in the past three years. HAVEN television is reaching more than 4,000,000 consumers every month and the numbers are growing daily. These key elements coupled with strong advertising and PR and help from Kathie Lee Gifford, Joy Philbin and a group of Miss Americas, has, we believe, helped bring consumer attention back to the home.

TWO KINDS OF CONSUMERS, TIMES TWO: Our initial research project found that there are confident and non-confident buyers who walk into our retail stores each day. The confident buyer wants to be left alone, thank you very much, and not "helped" at all. On the other hand, the non-confident buyer is afraid to make a decision and needs help.... but is generally afraid of it. The major question has always been... how do we know the difference between the two? Our answer: pay attention, let the consumer ask for help, do not force it on them, be there when they need you and melt into the background when they don't.

To add to this confusion, more recent research has uncovered two additional buyer types:

  • People who are ALWAYS IN the market, and...
  • People who are IN-AND-OUT of the market.

The ALWAYS IN group reads shelter magazines, clips photos like crazy, calls 800 numbers and generally keeps looking for new decorating ideas. They are excited about shopping and decorating and are probably most often the confident buyer. The IN-AND-OUT buyer, on the other hand, hurries in to buy, is satisfied with a single purchase and then moves on to other decisions and, for the moment, forgets about the home. Months later, she comes back in to the market, quickly buys, then leaves again. This is the buyer, probably a non-confident buyer that the HFC (via HAVEN TV) is trying to encourage to spend more time in the market .

Our job is to reach them and encourage them to think of their home and to feel comfortable with their buying decisions. We believe we can bring them into the market more often if they are exposed to our industry's message in their regular media... not the specialized home furnishings media.

This is why we chose national syndicated television for HAVEN, rather than airing it on the more specialized cable or public broadcast station route.

In addition to seeing more buyers, the industry is making progress on another front as well. Recent research shows that a major percentage of consumers want help from knowledgeable store personnel (51 %). This is a five percent increase from a year ago and is definite, statistical proof that consumers do not want to eliminate store personnel. They need them more than ever. Our industry, for years, has called for better trained and motivated store personnel. We still need to improve, but the good news is that consumers need and want your help... and they are very vocal about it.

Progress is being made. The consumer is showing more interest... and where it counts in their pocket books. The HFC believes that we need to intensify our communications effort. We have made almost 2 billion impressions on consumers in the past 5 years... that is 10 exposures for every US household... but we need more. Join with us to keep those retail store doors opening and closing. The consumer remains ready for us... they just need our help.


For more information on HFC programs or questions about this article contact editor@furninfo.com.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.