The Furniture Factor
Even at its most basic, the vocabulary of living room and den furniture—“recliner,” “lounger,” “entertainment center”— has
always connoted bucolic comfort and relaxed, easygoing pleasure. That now seems pretty ironic for a category which, tethered to
the coattails of the widescreen flat-panel HDTV, has become one of the pivots of profitability for C-tailers and custom integrators.
Flat panels have created a vast opportunity, and not just for replacing existing sets. With women increasingly becoming the sales drivers for displays, a yen for better furniture aesthetics has taken a front seat in many shoppers’ minds, say C-tailers whose business it is to note such trends.
What else is influencing what clients need and want? And how many choices should C-tailers have on hand? We asked five C-businesses and got some interesting answers.
The Big Picture: Open Their Minds
Matt Kramer, general manager of The Big Picture, based in Englewood, Colo., with three locations in and around the Denver area, answers easily about what he looks for when choosing furniture. “Part of it is the uniqueness or availability of the product—that is, if it’s not widely distributed in big-box stores,” he says. “Certain lines are everywhere, but we try to carry mostly exclusive brands.” However, he adds, “we do have to dance to the beat of the elephant,” so he maintains a smattering of mainstream brands “even though we don’t see the margins on those that furniture stores see on their widely distributed lines.”
Kramer says that no matter the price point, client expectations about furniture miraculously change when they’re in the confines of a showroom that also sells electronics, versus a store that only deals furniture. The bug that bites the client carries the “immediate gratification” venom, whose potency is heightened by the feelings of the moment and excitement that course through most well-executed CE showrooms. At least as far as non-custom furniture items go, Kramer says, they want it now. “It wouldn’t be unusual to see clients walk into a nicer furniture store and order a couch or wall unit and wait eight to 12 weeks for it,” he says, “whereas when they’re coming into a consumer electronics specialty store, they expect to have the product delivered with the TV. So the demands are a little different. If it’s a custom piece, or higher-end seating with specific leather requirements, then the expectations are in line with what they should be.”