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Selling Leather Furniture

Furniture World Magazine


What's selling or not selling? That is the question.

There is a product out there that is selling better than everything else. Its called upholstery. And within that category, there is one fantastic shining starleather. People are going nuts over leather. Leather sofas, leather sectionals, leather chairs, leather sofa sleepers are the flashing hot point of home furnishings. And, the new LB/FRANZEN Media Management A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E.S. Survey due out this month supports the strength of leather.

But one little factor hurts our efforts to promote this important category. That is the fact that very few of us want to risk the investment in advertising to announce to the world that our leather is the best of the bestthe value in the marketplacethe one thing that people can count on. After all, it is only one part of one category.

This really points to the heart of the issue the reluctance of retailers to promote according to the 80/20 rule. For those of you who are not familiar with the legendary thesis, it states that we sell the top 20 percent of our product like we are supposed to sell it fast, with excellent turns, at a good margin to 80 percent of our customers. The problem that exists in the home furnishings business is that after we have done that, we tend to try to figure out ways of selling the remaining 80 percent of our product. This causes undue stress because we tend to spend 80 percent of our budgets chasing eighty percent of our stock which doesn't sell as quickly as the "good stuff". We harpoon our own success.

Perhaps it might be a good idea to concentrate more on the 20 percent that sells and continue selling those items rather than attempting to sell duds to people who do not want duds. Price sells duds, sometimes. And with 80 percent duds, the dealer tends to dud himself or herself to death by becoming a price-off store offering only product that is at a certain price. Thus the dreaded PRICE WAR spiral is born The World's Greatest Sale. The World's Greatest Sale Extended. Absolutely The World's Greatest Sale.

It is a dangerous way to do business because it is not focused first and foremost on the customer. We have a responsibility. It is a responsibility to offer to the people within our marketplace product that they want. NOT WHAT WE WANT TO SELL. It's about the customer!

Today, the potential customer wants upholstery. Today, the potential customer wants to look at leather. Today, the potential customer wants to understand leather. Today the potential customer wants to look at how that piece of leather can improve their lives. It's about them the potential customer.

Let's start focusing on what sells leather. Good leather feels good. Good leather wears well. Good leather is a great investment. Good leather is kid proof. Good leather cleans easily. Good leather smells good. Good leather is stylish. Good leather is colorful. Good leather is comfortable. Good leather is good for your business.

Now, how do you suppose we can sell leather the best? No, we are not going to fall into the trap that you should only use television to show how comfortable it is how great it feels how wonderful it looks. We are not going to fall into that trap and suggest television works better than print because it can reach the target audience faster, quicker and with more pizzazz than print. We should not be tempted to add music to the voiceover that improves the "sell" and adds to the "emotion" of the "sell".

But why jest? Of course television can deliver the audience that you need. But the real issue today is not which medium you use. The issue is what you are advertising. Leather is hot! The public wants to buy leather! Offer them reasons why they should buy leather! And, you don't have to yell and scream price or terms to accomplish that task. We already know they want leather. The LB/FRANZEN Media Management A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E.S. Survey reassures us of that fact. All you have to do is offer it to your potential customers. Make the presentation beautiful one that you would be proud to have in your home. Add accessories, tables, lamps and chairs. Make it a room that they WANT to buy. Add a beautiful rug to highlight leather's unmistakable elegance.

We call it "Dream-sell". This is the term we coined to represent that beauty, comfort and style sells to the naked eye. Price becomes a distraction. And when you sell it, romance the product.

The point of this whole discussion is to understand that leather is top-of-mind awareness right now right now in your local community. She wants to buy your product. You have to make it presentable in your store and then make an effort to tell her that you have it.

Sound too simple? Perhaps for many of you it is. But remember we are not dealing in brain surgery here. We are trying to offer leather-upholstered products to our customers.

Why? Because that is what they want. That is what they will be demanding this Fall Season.

And some of the ways you can do that is to wrap a promotion around the season such as "Fashion In Autumn" or "Fall Celebration" or "It's Time For Leather" or something that will catch the potential customer's eye and have her stop her life completely and walk into your store.

Use television. That's where it's at. That's what's happening. That's all for this month.

And remember, "Nobody reads the newspaper any more."

Editor's note: Many consumer inquiries posted to the "consumer message center" on furninfo.com, deal with the quality of leather furniture. Typical inquiries come from consumers who doubt their own expertise and the type of information presented by stores. They are not fully sold on the products they see in stores. Many show product manufactured by one of the "name brand" companies. The trouble is... they learn the name, but nothing else. Nothing about construction quality. Nothing about durability, Nothing about the reputation of the "brand." Nothing about long-term comfort. Without this information consumers have no basis for forming an opinion about the value of a sofa, loveseat, sectional or chair. The following are typical inquiries posted the third week in August.

Dear Russ: I am a consumer interested in buying 'Natuzzi' brand leather furniture. Could you tell me whether Natuzzi has a reputation for good quality and value? How does it compare with Flexsteel, Palliser and others? Also, I was told that Natuzzi is introducing a new line of slip cover furniture. Do you know anything about this line? Thank you for your help.

Dear Russ. I am a consumer. Which is the best buy in leather sofas, Palliser, Flexsteel, or another, when comparing price and quality? I want good quality, but may not be able to afford the best. Thank you.

Lance G. Hanish is the President of Lance Benefield & Co., Inc. Worldwide, a leading marketing communications firm serving home furnishings retailers. Questions on any aspect of television media management or production can be direct to Mr. Hanish care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at lhanish@furninfo.com.