Are you in the furniture business or show business?
A little boy asked his father, "What is that, Dad?" "Well, son, those are twenty-eight midgets sitting in a tree." "Dad! We don't call them midgets any more. They are disadvantaged small Americans.", said the son. "Oh,"replied his father. "Now, what is that, Dad?" asked the son. "Well, son, that is a tree with a lot of smallish people in it waiting to fit in with the mainstream because they are disadvantaged small Americans. Now there are twenty-seven." "What happened to the other disadvantaged smaller American, Dad?" "I don't know son. But when we were approaching the tree, there were twenty-eight. And now that we are almost there, there are only twenty-seven." "Why are they disadvantaged small Americans, Dad?" "Well, son. They just don't fit into the chairs we sell."
Which brings us to our monthly gathering around the table. On the "Practicals" side of the table, we have the discussion of what to do for July. On the "Idealist" side of the table we have the discussion regarding the Fall. It's just a little too late to begin planning on what to do this summer. It's here. In Wisconsin, it's nearly over. (Note: The old joke..."How many seasons are their in Wisconsin? Answer: Two. Winter and Road Construction."). Summer, for all practical marketing purposes is over. It is time to plan for the Fall.
Fall can be an exciting time for home furnishing dealers. There is a lot of creativity that can go on when building your displays. That's right! It's time to start thinking about how your store looks for the new season. She wants to see something different... not just different product on your floor... but something different in how your store looks. After all, department stores change their internal appearance during the course of the year. Why shouldn't home furnishings dealers do the same?
But what can you do? Well, let's see. Fall represents many things to many different people. Fall means falling leaves. Fall means changing colors. Fall means football. Fall means marshmallows. MARSHMALLOWS? O.K. To some of us, Fall means a lot of different things. So let's incorporate those different things in our displays.
Last year, a store in San Diego carried the Fall leaves project from outside of the main entrance of their store to the inside... up the aisle to a platform where they were offering a new product. Another store in Cleveland painted the leaves on the floor of their new display. In Southwest Florida, where leaves do not turn, they used Sea Grape leaves, painted them gold and imprinted the gold leaf on the windows in a dropping fashion, and onto the floor. All were bold and beautiful statements. Guess who the dealer in Southwest Florida was? Of course, it was Robb & Stucky. You would expect that type of innovativeness from them. And the other dealers? They weren't in the furniture business.
Use your imagination. But the "Practicals say, we're in the furniture business." The Idealists say, "We're in show business." And if you want to see this carried to the end, visit Jordan's. There you will see things in a furniture store you will never see anywhere else in the world. That is exactly the point. People love it. And guess what? We are in the people business.
In South Bend, you can see Busk Brothers carrying on a football theme within their stores. And what do you think Barrows in Opp, AL, could be pulling out of their sleeves in the Fall. Steinhafel's in Madison, WI can bring out the Red. While Nebraska Furniture Mart could be bringing out Red of a different color. Homestead House in Denver will be showing the Buffalo, while Gabbert's in Minneapolis could be displaying the Golden Gopher. Mason's in Seattle could be pushing the Huskies, while Raymour & Flanigan in Syracuse will be pushing the Orange. How about R.C. Willey and the Cougars and Louis Shanks pulling for the Longhorns in Austin?
And why not? Football is part of the legacy of America in the Twentieth Century. Bring it into your stores. And if you think you are above all of that, remember the colors of Fall. Or if you live in San Francisco, remember when the Opera opens.
You can use the fall in so many different ways. There are new products which will be arriving onto your floors. It's a great time to promote leather. How about that new Natuzzi Shabby Chic look and run that fabulous video with it. How about "Leather In Autumn" as a great promotional umbrella for the entire home furnishings industry. Why don't we all promote leather and once and for all begin to tell the public how great leather is for their homes no matter HOW MANY CHILDREN THEY HAVE.
Let's think about the colors of Fall. The reds and oranges faded yellows, the pumpkins and browns. These can all be used to decorate our stores. maybe a Homecoming Celebration could come into play. Remember when you made those floats for homecoming. Ah...the smell of crepe paper in the air. The feel of straw on your feet. The crispness and coolness of the season after a warm summer of remembrances.
You see, the "Practicals" can't win this one if the "Idealist" insist on planning for Fall. This is the "Idealists" time. This is the time to have fun and enjoy the business you once thought was fun when you first joined it. This is a time for a new beginning.
When we conducted a survey last year to find out if there was a common thread between the dealers in the home furnishings industry who were successful, we found the answer everyone has been looking for.
The magic bullet? They all enjoy their work immensely. They are having fun. They feel the confidence of success. And none of that started until they turned away from the grind of day to day business and demanded of themselves that they were only going to do things that made them feel good.
Imagine... feeling good about what you were doing in the store today. Imagine... making that display which people came up to you and said was really great. Imagine...people having smiles on their faces. Imagine... having the salespeople happy about working at your store. Imagination...that's all it takes.
Let's get back to leather one more time. Let's make the period from September 10th until September 30th, National Leather Home Furnishings Month. Everything that we do during that period should reflect something regarding leather. Have in-store seminars about leather. Bring in the leather experts from around the world into your store. Have displays showing leather's durability. Have kids jumping up and down on that white leather sofa....with dirty shoes. Imagine, the impact that would have on the mother to see how easy it is to maintain something that is so stylish and comfortable in her own home. If you handle Italian leather, offer a trip for two to Italy. If you handle Hancock & Moore, offer a trip for two to... Hickory, NC. Ouch! No. Just offer them luxury and unimaginable comfort. You get the idea. Promote the product because it is top of mind awareness. She wants to buy upholstery. Why not tell the world that you handle leather.
I'm getting excited about the Fall just writing about this category. If you need help on getting your act together regarding National Leather Home Furnishings Month, I'll bet ten lire Pasquale can help you. And I know someone who can do your television commercials as well. (Pssst. Lance Benefield & Co. WORLDWIDE is in that business. Just thought you should know.)
Imagine the smell of leather throughout your entire store. Imagine the great look of hides everywhere. Imagine, turning your store into a great display of leather products. Imagine becoming an exciting retailer again.
This is your time "Idealists". This is the time to stand up and say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking this anymore. I want my leather!".
So the son asked his father again, "What is that, Dad?" His father stated, "It's a tree full of leather sofas, son.... disadvantaged leather sofas that only want their time in the sun...a time to shine. They want to shout out... we're a good product. Why doesn't anyone promote us the way they do other things in this world? That's what their saying son." The son listens carefully, walks a few steps and says..."Dad. I liked that a lot more than the story about midgets."
Hope we all have the message this month. It's all about making your stores exciting. You deserve it.
OK. All together now...It's time to stop selling used cars. Start selling home furnishings.
It is a TERRIFIC TIME TO SELL HOME FURNISHINGS. Make sure you do it right this year.
And remember nobody reads the newspaper anymore.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.