The message of the HFC is shaping consumer purchasing behavior.
When we think of successful industry awareness campaigns, there are few of us who don't remember dancing raisins or celebrities with milk mustaches. Yet, in the furniture industry we have watched our share of consumer spending erode from 1.33% in 1970 to just .97% in 1995. It was this disastrous reduction in consumer spending that thankfully led a group of leaders to organize the Home Furnishings Council.
When we look to other industries such as the meat industry, the dairy council, the cheese industry and the heard-it--through-the- grapevine raisins, we see strong evidence of what an industry coalition can do to heighten public awareness and increase its share of consumer spending. An effective campaign aimed at home furnishings consumers was certainly long overdue. We needed to reach our furniture consumers in the most positive way to point out the beauty and value our products contribute to the home environment.
As a member of the Home Furnishings Council, I have been a part of a team of industry leaders whose purpose was clear: build a coalition of manufacturers, retailers, suppliers and representatives to deliver a compelling message of how our products enhance the home environment. In other words, if we are to be successful in winning back our share of the consumer dollar, we have to tell a story that communicates new reasons why the customer should furnish and replenish.
In an industry where a majority of retail advertising is heavily skewed to promotion and extreme and artificial discounting, consumers receive only one message: price. And the price of our single-message strategy has been to discount consumer confidence in the wonderful kaleidoscope of consumer needs our products can fill. Few retailers have been able to invest the resources needed to develop the kind of broad dialogue with consumers that focuses on new fashion and function, new lifestyles... even what's hot, to get at the benefits our products offer.
As a personal note, Gorman's has regularly undertaken a sampling of its customers to determine what their home furnishings needs are and what information they would like to receive. Interestingly enough, one out of two customers expressed that they did not trust percent off advertising claims and nearly three out of four interviewed felt that 25-30% off was a good deal. Most of them expressed the need to receive information on new uses of furniture, on trends, and how to make their homes function easier.
After all, new trends can provide us with windows to develop just that kind of dialogue.
The Home Furnishings Council has been the leader in helping consumers discover why they need to buy more home furnishings products. Understanding that the consumer is hungry for real examples -- not just pretty pictures in home fashion magazines -- the HFC has published a consumer decorating guide called Haven which is distributed through retail member stores. The HFC has also produced a television show also named "Haven" hosted by Joy Philbin, which is shown in 193 markets. Both are expensive undertakings to fill an unmet need consumers have for useful information.
We are just beginning to see results from these initiatives. A recent survey of television watchers revealed that as the result of watching Haven:
73.8% Became more interested in buying furniture.
91.3% Learned more about decorating their homes.
92% Said they've become more interested in decorating their homes.
79.4% Said they learned how to better judge quality.
29% Actually purchased furniture.
Furniture retailers generally maintain an individualistic approach to the industry and refrain from cooperative approaches. Changes in consumer awareness and purchasing patterns dictate that we must work together if we are to be successful in attracting more consumer dollars. It simply is not economically possible for us to make a dent in raising industry awareness through our own limited dialogue with consumers.
We can make a difference together! If you are not already a member of the Home Furnishings Council, please join now!
Jerry Epperson, the often quoted furniture analyst states, "The efforts of the HFC with its publication, the successful "Haven" television program and its many efforts to educate the consumer on the benefits of today's home furnishings have yielded solid results. We believe the industry should be proud and enthused over the accomplishments of the HFC."
We at Gorman's honestly believe that an enlightened public will ultimately benefit our customers and our industry. Please join in the coalition now! We are just a heart beat away from having our own dancing raisins.
Bernie Moray is President of Gorman's Furniture and is on the Board of Directors of the Home Furnishings Council. For more information on HFC research and programs, contact FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.