Makes customers feel good about shopping for home furnishings.
We are surrounded these days by negative images. Survey after survey, poll after poll, reports the declining public perception of one profession after another, of public skepticism of promises and claims. These perceptions extend far beyond the political arena. In the furniture industry, negative images directly affect retailers.
An industry that finds itself sliding toward the bottom of public opinion typically reacts with agonizing self-examination. The media and the legal professions are familiar recent examples. Even our industry has indulged in a certain amount of breast-beating.
Part of this creeping negativism is a product of our times. We encounter incivility everywhere; expressed as an in-your-face attitude that turns public contacts offensive. It can make people dread having to deal with other people, whether at a store or office, on the street, or at a stop light.
Thankfully, there are signs that people are weary of this barrage of negatives. We sense a sigh of relief and widespread receptivity toward people who practice civility, and to ideas that communicate hope and optimism. Miss Manners is widely read and widely quoted in her efforts to bring a return to civility in exchanges between people. We note a growing tendency not to reward those who make a parade of being deliberately offensive or "bad." One national news magazine has called it a return to "niceness".
In the furniture industry, we have been aware for some time of a growing sense that our customers view their homes as their only refuge from a world of hurry and incivility. Many of our retailing efforts have obviously attempted to answer the resulting consumer needs.
Nevertheless, shopping for the home is one of those activities that some consumers still rate high on the scale of unpleasantness. Further, a manufacturer or retailer can inadvertently buttress those negatives if the company is seen as promoting price, price, price.
Against so many negative assaults, a positive message can be a breath of fresh air reflected on those who bring it. A few furniture retailers have long embraced this concept in "institutional advertising." While we keep studying new ways to make shopping fun and even rewarding; the message we need to get across is so broad that no one dealer or manufacturer can do it alone.
The messages of the Home Furnishings Council (HFC) not only help us present our most positive aspects, they are extraordinarily timely. Every image projected by HFC focuses on the pleasures of the home, and on realistically achievable schemes for creating comfort zones within the home. The HFC helps consumers to make their homes the "haven" they desire.
Haven, HFC's TV program, is reaching a growing audience, now carried on 175 stations, with viewership estimated at 2 million per week. The typical telecast results in 3000 telephone inquiries, which are referred to the nearest member dealer. The third edition of Haven's decorating guide available through member dealers, is full of creative ideas and suggestions. These are tools every retailer can use to help create his own positive image.
In short, HFC is the retailer's partner in making its customer feel optimistic once again about going shopping for her home, and in augmenting her pride and happiness in the home environment she is creating.
Bruce Lauritsen is President and CEO of Flexsteel Industries, Inc., a more-than-century old manufacturer of fine upholstered furniture and a member of the Board of the Home Furnishings Council. For more information on HFC research and programs, contact FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.