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Editor's Corner: Everyone Loves An Underdog

Furniture World Magazine


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How can independent retailers, the recognized underdogs of our industry, compete with online behemoths and expansion hungry top-25 chains?


Malcolm Gladwell, author of “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” might suggest they re-consider the Old Testament tale, “David and Goliath”.

This story, a metaphor for a miraculous underdog victory, chronicles a high-stakes battle between Goliath, a well-armed Philistine giant, and David, a shepherd boy. Goliath was seen to be the hands-down favorite, but David’s victory, suggests Gladwell, was not a miracle.

Gladwell says that slings like the one David used to win the day were incredibly accurate and powerful weapons. This and other evidence he presents, points to his conclusion that Goliath was over-matched by superior technology and by a rival who didn't follow expected rules of engagement.

“What we should think of,” Gladwell noted in a recent TED Radio Hour interview, “is not underdog versus favorite. It is rather the difference between established, powerful, large, and a nimble audacious outsider.”

I won't pass judgment on the merits of Gladwell's analysis, but his observations as they relate to our business are worth considering. Most important of these is that settled opinions upon close examination, are very often just plain wrong. Also, that nimble and audacious “underdogs“ can be superior competitors when armed with fearlessness, superior technology, market insight and strategy.

Giants are intimidating, but large size and power always come with vulnerability. There's hope for “Nimble and audacious” competitors. And, in our world of home furnishings retailing, design-oriented independents and experience-focused retailers like the ones you will find profiled in the January/February issue of Furniture World, often seize the day.



Russell Bienenstock is Editor-in-Chief of Furniture World Magazine, founded 1870. Comments can be directed to him at editor@furninfo.com.