Furniture is hot
Interior shops are changing their collections all the time, this is the reason why our businesses keeps on existing. New items are needed continuously, trends need to be followed to attract and tempt the end customer and our changing lives require new products all the time - in an ever faster pace. A more recent development is that shops are starting to sell products that are not traditionally part of their regular collection. A good example of this added product category is furniture.
Blokker (the Dutch daily and home chainstore) recently announced that they will start to sell furniture (dinner chairs, lazy chairs and products alike). Traditionally they are selling homeware, seasonal decoration and home electronics. Selling furniture is an interesting new direction for them but a logical one. Although furniture is usually big and bulky and will take up a lot of retail space (the Blokker stores are not at all very large), the margins on these items is often higher and the amount of time needed to handle and sell a chair is basically the same as when selling a spoon or teapot. (source: https://www.parool.nl/nederland/eigenaar-blokker-wil-uitbreiden-in-elektronica-en-meubels~ba4d68af/)
Picture sources: Gondola.be, Blokker.nl
The traditional supermarkets (in Holland) sell a variety of nonfood or food related products, often via one time or promotion sales. A newcomer in this assortment are furniture sets. Often offered at the start of the garden/ balcony season, these sets combine 2 seats and a small table, flat packed and in new trendy colors. This new sales channel has other requirements to the product than the more traditional chains do. Packing and clever design help to take less retail space and the more trendy shapes and colors and competitive pricing make that the items compete better with the more traditional channels.
Picture Sources: Science Museum: Lab stool, Hoek, THINKK Studio
Adjusting products for better online sales
There is no need to elaborate that online sales have soared this year. With yet another lockdown the traditional sales channels have had virtually no chance to make their normal sales targets and online became the only way. Contrary to the many success stories of companies switching from traditional to online, there are many who cannot join the online armada. No online sales systems in place, no trained staff, no expertise and the wrong items are often keeping companies from shifting their sales channels resulting in other/ newer companies taking up that market share. And although end consumers will spend more money on home and furniture items this year, there is still only 1 ‘cake’ to divide and the current developments are allowing new parties to enter and perhaps old ones to lose market share. It’s a good time to research and invest in good items to sell online.
Picture sources: Refold, Karolina Tarkowska
Speedy KD products
Online sales requires shipping (obviously) and also the logistic system is different than via the traditional channels. A product, especially when big and bulky like furniture, is best shipped KD (knock down). Our Swedish friends found this out already long ago. This, however, means that upon arrival the receiver needs to put it together by himself. There are tons of funny videos involving KD furniture and how not to do it and nobody appreciates a 100 page manual with tons of little components. The current trend for KD furniture is asking for fast and very simple. Preferably without the use of screws and user ready in under 5 minutes. This sounds like a challenge and it is but when teaming up with the proper experts (engineers, material experts, logistics buffs and furniture designers) something nice can come out of this. And once a new click-or-something system has been developed, designing other collection items becomes much easier. An added benefit is that people really enjoy DIY (do it yourself) projects at the moment and there isn’t anything more satisfying than using the perfect piece of furniture minutes after you have assembled it – by yourself.
Picture sources: CUT furniture, Opendesk, Fabsie by Jon Panichella, MIT News: MADFAB
A manual stays necessary even though the item has been designed for simple assembly, following the KISS method (keep it stupid simple). The much hated white booklets, often with a whole array of typos has been the only way so far. Black and white sketches or stick figures assembling the chair often result in frustration and profanity. Screws are always left over at the end and ‘is that the front or the back’ is an often heard question. To try and relieve customers of some stress and to stay up to date with the latest technologies, Augmented Reality (AR) is used to make manuals showing the customer in 3d how it’s done. Many people are visually inclined and seeing an item being put together right in front of you without an annoying presenter seems the next best thing.
Check this link for an example: https://www.dezeen.com/2018/03/23/ikea-assembly-made-easier-through-augmented-reality-app/