Having run a high street furniture retail store in the past, and now launching the UK’s first sofa manufacturer dedicated to independent retailers, I am often asked for my thoughts on the future of the high street. I feel that independent retailers have the potential to offer customers so many benefits over and above multiples. So, using my 25 years of experience in the sector, I have put together my top pieces of advice to help high street furniture retailers to thrive during 2014.
Keep focused – be clear on your customer
I have seen retailers which try to be all things to all people. I think the key to success lies in knowing your brand and your target market and ensuring a focused and consistent message through all contact you have with customers. Trying to please everyone can have the opposite effect.
Engage with your customers
Customers enjoy shopping at independent furniture stores as they like to feel they are supporting their local community and they can get friendly advice from a member of staff who really knows their stuff. Make sure your staff take the time to engage with customers and can make helpful suggestions to suit their needs. It is also useful to get customer feedback to help you make improvements if required.
Keep your pricing fair – for you and your customers
This means fair for you as well as your customers! While consumer spending has dropped, people are still willing to pay for a high quality product. Make sure your customers are aware of the added value benefits your products offer. For example, are they British made? Do they come with a 10 year limited warranty? Are they available on a fast lead time?
Sell a lifestyle, not a piece of furniture
Buying a piece of furniture is an emotional decision as well as a practical one. Make sure the layout and styling of your store helps to convey the right emotion. Your customers need to be able to imagine your products in their home, so make that as easy as possible. It may sound obvious, but I have seen many shops with half-finished displays or piles of packaging waiting to be thrown out. First impressions really do count, so make sure it is a good one.
Differentiate – stand out from the crowd
Work out the benefits that your store has over any others and then shout about them. Perhaps you are the only stockist in your area for a certain range, or you have specialist knowledge you can share with customers. Knowing what makes you different can help you maintain a strong profit margin.
Wishing you all the best for 2014!
About the author
This blog was written by Darren Hargreaves, managing director of Freedom Sofas. Freedom Sofas has been launched specifically with the needs of independent furniture retailers at heart. It will offer exclusive products, meaning that high street retailers no longer need to worry about margins being squeezed by multiples.