Following Las Vegas Market is a great time to consider some of the trends driving our industry in 2016. In discussion with people from all avenues of the furniture business –reps, factory personnel, retailers (primarily from the Midwest and West) it was evident that business in 2015 was a great improvement from the previous year and 2016 is off to a good start.
There was definitely a better sense of optimism in market goers. If you happened to wander over to Building C on the gift and accessory areas, the floors were packed with a 15-20 minute wait to get take out lunch at the Whole Foods Market. Of course Winter market is better attended in Vegas than summer market, but it was encouraging for the industry to see the annual kickoff market filled with people.
This is a great market to hear the innovations from the west coast guys that may be different from the retailers and factories we meet back in NC markets. Even though it is generally a shorter market than High Point, it is helpful to pay attention to trends evident in shopping, in conversation and in product assortment. Here are a few observations from market:
1. Technology enhancements are playing an increasing role as the internet of things starts its march into homes. This is definitely a trend we have watched the rise of power recline, electrical outlets built into furniture, and Massage Chair sales. Today’s $7000 retail massage chair will become tomorrow’s $10,000 Massage Chair that might diagnose your stress level and program a calming massage and music to help lower your blood pressure. Of course electronics built into furniture, is here today. But tomorrow we could all have smart refrigerators, thermostats, security alarms or the like. What better place to find these devices than in a home furnishings store?
2. Closely related to technology in the home is technology that is changing the retail brick and mortar store. More checkout automation, big data analysis of consumers buying habits, driverless trucks and vendors that can outsource everything technologically. New vendors are popping up all the time that will innovate the way segments of our business are merchandised through technology allowing brick and mortar stores the opportunity to emulate the selection, convenience and flexibility found online.
3. Millennials are all the rage. At some point every company will have to focus their marketing efforts on America’s 79 million Millennials. Based on the seminars in our industry, I believe furniture is rapidly evolving to attract that group of consumers. Look at the colors presented by factories, the size and scale of furniture, the functionality of offerings and you can see that more and more factories are building product for this generation. This will continue to drive change in workplace communication, marketing strategies, and certainly product merchandising in the future.
4. Made in the USA is bigger and better than ever. With China no longer the low cost producer, and extended container transit times a challenge, the North American Revolution is under way. Fueled by technology that enables manufacturers to produce far more with a fraction of the workforce from days of old, combined with the ability to offer just in time shipping, there is absolutely no need for retailers to play the container game on a host of products.
5. I would be remiss in my trend watch if I didn’t mention the great retail shuffle going on due to Internet retailing. There are internet only retailers and there are brick and mortar retailers that have really embraced what the Internet can do for their business. And then there is everyone else. No matter if you want to be selling on the internet or not, the consumer is shopping there and many times prefers the ease of purchase. All sectors of our business from factories, to reps, to retailers will need to figure out how to manage this new channel.
As always, feel free to leave your thoughts on the above or weigh in with some trends I may have missed that you think will be important in the near future.