With 2023 firmly underway and a number of trade shows already under your belts for product inspiration for your businesses, now is the right time to reassess, amend or start from scratch on your plans for the year ahead and what you would like to achieve. With this in mind, we’ve created a handy check list on what key areas should be considered to ensure the success of your furniture retail business.
To start, think about the four W’s –
What to sell
When to sell
Where to sell
Who to sell to
The answers maybe fairly straightforward but they will pose some consideration into different product categories, demographics, selling platforms and key trading periods throughout the year. So, with those W’s in mind, our short refresher guide focuses on setting goals, analysing the market and consumers, strategy building, short-term plans, implementation and performance analysis.
What are your 2023 goals?
Have you already determined what you’re hoping to achieve during 2023? Perhaps it’s as simple as survive, but let’s try to move forward with that thinking and figure out ways on how to do one better. Surviving is obviously important, but forming other goals around this area and breaking the year down into segments can prove to be beneficial than just hoping for the best. Businesses need to set specific short and long-term goals. Instead of setting a general objective to increase sales, you should set benchmarks regarding which product performances need to improve, specific revenue goals, and ideal profit margins for each item. Then there’s the customer experience. Companies should aim to create a personalised experience that attracts and generates returning customers, which is key especially for independent retailers.
Have you analysed the market?
As mentioned, with the new year marking a fresh abundance of furnishing industry products from some key trade shows, it is a perfect starting point to analyse market trends, new products, emerging themes and styles, as well as identifying what isn’t a particular focus anymore. That’s one element to consider, which can help create visions of what new products your store will showcase, while also learning where the market is moving towards. Another element is analysing what your competition is doing. Are they stocking something you’re not? Why? Will this work with your audience? Research can define any risks and opportunities the company may be exposed to and how to respond. Furthermore, you can anticipate upcoming events through planning, for example, next month is National Bed Month and as you can guess there will be plenty of focus around beds, mattresses and sleep. What other market moments are there throughout the year? Or even local events you can get involved with. It’s all geared towards being on top of current market conditions, trends and changes.
What about customer behaviour?
So, you’ve analysed the market, now it’s time to do the same for your customers. If you do not understand your target audience, you cannot correctly launch and promote products to attract customers. It is essential that retailers need to understand what consumers expect from products and brands. This is all about what types of demographics you sell to, monitoring customer feedback, engaging with customers consistently and to avoid becoming irrelevant or stagnant. Understanding your customers’ background, habits, motivations, and even problems they might face during their touch points with your brand will better serve you and your business, as well as leave a lasting impression on the customer. If you empathise with your (potential) customers and put yourself in their shoes, you’ll have a sure-fire method of making sure your merchandise planning strategy is a success.
How to build a strategy
After determining target demographics, you can begin developing effective promotions for products and company identity. Retailers must establish a positive image that not only attracts customers but accurately illustrates what they can expect as well. A retail strategy is also key to be competitive, which can be achieved through pricing, variety, quality, customer experience and relevant promotions. This is why keeping up-to-date with current market trends is key and being able to adapt a strategy to accommodate market or consumer changes. A way to keep track of performance is by analysing sales patterns, popular products and metrics from various sources, but we’ll come on this later.
Why short-term plans are key
Short-term plans help a business quickly understand if a certain product or promotion is working or not, while also allowing areas for improvement and specific periods to focus on. For example, and I’ll refer to next month’s Bed focus, a short-term plan around this maybe ideal for any furnishing retailer that sells beds or products relating to capitalise on National Bed Month. Educate consumers with sleep tips and why certain products will benefit, which goes one step beyond just selling a product etc. Think about other key periods throughout the year to plan for, while also thinking about current trends and how to implement them into your business.
This brings us onto how to implement a retail strategy. The answer can be a variety of methods from trained sales staff on the shop floor, an informative website, a correctly designed floor space, to selling materials and delivering on what your company ethos is. Furthermore, delivery is key and following up with a customer also provides next level service. All the above requires effective management and ongoing commitment in delivering the best possible service for your customers, while learning from potential mistakes quickly. Implementation should never be seen as ‘this task is completed’ as there is always an opportunity to develop and improve further. You may have a model that is ticking over nicely, but failure to consistently analyse processes could be a pitfall waiting to happen.
Once the methods are implemented, you must continuously monitor performance to ensure improvements are consistent. There are many ways to monitor performance, such as customer feedback, surveys, sales tracking, customer engagement in person, to online analytics (including Google Analytics, social channel data and e-marketing metrics), and regular staff training. Utilising these tools and consistently monitoring performance will help identify wins, errors, strengths and weaknesses, which will all feed back into your strategy moving forward. It’s all one, never ending cycle that will help your business perform better than just surviving.
To share a bit of ‘goal inspiration’ for the year ahead, we asked six furniture retailers what their plans are for 2023?
Leekes – We have been developing our new upgraded transactional website which we will be launching in 2023.
Sussex Beds – our goal for 2023 is to successfully open three new Surrey branches for Sussex Beds, and secure the next one for 2024! Along with this is expanding our team to over 80 team members.
Hafren Furnishers – We are hoping to continue to satisfy our customers furniture requirements. We consistently do this across both our Llanidloes and the new Aberystwyth store, as well as online, by offering high quality leading furniture brands at the best possible prices.
Barretts of Woodbridge – Our goal is to maintain our traditional values whilst keeping a fresh eye with our showroom. We also want to keep pushing the ever important ’shop local’ ethos. As well as the physical store, we’re positive with growing our online presence even more in 2023.
Mattress Online – What we want to achieve in 2023 is the opening of more new physical stores to really bolster that omnichannel growth. We will continue to strengthen our commitment to sustainability and introduce new ways to be more accountable in that area. Importantly, we also plan to support our whole team to reach their own individual goals and achievements with training and internal health and wellbeing support.
Vic Smith Beds – You have to sit down and find the time for the creative juices to come up with some ridiculous ideas that you can sift through and find the bare bones of a fledgling idea. Thinking it through with the benefit of hindsight helps you to change, tweak or implement new systems. We will be freshening up the stores pre-summer and having a huge shop model clearance sale.
What 2023 plans do you have?