I arrived in Texas ready to hit the Dallas Market Center running. I didn¹t have as much time as I wanted to see the Holiday and Home Expo, so I needed to get to work quickly. Two men in the cab line were going there, too, so we shared a ride.
I learned that both were from a lighting showroom in the Twin Cities. They were shopping the Lighting and Accessories Market with another colleague who they would meet at the mart (surprisingly, that colleague turned out to be a woman who had worked for me 20 years ago when I was the Merchandise and Operations Manager for Room & Board stores).
When he learned that I was the voice behind The Trend Curve, one of the men asked my opinion of adding accent furniture and rugs to lighting assortments. He told me they had done so a while ago and, while sales were brisk at first, they dropped off. Why? Because big box and mass retailers were also selling these categories — and for less.
I couldn¹t help but connect the dots between this conversation and another I had last week with someone from the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association. The topics were really the same: how to compete in a market of sameness and against huge buying power. My remarks were similar in each situation: go for unique.
One of the biggest trends to hit the market is that consumers want to personalize their environments. And one of the best ways to do that is with artisan products. Of course, not everyone can afford to buy them but that doesn’t mean that their addition will not have a halo effect on a retailer¹s assortment, making all of it look and feel unique.
My suggestion in both conversations was to pick a percentage not less than 15% — a large enough portion of the assortment to have a visual impact on the floor but small enough to mitigate risk — and devote it to artisan product that turns quickly so the store always looks different.
The exact point of view will vary by store. Some retailers will find contemporary products are the best fit. Others will gravitate only to items made of natural materials. Another group will want their artisan products to have a Global point of view. These items, unlike anything sold in mass and big box locations, will draw consumers in and keep them coming back.