What are the major hurdles the industry is facing this year?

In my most recent episode of The Last Word, I interviewed design diva Amy Archer.

Amy, a Pinnacle winner and someone who happens to be one of the most talented fabric-to-frame fashionistas on the planet, did a deep dive with me regarding the importance of design to an industry that some say spends too much time hunting for the lowest price.

When I asked her if it was possible to have a healthy balance between celebrating design and competitive pricing, she initially surprised me when she cited Target as a company that she believes has figured that out.

“Target did something so brilliant and that was to never underestimate the taste level of the customer … at any price point,” she said.

The minute she said that I realized she hit the nail on the head. I also was struck by the fact that she pointed to a company that, while it sells furniture, does not focus on furniture as its primary business.

That sent me down a rabbit hole marked What obstacles are ahead for us this year?

I made a mental note of some of the major hurdles I think we may be facing in 2024.

Topping my list is the economic outlook, both domestically and globally. In my book, we are still facing the aftermath of Covid-hangover.

The supply chain is still challenged, inflation is still a beast and container costs are shooting up again, along with the prices for food, utilities, consumer debt and more.

The bottom line is that consumers, faced with the choice of a new sofa or keeping the lights on and the pantry stocked, are going to postpone big-ticket, discretionary-dollar purchases.

New and newer technology such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence are proving to be a sharp two-edged sword for the home furnishings sector.

To be blunt, it seems like state-of-the-art retailers and suppliers are typically the first ones to weld that sword, and, often, they use it to cut a path to great profitability while often cutting their less tech-savvy competitors out of the picture.

In this new-normal playing field, it is no longer a case of the big beating the little. Now, it is all about the swift eating the lunch of the sedate.

Changing shopping and buying habits since even before Covid-19 have made consumers moving targets that are increasingly harder to hit.

Several recent studies confirm that since Covid-19, shoppers have shopped more online, shown a willingness to forgo brand loyalty in favor of new brands and, thanks to ongoing inflation, are often migrating to lower-priced goods.

But at the end of the day, both literally and figuratively, consumers need a place to sit, relax, rest and sleep.

Amy Archer was right when she said we should never underestimate the taste level of the consumer.

I would add this: The better we are able to see our products through the consumer’s eyes, the better our chances of seeing that consumer in our stores.

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