07 Oct

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Crackerjacks

baseballIn this morning’s New York Times I was struck by recent purchase of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field by the Ricketts family from TD Ameritrade fame. This reminded me of furniture store stories for several reasons. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series for 101 years, Wrigley Field is the second oldest ball park in MLB and the Ricketts family made all of their wealth changing the rules of the stock trading industry. This same juxtaposition is taking place right in front of us in our industry daily. Opportunity abounds. Our 100 year plus casegoods and textile businesses are dying painfully. New ideas for design, distribution, pricing, etc. are presenting themselves daily. At the same time, the hanger-on-ers continue to hang-on. Old thinking is sucking the life from many. The Cubs and Wrigley were both owned by the same company, The Tribune Co., which is operating under bankruptcy protection. So is the Los Angeles Times and several other recognizable newspapers. Furniture stores continue to typically spend over one-third of their marketing budgets using this failing delivery vehicle. Paid content news providers are growing by more than 25% annually. Aggregation websites such as Fark, Boing-Boing, ebaumsworld, CollegeHumor and Digg, and the sheer filtering efficiency of social networks do a pretty good job of separating the wheat from the chaff. Online search is now part of nearly every furniture purchase cycle, reportedly reaching 95% during the last twelve months. So, who will be the Ricketts family who changes the furniture landscape in the coming years? It will be the folks who laugh out loud when they read quotes like this one by Elbert Hubbard, “Parties who want milk should not seat themselves on a stool in the middle of the field in hope that the cow will back up to them.” Bob Garfield, Robert Picard, and Greg Stielstra are all making the case that we have entered the post-advertising age. How are you allowing your customer to engage with your company? How are you answering her concerns on her terms? What have you provided as a communications platform to allow her to tell you how you are doing? At The Lively Merchant we are focused on the future. We won’t waste you money on pie-in-the-sky wild ideas. More importantly we won’t waste you money on nearly worthless newspapers just because it is the way it’s always been done. I haven’t passed a horse and buggy on the highway recently. Have you?

One thought on “Buy Me Some Peanuts and Crackerjacks

  1. Mary Frye, HFIA

    David, change is alarming and doing what you’ve always done and what you know how to do is somehow comforting. However, you don’t get different results if you don’t change methods. When you are lost in the woods, going in circles will mean that you stay lost. Making the changes that you recommend makes sense but sounds uncomfortable. If I owned a store (I don’t but I know a lot of people who do) how would I find out how my customers and those I want to be customers want to find out what I have for them? How I like to get information about things I need or want to buy isn’t a good reference point because I’m at the point in my life that I don’t need more things and I think I know who I want to business with…however, as I type that, I remember that I’m thinking about going online to look for new rugs for my kitchen and the ones that are being replaced were bought in a store. So there you go – I may not be as set on who I want to do business with as I thought. However, to communicate with me electronically, a retailer would need to get my permission to email me at work because after being on the computer all day long in the office, I don’t get on the computer at home unless I have to. The home computer is my husband’s domain and he’s not likely to tell me about something from a retailer unless he knows we are in the market for something. Marketing decisions are tough ones.


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