Your customers and your business both benefit from an enhanced product mix in several ways.
More products can create greater customer satisfaction by ensuring customers the opportunity to purchase furnishings and accessory items that are coordinated and beautiful. You can give them ideas, then make those dreams come true in a smooth, professional fashion. A wide selection of products can save the customer time and money by shopping with one company or business. Offering a package with many products will save the customer time in shopping, comparison, scheduling and installation. The saying, "Less is more," applies here. When customers spend less time shopping many sources, they find more time to enjoy both their furnishings and their leisure time. Greater product offerings benefit customers by keeping retailers tuned into consumer trends and knowing what consumers want and what motivates them to buy. Understanding consumer trends is of great value because it can unlock the door to success by offering the right products in the right way and the right time.
Businesses benefit by offering more products in many ways. Here are a few of those benefits:
The opportunity for add-ons can turn a single-item, modestly priced sale into a multi-item, substantial sale. Offering products that other businesses don't can give your business a competitive edge. It also can be used as a marketing tool and a reason for customers to tell others about your business and products. More job and product excitement and personal growth can be attained for owners and sales personnel. This stimulus often is a key factor in keeping designers, decorators and sales associates happy with their jobs. It can be particularly effective if their input is sought and valued, and if they are aware of the timetable when new products will be brought on board. New ways for the business to grow and expand can be found. Bringing on new products may open markets you now can only speculate about. It can mean increased sales, increased personnel, opening a retail outlet or expanding to a new location, taking the product into direct mail marketing, the Internet or even franchise marketing. The sky is the limit! Finding new niche(s). If you look at what your specialty is now, it is possible that new products will open new areas of emphasis. By bringing on certain new products, you may find you enjoy those more than your present specialties. Expanding your product line can discover a new world, full of excitement and adventure.
Expanding the Product Mix
How do you begin expanding your product mix? A little research and data gathering is the easiest way to begin.
First: Take a survey of your company's current product offerings -- what you have now and what products are doing well. Ask the sales associates what products the customers seem most satisfied with.
Next: Make a list of which products interest you, your sales force and your customers. Take a survey. A sample survey is shown below.
Now rank the new/enhanced products in order of priority from first to last, or delete products from the list you are certain you never want to sell. This culling out process is healthy because it helps focus the business on a select number of products in which expertise is possible.
Then: Establish a time line. Take the top five or six products and list what month, season or year would be ideal for its introduction to your marketing plan. Then create a master plan.
Make a Master Plan
Although it may be tempting to enthusiastically add several new products at once, there are compelling reasons for adding only one product at a time. The time frame for introducing new products can be close together, say one every two months, or spread out so one area is introduced annually or biannually. However, the time frame should be carefully and rationally considered. Remember these factors:
1. The Time Factor. There must be time to:
Learn about the specifications of the product and to read and understand the product literature. Become acquainted with the business procedures of the manufacturer/distributor/vendor and perhaps to be trained by sales representatives. Get some experience in sales, ordering, installation and trouble shooting for that product and time to evaluate the product's success.
2. The Costs Factor. There will be additional costs for:
Product samples or inventory. The capital costs must be set aside, earned or borrowed. Advertising and marketing. Time required to train employees, and time required to find local fabricators, installers or delivery services. Time required for sales associates to become confident in selling the product, which justify the costs of investing in the product line. Adding employees who may be needed to help with ordering, follow up, scheduling and billing.
3. The Profit Factor. Some ways to ensure a profit on new products include:
Using business forms consistently. Keep careful records. Use a profit evaluation form. Negotiating the deepest discounts through sales reps. Tracking the time involved in making the sale, following it through to completion or installation, and collection procedures.
New Product Sources
The last issue that remains is which vendors or manufacturers to select for your new products. In some cases, just finding the sources can be a challenge. One logical place to begin is at the World of Window Coverings[TM] and Hometextil Americas shows for sources of draperies, alternate window fashions, decorative hardware and trimmings, bedding, linens and accessories. Other trade shows exist for add-on products such as flooring.
Most large cities have decorative marketplaces or trade marts that specialize in interior furnishings or decorative accessories, for example. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and other organizations also publish directories and distribute them to members. And Draperies & Window Coverings publishes an annual Directory and Buyer's Guide featuring a Who's Who in Suppliers.
2. Draperies, curtains, valances Yes No Maybe
3. Trimmings and decorative hardware Yes No Maybe
4. Bed linens, custom Yes No Maybe
5. Bed linens, ready-made Yes No Maybe
6. Bath linens Yes No Maybe
7. Decorative pillows Yes No Maybe
8. Wall coverings Yes No Maybe
9. Wall art and/or mirrors Yes No Maybe
10. Objects of art/accessories Yes No Maybe
11. Floral accessory items Yes No Maybe
12. Custom upholstery Yes No Maybe
13. Broadloom carpeting Yes No Maybe
14. Manufactured area rugs Yes No Maybe
15. Designer rugs Yes No Maybe
16. Oriental rugs Yes No Maybe
Karla J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at Brigham Young University. She is a practicing interior designer and has authored several books including Window Treatments and Understanding Fabrics. Nielson is a regular correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion, education and merchandising.