Submitted by Furniture Professor
It’s time to answer some of the mail that has been piling up on my desk. LB in Colorado writes:
“I need to buy new furniture. Where should I start the process?”
Well, LB, you have started at the right place, your computer. Before you set foot in a furniture store, fire up your internet and look for all the furniture stores in your area. You will find these right here at the Furniche store locator. Before going to their websites and checking out what they carry, take a moment to study any expanded information about the stores. A lot of furniture stores that have websites include a listing of their major brands along with photos of the collections that they carry from those manufacturers. Some sites will list prices but don’t expect that. Retailers want you to come into their stores so that they have an opportunity to sell to you.
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After you have researched what is available in your area, decide what will meet your needs. Things to consider at this time include:
- What style furniture do you like? (read our article "Furniture Styles and My Style Preference")
- What colors will work with the items that you are not replacing or with the carpet and paint that will be staying in the room that you are redoing?
- What is your budget for this purchase?
- Do you like to change your furniture regularly or do you want the furniture to last? read "Make Your Furniture Last Longer"
- Will replacing one piece of furniture require the replacement of another piece?
- How is your furniture used or abused. Do you have rambunctious kids or does everyone that uses this furniture sit ramrod straight with their hands folded in their laps?
After answering these questions, return to Furniche store locator and decide which stores best meet the criteria that you just established. But Wait! That’s not all. Check the stores ratings with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Angie’s List. Good ratings with either of these groups, is no guaranty that you will be happy dealing with a particular store but it is a good place to start. The BBB is a franchise operation. It is not a government agency but I have always been happy with the results. Angie’s List charges the consumer for their information. In my opinion the nominal fee is worth it. Some rating agencies have been known to charge the businesses to be listed. Think about that. Would you want to bite the hand that feeds you? This practice becomes even more questionable if there are multiple levels of membership available to the businesses.
Okay, you’ve narrowed your list to a manageable number of stores but we are still in the Get Ready Sale Phase of your quest. What’s next? You may or may not ask. I’m glad you asked. Go back to the websites of the stores that you are considering buying from. Evaluate their sites. Are the sites gaudy, flamboyant or tasteless? Do the sites remind you of going out of business sales? I would skip these stores. Do the sites or the television and print ads for this store scream 50% to 65% off? Skip that store. My decades in the furniture industry have taught me that outrageous claims cannot be trusted.
Back in the day, when I owned furniture stores in Colorado, a healthy net profit was 3% to 5%. Those numbers have dropped off substantially due to very stiff competition from large chains and online furniture sellers. I know, you’ve got a brother-in-law that’s in the diamond industry and you know that the profit margin is 1000%. If that were the case, everybody would own a furniture store.
I always look to see what the store is taking the percentage off of. If it’s MSRP, manufacturer’s suggested retail price, forget about it. I know of some manufacturers that allow the store to determine the MSRP. The percentage that comes off of the MSRP usually brings the retail price down to a reasonable level. If you do some checking around, you may find a store that has the same furniture for the same price or less. And, the price at the second store may be their everyday price, not a sale price.
I’m painting with a broad brush here but use the above as a guideline. There are probably some reputable establishments doing what I consider shoddy advertising and there may be some shoddy stores with impeccable advertising. My advice boils down to know who you are dealing with.
By the way, if you just want to have some fun sometime, go into a store that always advertises 50% to 70% off and ask them if the item you are interested in has ever sold for MSRP then watch the salesperson squirm. If the salesperson tells you that it is only a guideline set by the manufacturer, ask to see the MSRP list. There is a chance that the salesperson will get a manager and that the manager will ask you to leave.
If you are wondering how retail in America got into this mess, I have some thoughts on the subject. I will save those thoughts, though, for another article.
So, to summarize, we have gone from searching the web and local newspapers for possible stores to shop. We have checked them out with a reputable rating service. We have determined what furniture will meet our particular needs and we have narrowed the list of potential retail stores to shop down to a manageable level.
Well, LB, have I given you a good jumping off point? I hope so. If you need more information, check out my next article that will deal with the actual buying experience. Until then, good shopping!