September 23, 2002,
After attending a number of European home furnishings shows over the past several weeks and reading reports on consumer buying trends in apparel in particular, one thing is sure.
From preview conversations with home furnishings suppliers in the United States, and then seeing the offerings in England, France and Belgium, safer is surer than innovation and creativity for many on the supplier side of the consumer product equation.
To create excitement, or perhaps replace creativity, many suppliers are turning to designer or celebrity names as their raison d' etre in the marketplace. It's not that many of these names or brands don't reflect a significant level of creativity, but too many suppliers seem to be jumping on this bandwagon without thinking through the entire process.
This includes having a retail customer base that will support the brand or name, and having the wherewithal to market the program beyond the retail community.
Too often, suppliers linking up with a brand or celebrity see it as an opportunity to move into new — for them — retail channels.
Then came a report on consumer attitudes about designer names and labels. If there ever was a high alert issued, this one certainly ranked at top of the list.
Bottom line, consumers are increasingly unwilling to be the billboards for designer or product names. Actual designers' and retailers' sales percentage drops in these categories are cited. And they reveal a powerful change in the way us folks are looking at the things we buy — for ourselves, and sooner or later for our homes.
This trend, of course, comes just as the world of home furnishings is in full swing to promote names and designers as a key way of capturing some consumer interest.
So now we are in a time frame where the global economy is having a negative impact on innovative and creative design. There are some who challenge this approach, believing that when economies are in the doldrums it is the time to move ahead with product creativity. And at the same time, one of the key marketing elements — designer/brand names — is seen as ebbing.
Whither home furnishings as a brand?