Retailers rethink promotions amid supply shortages



Mueller Furniture owner Mark Mueller unloads a product from one of his store’s trucks shortly after speaking to Furniture Today. While product shortage is one area that impacts promotions, so too is the continuing shortage of workers.

HIGHLIGHT – While promotions are a part of every furniture retailer’s calendar every year, supply chain issues and resulting shortages are forcing store executives to reconsider how they select their offerings and attract business. Warning.

Shane Spiller, president of Spiller Furniture & Mattress, a 14-store operation with stores in Alabama and Mississippi, said these days that his stores are focused on selling what is readily available.

“This month we’re having something called the ‘In the House’ sale,” Spiller said. “We have discounts on the products we have in stock to promote and showcase what we have so that we don’t disappoint customers or set expectations that we can’t meet. “

Spiller said the products are discounted based on the length of their stock. “The promotion is based on the last date of receipt. If we received anything two years ago, it’s some discount. If it’s older than that, it’s a bigger discount. It has worked well for us in the past. It showcases what we have and eliminates old products.

He said that with shortages and problems in the supply chain being what they are, creating a promotion around existing stocks is one way to build insurance.

Mandy Jeffries, president of Colfax Furniture, based in Greensboro, NC, takes a similar approach to Spiller’s, focusing on what’s in store or in storage at any given time. She said it paves the way in just about any conversation, even before funding options.

“We really try to focus only on the inventory that we have. We can’t plan far in advance because these days you really don’t know what commodity we’re actually going to get or how the market is doing, ”Jeffries said. “We always try to offer special funding, but it hasn’t been so important recently.

Retooling promotions

While the promotions themselves have changed, the way retailers plan promotions has also been disrupted. Mark Mueller, owner of Mueller Furniture, said his St. Louis area stores typically have 13 or 14 expected sales per year, and that number has been reasonably constant since about 2016. However, the uncertainty surrounding product availability was the source of some retooling. .

“The most important thing you want to do in your advertising is to have an offer that is appealing to customers right now,” Mueller said. “I think right now the answer to that question is availability. We talked about the large selection of custom orders for instant gratification and quality.

Custom furniture has been a big part of his store’s business for years, but Mueller noted that it has gone from 80% to 85% of custom orders between two stores to around 55% to 60% of custom orders. between three stores.

“On the padding, this percentage is even lower. We have to have more stock because the customer wants fast delivery and frankly a lot of stores don’t have fast delivery and we do, ”he said.

Mueller said additional constraints on promotions include the current labor shortage. Highlighting this point, he was driving one of the company’s delivery trucks before speaking to Furniture Today.

The impact on the workforce is also being felt in Corvallis, Ore., According to Eric Blackledge, owner of Blackledge Furniture, and it’s affecting the way he plans his promotions and sales.

“We promote less, but we do it more consistently. We are understaffed, so we minimize promotions, ”said Blackledge. “We advertise more consistently to smooth the flow of customers so that we can handle it. “

Additionally, Blackledge said the promotional plans include a focus on product categories versus specific SKUs, creating a broader sale. “We tried to be more flexible.

coincide with deadlines

Yetzer Homestore in Waconia, Minnesota, has been lucky, according to CEO Thomas Wiest. The store typically plans its promotions six to nine months in advance, which largely coincided with today’s delivery times.

“We’ve been promoting (standard operating procedure) for a few years, so we really haven’t changed a lot,” said Wiest. “We originally had six to nine months anyway, which in the furniture industry is currently the average shipping time. Plus, we do so many custom orders that we eliminate the discussion of lead times with customers very early on, so there are no surprises.

Wiest said that last year, as the pandemic began to affect the supply chain, Yetzer also started deepening orders, which is paying off.

“When the pandemic first hit, we started ordering and stocking goods for the ground. We continued to order from suppliers on a monthly basis to stay supplied, ”he said.

So how long will it take before the supply chain begins to normalize? Retailers agree that it will take time.

“It’s not going to come undone anytime soon and will never come back to 100% like before,” Wiest predicted. “There are too many variables in the market: product shortages, labor shortages, shortages of trucks and logistics containers; too many unemployed; variants of incoming COVID; and there will probably be more.

Blackledge added: “Sadly, much longer than I had hoped, even 30 days ago. I don’t think that will clear up until next year.

Mueller noted that he doesn’t think things will get any better until 2022. “I’ll be happy if they get back to normal in six months. I plan for eight to 12 (months). ”

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