I absolutely love furniture and I’m happy that my agency has been able to bring value to the industry for a while now. It is a difficult industry to be a part of with lots of competition and some extremely successful companies that seem to show everyone else how things should be done. As much as it is driven by style and trends, it has also become very much a commodity market.
I decided to write about starting a furniture brand so I can share my experiences as my agency’s brand director. I have worked with many types of companies, entrepreneurs, and business owners, and I hope I can help new designers get better oriented and improve their chance of success. After starting my own agency two decades ago, I discovered firsthand how challenging it is to fund your own artistic or design oriented business. It is also challenging because things are constantly changing, so knowing your business model is going to be very crucial to success.
Here are 5 questions to answer as you start building your furniture brand.
Number one. What type of value are you bringing to the marketplace?
The first question you should ask yourself is “what is your mission statement?” To figure this out, ask yourself why you are getting into the furniture business and if you have the determination to make a long-term commitment. Next, identify how you intend to bring value to the marketplace whether it is selling directly to consumers, into hospitality, or through brick-and-mortar retailers. There are millions of furniture products out there at every price point, in every style imaginable, and there isn’t a whole lot that the industry hasn’t seen at this point. This doesn’t mean that a fresh perspective or a very strong business model can’t shake things up. This aspect is the foundation of creating a unique market position. It’s very important to love furniture and to have a passion for design, but passion simply isn’t enough. You must develop a strong mission and vision for your brand, so that you can develop a unique positioning statement to refer to and work from.
Number two. What type of furniture are you going to sell?
There are furniture products in the market at every single price point, style, and type imaginable; and there are also many combinations of each one of these three aspects. You have to be very certain of the type of product you are going to be designing and the quality of how it will be manufactured. Determining the overall value of the product are you going to be selling will have an influence on your business model, marketing model and just about everything else that you do regarding your business. For example, if you have a very high end modern seating line, chances are you will be much more limited as to who you sell to, compared to selling the common comfortable sectional at an affordable price.
Number three. What is your price point?
Your price point will be determined by a number of different factors, including the type of furniture you choose to sell and who you plan to sell it to. Choosing the right price point for your product can make or break your company. If you bring a product to market that is too expensive you will most likely be selling very low volume and to an exclusive crowd. If that is the case, chances are you will not be able to reach a financial model that is worthwhile, or you may then be forced to have many products in order to have a more full-scale line. If you’re bringing to marketing a cost-effective product, you have to realize that there is a lot of competition already in that market space, and you will also compete with products coming in from overseas. Although getting to the affordable price point may seem more attractive, it might not be easier than getting in with products at a higher price point.
Number four. Who are you going to sell to?
This is a twofold point: 1. Who is your target market at the consumer level, and 2. Will you seek retail relationships, and if so, what types of retailers you will sell through. You might also choose to sell through designers or the hospitality market. Knowing where you are selling to will have a tremendous effect on your price points and distribution model as well as the manufacturing of your products.
Number five. Are you able to protect your designs?
This is probably one of the most difficult points to address — especially for those that are passionate about the design of their products. Truth be told, there are hundreds of thousands of designs that have been created over the last 2 to 3 centuries and chances are that most designs will resemble these designs or an aspect of them. Even if you create a new twist to your product or design, if the market really likes your products, you are going to be copied. That’s a fact. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. This is where having a patent for your design comes into play, protecting either the form or function of the product, or the design itself. As you will quickly find out, patenting a product is very hard to do. This is where building a strong brand identity, and image, and creating awareness for it as it relates to your product is of crucial importance. If you’re going to be copied, at least let people know you were the original.
So, is there a “Magic Formula?”
These five steps cover various aspects of developing and planning your furniture brand. And they’re meant to serve as guidelines. There is no magic formula in furniture. Loving what you do and what you create, and having a taste for business, will help tremendously. But there are several other factors that are involved and play into each other when considering the furniture brand.
We’d love to know – Are there additional key points you asked yourself before launching your brand?