"Strengthening a Weakened Industry" from Decor Jan, 1930

Marc Lizer

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 28, 1999
North Hollywood, CA
*Strengthening a Weakened Industry*

*Manufacturers and Dealers in the Furniture Field put Their "House in Order" to Meet Competition*


Manager, Public Relations Division, Showers Brothers Company, //Bloomington//, //Ind.//, in/ /"Executives' Service Bulletin"/

A PICTURE of the furniture industry is not a particularly inspiring one. Too many retailers, too many manufacturers are in distress. There are opportunities for mergers in the factory branch of our industry, actually a need for them too, if we are /to /continue stalwart enough to meet the competition of other industries. Just let me cite one thing: There are only about 100^, concerns in our business whose annual output exceeds $1,000,000. The average for the industry is an output of $500,000 per factory. Many factories in our competing industries are spending more than that for advertising alone. That situation, of course, will have to be adjusted. Price cutting, heavily discounted closeouts of discontinued patterns, *fluctuating discounts, uneasy credit termsthese *and other ills beset us. Industry has left to the dealer most of the responsibilities of selling the public. *Price rather than style and design has become paramount.*

The First Forward Step Retailers are strengthening their associations, national, state and local. Manufacturers are getting together into a broad association covering all of *the crafts, *most *ably directed. *The two are. learning how to work together. That is a lesson we most earnestly need to learn. All these years retailers have been fighting among themselves, manufacturers among themselves, and retailers with manufacturers, and our story has not been properly told to the public. All branches of the industry are getting together for the first time in a joint campaign to spend a minimum of $1,000,000 a year for four years in national publicity to reawaken interest in the home. That is to start this fall.

*Showers Brothers *Company, 61 years old, one of the oldest in the^. business as well as the largest, was completely reorganized in February, 1928, in anticipation of a new day. The cardinal principle of the new administration, as *stated *by President J. M. Nurre, is:

The^, time *has come for *the furniture manufacturer to work *more closely with his dealers in merchandising furniture to the public.*

We are firmly committed to the belief that, by thus working together, we can build a more profitable business for each other.

We are concerned now with what hapvens ~o Qur tnercandlse aher 'A reaches the dealer's floor. Our energies are di rected toward assisting him in moving it off his floor into the customer's home, speedily. To that end we have developed a retail promotional department headed by men whose entire experience before had been retail. We know the retailer's problems. We can and do speak his language.

To make ourselves ready, we built and eqWpped a $100,00^, 0 research laboratory, the first of its kind in the furniture -business, separate from our twelve factories and independent of them, under the direction of the sales department. It is manned by our staff of designers and by workmen chosen for their special ability. Here all our new patterns are sketched, planned and first built. Here all the processes of manufacture are being studied, tested, revised. Some of the machines were designed for this special purpose.

Through this laboratory we hope to bring to all furniture, and to moderately priced^, furniture particularly, improvements that otherwise might be delayed for years. Already we can see through reports from our retailers, worthwhile progress.

Selling Merchandising Ideas

This under way, we organized a sales force which could present this merchandising picture to merchants. They are selling merchandising ideas, plans not just furniture. And today merchants are greeting our -men, not with the old song, "No, I don't need anything today," but with the new: "Come in here a minute, I want to talk to you. Now, under such circumstances, what would you *suggest, etc.?" They appreciate *that we really are sincerely trying to work with them. '

As the vehicle through which we can carry out the plans for working together as they develop, we have been organizing what we call the /Showers 2,000 Dealer /Club, a group of independent merchants which is working with us. When we presented that idea to the trade, we offered along with it the /Showers Selling Service, /a series of timely merchandising events-selling plans actually proved by retail stores. Primarily, ;through this service, we are showing merchants that furniture can be sold at regular profit. In a short three months, dealers bought from us more than two *million fourcolor newspaper-size promotional circu*Lxnn, w, ue, fm further editions.

Group Meetings of Dealers

Our merchandising representatives conduct *meetings in dealers' *stores, presenting new ideas in selling. *Complimenting these, we sponsor group meetings of dealers at central *points at *which I have *had the privilege of presenting a discussion of recent developments in merchandising, store management and retail selling. We have had *seventy-five or eighty *of these meetings in twenty-two states during the past eight months.

In these group meetings we presented the retail trade as a whole, as well as our own dealers, with information on three outstanding developments of the day in our industry: '

1. Sales analysis or price line study, through which stores can learn the *better selling items in their stock *and organize their inventories accordingly.

2. How to strengthen the credit situation by the adoption of the /cash-priceplus-carrying-charge /plan of instalment selling. ('The practice heretofore in our industry has been to mark merchandise on a time basis and allow a discount for cash. The past year has seen many stores change over to the cash price basis.)

3. How to sell furniture, not as pieces of furniture merely but as groupings, room ensembles, giving people an idea and a picture of the use of furniture.

As our dealers and ourselves worked more closely together, we discovered a serious lack of real selling information. There are many books on interior decoration, color harmony and room arrangement, but all of them are written about the finest furniture made. The census says 85 per cent of our people have incomes under $5,000; the bulk of the business in stores is on furniture retailing under $225. The principles are the same, of course, whether applied to moderately priced furniture or to the most expensive. However, nobody had applied them to moderately priced furniture. The stores lacked the confidence to give customers who really needed it advice on how to furnish their homes.

^; So we are undertaking to supply that need. Last spring we established the /Showers Home Furnishings Advisory Bureau, /*another instance where ours is the first such effort by a furniture manufacturer.*

Selling Roam Settings

We are issuing bulletins picturing room settings in *color, showing in proper *(Ptease turn to page 56) *m o per cenz *m nouaay mall:n~~ ~_ _^, reeting cards in 1929 from the 1;^, _'- recorvl. Inquiry among dealers elicited the information that the decline w:+~ .~+,lely in the cheaper cards, and ti^- .,+t, in fact, a strong last minute den.~:e ;eveloped for higher-priced pho`~gravure card• and etchings. The latter, unmarre-l by the name of the sender and _.::table for framing, are coming more an~i more into vogue. The sender's name, nr:nt-i on a small slip, is pasted on li(_^, }aly an([ can easily be detached.

In spite of the many dire predictions tw the contrary, holiday sales of framed pictures and mirrors by New York re;ailers turned out very satisfactory. Picture specialists were almost unanin:1)u~ in expressing the opinion that busiwe" was better than they had expected it to be. In several of the department stores that featured framed pictures and mirrors in their holiday advertising and window displays sales made so much better a showing than those in many other departments that picture and mirror buyers were much encouraged. The down-town specialty picture stores did a remarkably good holiday business.

*Buy Art Right Off Walls of Clothing Store*

A Chicago merchant's whim has put the fine arts on the profit side of the ledger and in a business that is thoroughly disassociated from the so-called fine arts.

Sometime ago when A. Starr Best discontinued a number of departments for milady and resolved to maintain an exclusive men's and boys' apparel shop, the interior of the store was remodelled. It was A. E. Bastien's own love for rare old things that impelled the idea of using the fine arts as his inspiration. Only the thought of decoration was in his mind.

Oil paintings and sporting prints were hung to embellish the walls. Merchandise was displayed in old, handcrafted cases which Mr. Bastien had collected in thirty years' study of antiques. Bits of tapestry and other choice fabrics were draped here and there to give aristoeffect to such prosaic things as hats and dressing gowns. wl1^, : twre we knew it," says Mr. Bas, "''ur friends were buying our decright off our walls. They came ryolPnish the wardrobe and went :' w:th t'_-,ings of beauty and recognized ... ...~ sit for their homes, also." wf~_,t does it pay?" Mr. Bastien was wTEi~ particular department is more t:-an s21,000 ahead in sales over last year." lI. n are interested in art, in fine things. And they prefer to select them at leisure in at atmosphere that is positively masculine."


arrangement moderately priced merchandise of the type of which dealers sell most. Thus we are developing a sales manual for the men in stores who receive these bulletins. We are showing them how to sell floor coverings, draperies, and the other accessories-a complete grouping or room setting instead of just pieces of furniture. We have an experienced young woman as director of this Bureau, not a "high-brow" interior decorator, but a practical home furnishings stylist. She is going into stores, conducting sales schools and showing salesmen how to help customers by arranging room settings for them, using the merchandise in the store. During her store visits she is also consulting with customers on their individual problems. Thus we identify the store with its trade, ourselves with the store, as wanting to and knowing how to help them.

Furthermore, she is working with us in helping to style certain suites in our line, certain collections of patterns for our upholstered furniture or groupings of suites and occasional chairs, and is also bringing to us the customer's viewpoint. Again this is the first time anything of the kind has been done in the industry.

It is all cold, hard business. There isn't any "blue sky" about it. If we can help the retailers sell more of our furniture, they will use more of it. If we can help them operate their stores more advantageously, they will appreciate it.

An Institute on Advertising Furniture advertising has come in for almost continuous criticism of late years. Nobody has criticised it more than furniture dealers themselves, nobody worried more or fretted more about what could be or should be done about it. Here and there throughout the country are stores undertaking new lines of approach to the public, though the most of them hesitate to break away from old methods. So here at the general offices in Bloomington, we are conducting the first Shozvcrs IrzstitWc on Adverti.sdng, to which we are inviting our dealers' adverti,,ing managers and to which we are bringing the foremost advertising men as leaders of the discussions. This will be a three-day intensive session devoted entirely to furniture advertising. We are getting together all of the information, a11 of the ideas, methods, policies and so on, we can for consideration at that time. Once more this is the first time such a thing has been done in our industry.

There is a thrill in seeing how our efforts, as just one concern in the indus proval from the trade and are, a~ like to think anyhow, proving one of - factors that are helping to bring new day to the whole industry.
Sorry to slam so many topics with so much text all at once.

However, give 'em a read.

Very cool stuff.

Feel free to add lots of commentary. Some of it sounds so familiar it could have been in this months Decor.