Homing in on home décor | Allison Zisko

The Farmhouse Store, is a New Jersey retailer with a new owner who is eager to extend his store’s popularity to a broader and more diverse audience.

The home furnishings party of the decade is winding down, as all great parties must do.

After nearly two years of record home furnishings receipts and seemingly insatiable consumer demand, sales have begun to soften. The slowdown became evident back in March as federal stimulus funds dried up, followed by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, skyrocketing gas and food prices, the rise in mortgage rates and inflation the likes of which we have not seen in decades.

Although a return to normalcy was expected, the speed at which we got here was not. Now many retailers find themselves in the ironic position of having too much inventory, when just a few months ago they were desperately scrambling to stay in stock. This could potentially wreak havoc with some of the orders placed at the recent spring markets and will likely change many retailers’ going-to-market strategies in the months to come.

But not all is gloom and doom. Retailers are taking this news and rapidly adjusting their strategies and their assortments, and many of them are pivoting to home décor. Consumers who had the funds and the wherewithal to tackle a major home renovation during the pandemic have likely completed the work by now, but it still leaves plenty of room for finishing touches. Home accents and accessories have always served as cost-effective pick-me-ups and room changers, and now is their time to shine.

Target, for instance, is focusing on general décor, candles, accent pillows and seasonal assortments, while Kohl’s is pursuing “incremental opportunities” and planning a significant expansion in home décor this fall (all the while hoping that the opening of 600 more Sephora shop-in-shops will draw new customers who are younger, more diverse and willing to spend).

On a more local level, The Farmhouse Store, which is profiled in this month’s issue, is a beloved New Jersey retailer that has a new owner, Kelly Richardson, who is eager to extend his store’s popularity to a broader and more diverse audience. As a new store owner (and a newcomer to home furnishings), Richardson is aware of the recent slowdown in home furnishings and carefully considering how to grow his business in this new shopping environment. He is studying demographic patterns, the growth of nearby cities and the needs of a downsizing market, and he is optimistic about meeting his goal to open a second store within the next 12 months.

Ever popular TJX Companies, with its value-minded business model, also sees an opportunity in the current retail environment — it plans to open 1,500 additional stores and has more than 1,200 buyers scouring the globe in search of more merchandise. And Wayfair Is once again venturing into the brick-and-mortar business with the opening of its first AllModern store, with more to come.

So, the investment and interest in home furnishings continues. Savvy manufacturers will need to focus their product development efforts on functional, versatile, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing designs —and maybe go out on a limb once in a while — to ensure that the party spirit stays alive.

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