How to make 2010 a real ’10’

Ray Allegrezza, Editor in Chief — Furniture Today

Happy New Year! If you’re like me, you are probably delighted that 2009 is behind us. As we head into 2010, I believe that we’ve found the bottom and are on our way to a slow, steady recovery.

Statistically, there appears to be evidence to support my observation. On the day before Christmas, the Commerce Department reported that orders for durable goods were up almost 3% in November.

That was followed by a report from the Labor Department indicating that the number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped during the week ending Dec. 19 to the lowest level since September of 2008. Based on that positive news, economists, including Goldman Sachs and Macroeconomic Advisers, each called for U.S. fourth-quarter 2009 growth of 4% or better.

Even so, we all know that much is riding on the consumer and as best as I can tell, she’s still skittish. But I can tell you that based on the results of a survey we recently conducted with HGTV, while the recession has caused her to rethink how and where she shops, she still wants a lovely home.

So, with that in mind, here are 10 tips to tune up your business in 2010.

Reach out to the consumer. She must believe that you have the solution to her decorating task. Whether it is an e-newsletter, postcards, or an invitation to an in-store event, make her feel that you can help her.

Invest in your employees. Turn your order-takers into selling consultants.

Exceed your customer’s needs. If you implement tips 1 and 2, this will be easy.

Invest in customer incentives. She’s got other places to shop. Make it worth her while to shop you.

Present a readily understandable value proposition. She wants beautiful furniture, but she’s also looking for value.

Be product experts, not product pushers.

Update your Web site. She’s shopping online, so you need to be where she is with a site she can’t resist.

Take a page from Burger King. Let her have it her way. In other words, accommodate her.

Know what your best customers like, then shop for them. Call her and tell her you ordered some accessory pieces that she’ll love.

Invest as much time evaluating your competition as you do your customer.

Here’s hoping you make 2010 a real “10”!

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