The Challenges of Selling Furniture (621 words)
By Jack Schmid
A highly segmented product category that has been very strong during the past few years is decorative home furnishings. Unfortunately, the challenge of offering and selling all types of home products, especially larger furniture items like sofas, chairs, convertible sofabeds and ottomans via catalogs is something at which all art directors are not equally adept.
A furniture catalog has multiple challenges to meet in its copy. Not only must the catalog get customers to take action—no small task itself—but it must also provide them guidance in selecting the right frame or item configurations and matching them with the right fabrics. Each of the two catalog creative efforts highlighted here employ different design techniques to sell large furniture items. Both are effective in their graphics and organization of selling pages.
Marks & Spencer's United Kingdom-based HOME catalog has been around for a number of years. Originally M & S viewed the catalog not as a direct-response promotion, but as a traffic generator for a group of specific M & S stores that carried furniture and home furnishings. More recently, this substantial catalog (more than 250 pages) was redefined as having a dual purpose: (1) to build store traffic and (2) to generate direct sales.
Lovely lifestyle pages showing room settings are combined with close-up individual product shots. The challenge, however, is to summarize the many styles of sofas and chairs via an index that allows customers to compare different styles, shapes, sizes and prices. A well-organized four-page "Upholstery Directory" enables comparison shopping.
Fabrics are similarly grouped by color in the back of the catalog. A constant challenge in a book of this size is to cross-reference lifestyle, frame or shape and fabric pages so customers are comfortable to complete the buying decision without the assistance of a full-time sales person. M & S does a good job, but could be even more attentive in cross references within its pages.