Customers want the furniture shopping experience, so ‘submerge’ them in it

HIGH POINT – Besides a big new product launch, Bernards Furniture’s goal for this week’s High Point Market was to offer a better experience for retail buyers. That begins with product presentation.

“Consumers want to be submerged in an experience,” he said. “That means setting up product in an environment they can get their arms around. That means curated vignettes. We want to show furniture in actual room settings, and we want retailers to show our furniture that way too. The old way (of displaying furniture by category) just doesn’t work. People aren’t buying that way.”

The new Assemblage collection

Bernards unveiled the 70-piece whole home Assemblage line at market, marking one of its largest introductions ever. The line is catered to have more of a designer and feminine feel, according to Swick, with modern looks, earth tones and soft curves. The set includes three beds retailing at $699 and three dining tables starting under $500. Whole bedrooms can retail at $1,999.

Another new line was Modern Comfort, a 30-piece line with items in bedroom, dining, occasional and upholstery. It’s a modern take on traditional, said Swick. Features include birch construction, leather drawer fronts and white and mocha finishes. A third new line, Winter Haven, includes case goods only.

Swick stressed that he doesn’t consider Bernards to be a “promotional” company, despite having furniture priced near the range. “Our price points are in the mid-range. We’re trying to pack as much value in there as we can.”

New product will continue to be a chief focus for the company going forward. Around 85% of the company’s showroom this fall was new product. “People want a reset,” he said. “Retailers have been living with old product for a long time. They want new.

Despite calling this market one of its best ever, Swick acknowledged that business is down. Still, he’s optimistic.

“There’s no question demand is down,” he said. “Retailers were hedging their bets and brought in fall product early. Imports are down, but that isn’t a good indicator of business health.

“Ocean rates went up in August after all, and the industry’s third quarter earnings reports were better than expected. I don’t believe consumer confidence is low. People have just been traveling. They will still spend if we give them a reason to.”

Swick said the plan is to keep going bigger and keep being aggressive on new product. A showroom expansion is in the works, as well as experimentation on more promotional items.

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