Why Universal Furniture thinks an industry reset is good for its business

HIGH POINT – Full home furniture resource Universal Furniture credits the ongoing slowdown in demand for helping it strengthen its “fundamentals.”

“We’re excited about product introductions,” said Neil MacKenzie, Universal Furniture’s, vice president of marketing. “And about getting back in position about things we haven’t been, like stock positions. It’s helping us focus on the fundamentals.

“We’re inherently becoming better as demand stabilizes,” he added. “Folks that work with us actually have the ability to complete an order.”

Like many in the industry, having items in stock was a major issue for Universal over the past few years. The company took steps to mitigate that, however, and with stabilizing demand there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

“Way back when, before things changed, we had more than 1,200 SKUs,” he said. “Customers used to depend on a certain level of stock. Then it changed and got out of whack. We are normalizing what we were doing prior to pandemic.”

“One thing we’ve done is added an ability to shop in-stock items on our site,” he said. “That’s for everyone and at the item level. We show the quantity of in-stock items. That went live late last fall. At the time, there was a massive need for knowing what was there. But we’re still seeing a significant demand for that information.

“We also added ability to shop for items that would be in-stock in the next 45 days, as well as the number of things that had been top performers that are not yet back in stock,” he continued. “We’ve gotten very good feedback from doing this.”

MacKenzie says the company has hundreds of items now that at least have some stock. Some items have 10 or more in stock. Others have more. “And on the upholstery side for instance, we offer ready to ship items,” he said. “We’re still seeing a need for a need for products right now.”

Nevertheless, business is slowing.

“It’s definitely a more challenging environment,” he said. “We hear anecdotally that the world is taking trips and vacations rather than buying furniture. Consumer confidence is taking a hit. There’s $5 gasoline, record inflation, and a bear stock market.

“But there are still new homes,” MacKenzie said. “There are still new projects. There’s simply a resetting kind of taking place. It’s not crazy.”

Universal doesn’t show at Las Vegas Market, but has new product planned.

“We will introduce two new collections at premarket,” he said. “We will also deliver the two collections we launched last fall before Thanksgiving.”

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