Merchandise Planning

The New World of Furniture Shopping

It comes as no surprise that retail giants such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target have expanded their already vast product offerings into the furniture space. While these leading brands have undoubtedly been successful across a diverse line of product categories, selling furniture can be trickier. Furniture still remains one of the most expensive purchases a consumer will make, next to buying a home or a car. And despite advancements in technology and online shopping, most customers still want to sit, feel, and experience furniture prior to purchase. Traditional furniture retailers can combat the retail giants by making an immediate positive impact to the customer shopping experience through well executed merchandising.

Merchandising is the visual link between buyers and sellers. Great merchandising layouts display products in the right place, at the right time, and lead to higher sales, larger average tickets, and better margin.

The optimal furniture store layout is achieved by embracing a few key principles:

  1. The customer’s shopping experience should be enhanced

customer shopping experience

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. To that end, the showroom’s entry point, or “decompression zone,” should transport customers from the distractions of the outside world into a shopping mindset. This decompression zone should be open, inviting, and provide an unobstructed view of the rest of the showroom. Sales associates should suppress the urge to engage guests while they are in the decompression zone. Instead, retailers should consider setting up a speed bump just beyond the entry point. Speed bumps are high-impact, eye-catching displays designed to slow a customer’s progression through the showroom. By placing a speed bump just past the decompression zone, retailers can combine the traditional concept of a speed bump with a less intimidating way for associates and guests to interact.

  1. The design should allow for flexibility

Retailers have a variety of store layout options (grid, free-flow, loop, etc.) and each layout has its own advantages and disadvantages. Free-flow layouts allow for more creativity and flexibility in designing vignettes and are therefore a good option for home furnishing retailers. A free-flow plan encourages customers to wander from one vignette to the next. The lack of a defined walking path means customers are drawn to displays that capture their interest, creating a more immersive shopping experience.


The free-flow layout also gives designers the creativity to completely change the look of the showroom without the constraints of a grid. Free-flow layouts create open sightlines that naturally invite customers to explore the entire showroom. Although the customer’s path is not clearly defined, strategic placement of furniture, power walls and speed bumps can produce a natural and engaging route through the store.


  1. Design should reflect consumer behavior and appeal to the target market

When designing a showroom, understanding consumer behavior is paramount. Studies have shown that people tend to shop the way they drive (we drive on the right side of the road, so we tend to veer to the right when we shop). Retailers know most guests will turn right after leaving the decompression zone, so the first department / vignette they see should make an impactful statement. Whatever the design, it should create a “wow” moment for the customer and encourage them to keep browsing.

Retailers need to have a predefined target market as it is difficult to appeal to everyone in a limited space. I once worked for a home furnishings retailer that tried to cater to all, from the budget-conscious consumer all the way up to the luxury consumer. In their showroom, they had on display a $399 sofa with a pair of lamps that retailed for $249 each.  Imagine the customer’s surprise when they realized that the pair of lamps would cost more than the sofa. It didn’t make sense, and it certainly did not make for a positive customer experience.

Succeeding in the new world of furniture retail requires getting back to basics! Retailers can have the best assortment of optimally arranged merchandise but if the showroom shows signs of uncleanliness with narrow aisles or cluttered vignettes, all your hard work will be lost as your customers feel unwelcome. Make sure the retail space and shopping experience is comfortable and inviting and you are already on the path to success.

Inventory Challenges

A Conversation on Inventory Challenges

Consumers continue to change the way they shop (buy anywhere, receive anywhere, and return anywhere), which has had a profound impact on how inventory decisions

are made. Get it right, you sell more. Get it wrong, you lose sales.

As such, many retailers are leveraging new technologies, like AI, to completely transform how they address inventory decisions today to help overcome the challenges of omni-channel retailing. We recently brought together a few retailers and Celect (a SaaS solution provider focused on retail inventory optimization) for a discussion around inventory strategies that businesses are using to mitigate risks and leverage their stores more effectively to meet the ever-growing changes in customer preference – along with how this affects existing processes from an organizational and technological standpoint.

Here are four key takeaways from our discussion with these retailers around addressing some of these challenges:

  1. Compensation and Measurement Needs to Change

In order to really drive the flexibility consumers expect, retailers need to change their current approach to compensation and measurement. This starts at the corporate level and goes right down to the store level. Those retailers who attended shared their experience with how business results actually improved when the compensation moved from “compensation by channel” to a focus on progressing a sale and completion. While it may require a shift in culture, it will help in the long run for retailers to really use inventory more efficiently across channels.

  1. Data Science is Key to Inventory Success, Yet Questions Around Organization Persist

Everyone agreed that data science is key to transforming the economics of the balance sheet. However, the challenge lies in how to best infuse science into existing inventory decision-making processes. One retailer in particular discussed their experience in transitioning the organization of their data science team from centralized to decentralized (where the science resources actually sat within the functions of each business unit). This was an important move because regardless of whether a retailer has an in-house data science team or not, what matters is being able to provide the business functions (or users) with science-based tools to deliver actionable insights. This is especially true when it comes to adopting AI technology to overcome many of the traditional inventory forecasting challenges retailers face. A prime example of why this is important can be attributed to Amazon’s success, where AI is built into the backbone of their business and is embedded in everything they do.

  1. You Can Get Started, even if Your Data Isn’t Perfect

The consensus among retailers was this: your data does not have to be perfect to get started with AI. This was particularly important to note because most retailers do not have all the data they want or need. The difficulty is finding which solutions will allow you to start with imperfect data, get value based on the data you currently have, all while still being flexible enough to add new data sets as they become available over time. One of the retailers in attendance shared their excitement about how their allocation optimization tool will change their day-to-day job because of this ability – and will only continue to deliver more and more value as the AI system continues to learn from new information added over time.

  1. Returns Drive In-Store Sales – A Win/Win

Even though the percentage of returns has continued to grow due to e-commerce shopping, everyone agreed that stores can be used as a competitive advantage. Consumers like to return goods to a store because it’s easy and often more convenient. Once a customer is in the store to return an item, the goal is to get another sale. Many retailers today are using the “returns to store” as an option to consider for store fulfillment, making the return to store option a win/win scenario for both the consumer and the retailer.

Do you agree with these challenges or are there other, more pressing challenges within your organization? We invite you to comment below.

BRP Consulting’s Retail Promotion Management as a Service Increases the Effectiveness while Reducing the Cost of Promotions

Cloud-Based Promotions Management Simplifies Execution and Offers Advanced, Real-time Tools for Retailers

Boston, MA – September 20, 2018 – BRP Announces the launch of its Retail Promotion Management as a Service Offering providing closed-loop support of retail promotions for omni-channel retailers. Executing and managing promotions is a time-consuming and challenging experience for retailers. Leveraging BRP’s Retail Promotions Management as a Service, retailers simplify the process of setting up promotions while having access to advanced tools to monitor and analyze the effectiveness of promotions in real-time. Services are billed monthly based on usage and the number of promotions deployed, not a fixed cost based on number of stores or revenue.

“In today’s highly competitive retail environment it is difficult for retailers to execute retail promotions and also find the time to analyze which promotions are most effective in stimulating sales lift and enhancing customer relationships,” said Jeffrey Neville, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “The BRP Retail Promotion Management as a Service offering unburdens our clients from the tedious day-to-day tasks of executing and monitoring promotions, enabling them to spend more time creating strategies to build relationships with their customers.”

BRP’s retail expertise and operational knowledge gained from advising leading retailers has enabled the building of industry best practices into BRP’s cloud-based promotional management tools. With advanced tools and services from BRP, retailers can accelerate the execution lead-time and reduce the costs to manage promotions.

The Retail Promotion Management as a Service offering includes:

  • Monthly Usage-based Pricing – Services are billed monthly based on usage and the number of promotions deployed, not a fixed cost based on number of stores or revenue
  • Dedicated Resources – Each client is assigned a team that enters, validates and deploys each promotion with guaranteed service levels and turnaround times for each step of the process
  • System Testing – The BRP team manages the coordination of promotion entry and testing across all channel sub-systems
  • Client Portal/Dashboard – Access to a client portal for submission of promotions also provides real-time access to each promotion’s status and to monitor the effectiveness
  • 24×7 Support – BRP’s support team is available when you need it most and can act as level 1 or level 2 support for issues and questions related to promotions
  • Troubleshoot Software Issues – BRP’s relationships with POS vendors can help troubleshoot software issues and drive promotion enhancements and bug fixes with POS software
  • Promotion Analysis – Skilled analytics team resources help you measure the promotion effectiveness with the cloud-based data warehouse solution

For more information on BRP’s Retail Promotion Management as a Service, visit:

About BRP

BRP is an innovative retail management consulting firm dedicated to providing superior service and enduring value to our clients. BRP combines its consultants’ deep retail business knowledge and cross-functional capabilities to deliver superior design and implementation of strategy, technology, and process solutions. The firm’s unique combination of industry focus, knowledge-based approach, and rapid, end-to-end solution deployment helps clients to achieve their business potential. BRP’s consulting services include:

Strategy | Business Intelligence | Business Process Optimization | Point of Sale (POS)

Mobile POS | Payment Security | E-Commerce | Store Systems and Operations | CRM

Unified Commerce | Customer Experience | Order Management | Networks

Merchandise Management | Supply Chain | Private Equity

For more information on BRP, visit

Can E-Commerce Strengthen Big-Box Stores?

National Real Estate Investor – Big-box stores have been more vulnerable to online shopping than other retailers because they usually sell commodity-type products, yet experts say that e-commerce can actually strengthen these big boxes. As long as retailers execute a strong omnichannel strategy that emphasizes in-store pick-ups and provides exciting shopping experiences, big-box stores will benefit from online sales.

“The big-box companies that are doing better than others have one thing in common—they’ve figured out how to make their channels work together,” says Todd Werden, vice president of consulting firm Boston Retail Partners. “They all realize that having some kind of sticky customer experience across all channels is the path to success.”

Read full article: Can E-Commerce Strengthen Big-Box Stores?

‘Tis the Season — For Secure Payment Processing

Samsung – Just weeks into the 2015 holiday shopping season, retailers industry-wide are tightening mission-critical operations to ensure their shoppers have a satisfying shopping experience. The one area that they can’t afford to overlook this holiday season, however, is secure payment processing. By implementing new security measures across payment networks, retailers are taking steps to secure sensitive customer information this holiday season — a move that promises to drive loyalty well beyond December.

It’s not surprising that 63 percent of retailers reported that secure payment processing is among their top three priorities for 2015, according to the “2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey” from Boston Retail Partners. Some of the most recognized data breaches over the last 24 months have occurred in the retail industry, and these heists pilfered millions of consumer card numbers, as well as other personally identifiable information.

Often, POS systems are their entry point of choice, due to insecure, Web-based network support and the volume of unencrypted data flowing between networks and units.

Read full article: ‘Tis the Season — For Secure Payment Processing

Saks To Open Mancentric Store – Who says shopping and sharp sartorial style are for women? Not Saks, as they are officially moving to tap into the metrosexual male and his passion for fashion, with plans for a new storefront designed to cater exclusively to men’s products.

“Saks Fifth Avenue recognizes that men are more interested in high-fashion than they ever have been, and there are no unique upscale national men’s retailers that is tapping this market,” said Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners. “Men are spending more on apparel and footwear than ever before, according to Euromonitor International reports, and Saks is seizing this opportunity to give men an exclusive luxury shopping experience.”

Read full article: Saks To Open Mancentric Store

Saks Fifth Avenue narrows focus with dedicated men’s store

Luxury Daily – Department store Saks Fifth Avenue is capitalizing on a current consumer trend by announcing plans for a new storefront.

Scheduled to open in spring 2017 in downtown New York, the retailer will be dedicating 16,750-square feet exclusively to men’s products. Other retailers have already launched dedicated men’s stores, but as the menswear market continues to show rapid growth, Saks will likely see benefits from following suit.

“Saks Fifth Avenue recognizes that men are more interested in high-fashion than they ever have been, and there are no unique upscale national men’s retailers that is tapping this market,”” said Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners. “Men are spending more on apparel and footwear than ever before according to Euromonitor International reports, and Saks is seizing this opportunity to give men an exclusive luxury shopping experience.”

Read full article: Saks Fifth Avenue narrows focus with dedicated men’s store

Victoria’s Secret streamlines fashion show sales through shoppable Instagram feed

Mobile Commerce Daily – Victoria’s Secret did not let its large Instagram following go to waste during the airing of the brand’s popular fashion show on Tuesday night, with users able to shop the featured items in real time.

The lingerie manufacturer spiked sales during its broadcast of this year’s fashion show by sharing images of featured looks from the runway on its Instagram feed. Followers were able to click a link in its bio to continue on to purchase at a dedicated Web site.

“Beautiful photographs and video of supermodels wearing lingerie are key to selling Victoria’s Secret’s products and Instagram is one of the best platforms for visual promotions,” said Todd Werden, vice president at Boston Retail Partners. “Featuring images live from the fashion show captures customer engagement at the point-of-interest, which many inspire impulse purchases.

“It is a perfect marriage of entertainment and shopping.”

Read full article: Victoria’s Secret streamlines fashion show sales through shoppable Instagram feed

Best Buy pairs holiday trivia contests on Twitter with gift ideas

Mobile Commerce Daily – Best Buy is driving online sales through posts on Twitter in which users are prompted to share opinions, answers to trivia and personal anecdotes.

The electronics retailer is hoping to ramp up holiday sales through a series of call-to-action posts on social media while engaging and forming a connection with consumers at the same time. The posts employ a series of different tactics common on Twitter such as native polls, GIFs, videos, which then lead back to Best Buy’s Web site to purchase items featured in each individual post.

“Shoppers consume information differently and are active in a variety of social media platforms; therefore, it is imperative that retailers spread their marketing efforts across multiple mediums,” said David Naumann, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners. “Best Buy’s tweets about holiday gift ideas are a great way to spark ideas for shoppers and drive them to the Best Buy web site to complete the purchase.”

Read full article: Best Buy pairs holiday trivia contests on Twitter with gift ideas

How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience? Recap Cover ImageAt the Digital Summit 2015, I moderated a retail executive panel on mobile technology and below is a summary of the topics we discussed. For more details, here is a link to the complete recap of the session:

2015 Recap – How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience?

Here are some of the key points discussed during the session…

There has been a huge technology shift in the past few years and mobile technology in the hands of consumers and retail associates has been the driver. Mobile capabilities allow a retailer to break down the barrier between the online digital environment and the physical store. Mobile is driving retailers to upgrade and replace technology to keep ahead of their competitors’ customer experience offerings and to try to keep up with their very informed and technology-savvy customers.

Mobile Technology is an Enabler

MobileEnablerConsumers now use mobile devices to research products, compare prices, complete purchases online and increasingly to pay for in-store purchases. The proliferation of tablets and mobile phones has also created new opportunities for retailers to enhance customer service. Putting mobile devices in the hands of store associates enables inventory look-up (enterprise-wide) even for products not immediately available, supports the associate providing assistance to the customer on the selling floor, supports transaction processing anywhere in the store and anywhere in their supply chain.

Mobile is the Future

According to Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, many retailers are focused on expanding their mobile capabilities.

  • 286% more retailers plan to deploy mobile POS in the next two years
  • 165% more retailers plan to offer personalized recommendations via customer-facing mobile in 3 years
  • 56% of retailers plan to accept Apple Pay within 3 years

“The mobile device is the cash register of the future, the sales associate of the future and the wallet of the future – or rather the now!”


Mobile for Customer Identification and Personalization

BeaconsCustomers and their shopping behavior remain anonymous without some type of customer identification. One of the keys to influencing a customer’s purchase and offering a personalized experience is to identify the customer early, as soon as they enter the store. In BRP’s 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, 90% of the retailers surveyed said they were able to identify their customer in the store, which is up significantly from 73% in the 2014 survey. However, in many cases, customer identification is happening at the point of checkout or later, which is too late to influence the current purchase decision.

In BRP’s CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, very few retailers (6%) indicated they have the ability to identify customers when they walk in the store via their smartphone. The bigger story is the 53% who plan to implement this within five years – that’s an 883% increase

Keys to Mobile Success

As discussed in our panel session, here are a few things retailers need to do to successfully deploy mobile capabilities:

  • Create a consistent experience across all channels
  • Know everything about your customer:Customer Information
    • Personal preferences
    • Purchase history
    • Key dates (anniversary, bithdays,etc.)
    • What’s in their closet?
    • Where did they browse?
    • Did they abandon an online cart?
  • Be as connected as your customers
  • Train sales associates on using mobile technology (change management)
  • Have the right infrastructure: network, middleware, order management
  • Have visibility and access to customer and product information across the enterprise – in real-time!

Mobile Challenges

She is Moving FasterHere are a few challenges our retail panelist discussed:

  • Keeping up with Customers and Technology
  • Privacy and Security
  • Inventory Accuracy
  • High-Speed Internet Access In-store with WiFi
  • Choosing the right Technology Partners

Mobile is definitely the future of retail, as consumers demand it and retailers are focused on enhancing their mobile capabilities.  Are you keeping up with your customers’ desires for mobile features?

For more details on mobile technology for retail, download the full report:

2015 Recap – How are Mobile Devices Transforming the In-Store and Web Customer Experience?

As always, I appreciate your perspectives on this topic. Please share your comments below.