This company, which manufactures upholstered furniture, has been
operating since 1959, producing higher-end, fine quality loveseats,
ottomans, sofas and other occasional furniture for the living room
and family room.
It's a subsidiary of Furniture Brands International, the largest
furniture producer, which owns a number of companies in the industry,
including well-known national brands like Broyhill. They sell their
traditional to transitional products to 1200 of America's finest
Tom Staats, president of Highland House, had been following the
career of Britt Beemer for ten years. He was introduced to Beemer
by Art Van, a successful, nationally-known furniture retailer from
the Detroit area.
Around five years ago, Staats decided to study the various market
segments of his customer audience to understand more clearly how
to improve his business.
"I wanted a national survey of people who buy products like
ours to learn how we can give consumers more of what they need and
Staats felt this kind of research could be vital for a more focused
marketing and advertising campaign in which he could present his
furniture more effectively.
He couldn't have been more right. His business began to realize
substantial increases, as he puts it, and Britt Beemer, he says,
was a major factor in the rise.
"In general, the furniture industry has little experience
with consumer research.
"So most make basic decisions based on 'gut feelings,"
even after 25 years in the business.
The general understanding of this effective tool, therefore, is
a bit naive, but happily progressive companies like Furniture Brands
International, encourage this process.
"Even when some companies do bring in people to do research,
they study the numbers for a while, and then file away the report
without taking action.
"We didn't want to make that mistake. If you don't plan to
take the necessary action based on the findings, you shouldn't do
research in the first place."
One of the major issues that Britt Beemer tackled was the large
proportion of Highland House customers who were 55-65 years old,
and how to deal more effectively with this segment of the market.
He got the names of 200 older people who had bought furniture in
the previous two years. When asked about their satisfaction with
the purchase, 57 percent zeroed in right away on the seat cushions,
complaining they were too soft, "much like a featherbed."
"Our more mature customers wanted a firmer cushion because
it puts less pressure on the knees when they get up."
"Since then, we made a big change in the firmness of our cushions,
and our business leaped ahead in this category. It was a simple
concept that everybody knows about today, but Britt recognized the
need before the industry, and we benefited greatly from it before
it became widely known."
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