You have probably thought I have lost my mind. You may be saying, "Of course furniture stores sell furniture, silly woman!" I challenge you today to pull back the proverbial onion, so to speak, and look closer with me at what your local furniture store is actually selling and profiting from and it ain't furniture.
I'm not trying to attack your local furniture store here, but I am trying to open your eyes as a consumer of home decor because its not something people think of often. In 2008 through 2009, every industry was hit hard by the economic downturn, but the construction and design industry were affected particularly hard. New construction took a plummet which had a domino affect on the furniture industry, as well. In addition to the lowered economic prosperity, baby boomers started to downsize due to retirement, and young adults were starting to live with their families longer due to not being able to afford their own housing. Another hit to furniture stores were the explosion of offerings (although some less quality) by the big box stores. Our furniture stores have to attract new customers and broaden their consumer base to continue to do business or otherwise they have had to fold (which many did).
Credit offerings to consumers such as ourselves have exploded as a way for businesses to increase spending and sales. Its always been there, but never quite this level. So much so that it is rare to find a furniture store that doesn't offer some sort of financing to their customers, whether it's with a 3rd party financing group on their own in-house financing. They want you to spend more not just so they sell more furniture, but more credit (which is where the real money is - Where do we think Wall Street gets so much of their money?). How can you protect yourself from predatory furniture buying practices? Follow these tips to not only save you money in the long run, but hopefully allow you to have a better furniture buying experience overall. An informed buyer is a happy consumer.
1 - If you can at all help it - Don't finance disposable furniture.
Please don't do this, talk about buyers remorse! There is nothing worse than continuing to pay for a piece of furniture that is ready for the dump before you even pay it off.
2 - Realize that most furniture available to the average person is a consumable item and NOT an investment.
NO-ONE & I mean NO-ONE is going to pay top dollar or even medium dollar for your used sofa. It doesn't matter whether you paid $500 or $10,000 for it. Used furniture is used furniture - end of story. Unless you are buying a certified antique from a reputable dealer or auction house (think Sotheby's), you're not going to be able to count on your furniture purchase to ever increase in value. It will go down in value and not be worth anything close to what you bought it for. If a misinformed salesperson tries to tell you that this will really be a nice investment piece for your children and grandchildren, don't walk, but run from this person because they are out of their mind!
3 - Know what you want and need before you go to the furniture stores as well as your budget.
This will help you avoid unnecessary purchases. Have your color samples with you so you can easily match up to what is in the store. Trust your own instincts and pick what you like. Going to most furniture stores is like going into battle. One really needs to be prepared for the onslaught of sales pitches that permeate that environment.
4 - Don't buy something right away. Take a day or week to think about your purchase.
This one piece of advice has saved me from more than one bad purchase decision. I hate being rushed into buying something, and you should be wary of a pushy salesperson that tries to strong arm you into buying something that day. They'll use language like, "This sale is only going to last until tomorrow," or "It's a really popular item - I can't guarantee it will be here when you come back." Here are two caveats to that mindsets- #1: There will always be another sale (Furniture stores are just like grocery stores - they run on 6-8 week sale cycles) and #2: I can always find another one or something similar on the internet (we live in the digital age for Pete's sake)
5 - Instead of taking out credit for a piece you can't afford, don't be afraid to look around for used pieces that are more in your price range.
Baby boomers are retiring and downsizing left & right, which is filling thrift & consignment stores with some really nice things. You may find a higher quality piece for the same price by buying it used. If you live in an area with a lot of transient people and turnover, your used furniture market is a haven of great deals. Think military communities, big cities, & funny enough the populated beach areas have awesome thrift stores (due to the high housing turnover). My one word of caution on this is that I draw the line on upholstered goods unless I'm going to absolutely recover it. You don't want uninvited guests, like bedbugs, coming home with your new piece - ugh.
6 -Don't be afraid to negotiate prices.
Most places will negotiate the price down some especially if you're buying several pieces. Don't let the fact that you're using credit to deter you from trying to get a bargain as you're still paying for the piece in the long run and they are not doing you any favors.
7 - Look online for sales before you commit to a final sales price for a furniture piece
I don't know why some retailers haven't caught on to this yet, but their website will have a different price than the actual store. Most will honor the online price, but I have had a few occasions where they don't. When this happens, I'll just go home & buy it from them off the internet. Shop around before buying anything and take your time!
8 - Think of credit as a tool not a crutch.
Having a healthy mindset when it comes to credit is crucial - not just in the furnishing of your home, but in the running of your life, as well. There is nothing wrong with using credit to finance a purchase you know you can pay off, but it should never be used to finance a lifestyle you simply can't afford. Make credit your bitch - not the other way around. (Sorry for the bad language - I get a little fired up on this topic.) Make sure to pay off those no-interest credit offers before the time limit is up or you'll be paying a much higher interest rate. Also ask the store for an amortization schedule of the financing, so you can see what you'll actually be paying for the piece overall.
9 - Buy from local artists & craftsmen for better quality with a lower price.
You can find local artists & craftsmen through art fairs, flea markets, Facebook & Craigslist. Sometimes you can meet these talented individuals at wood working stores & art galleries, too. You'll probably end up paying less for a higher quality piece and support the local economy, too!
10 - Build your own furniture!
We live in the beautiful digital age where online tutorials abound. People are wonderful and love to share their know-how & expertise. Learn how to build your own furniture- I love Ana White's website for her easy to follow furniture plans that are simple, yet beautiful & high quality! You'll also be learning an exciting new hobby, as well!
Hey I get it, everyone- including myself - has to use credit at times to finance particular things, but lets learn to use it wisely. I am passionate about helping people use their money in an informed way when furnishing their homes. By following the tips above, my hope for you is that you can have a more pleasurable experience when designing you own space. Be patient, enjoy the journey, be wise & fill your home with those things that truly bring you joy. Good luck & as always - Happy Designing!