23 May 2024, 06:06
By Furniture News Jun 17, 2019

A sporting chance?

Each year, Furniture News asks some of the UK’s top retailers to share their views on some of the most significant industry developments, and how these might impact their future. In an excerpt from our annual Year in Review special (which features in the January issue) – and with the summer sporting season upon us – we ask the panel's members for their thoughts on how sporting fixtures affect sales in today's retail environment …

This time last year, the England football team exceeded expectation, reaching the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup – to be knocked out by Croatia. During the winning streak, there was a wave of euphoria across the country, which, coupled with wins in other sporting fixtures, created a general feelgood factor amongst consumers.

Some retailers manage to seize promotional opportunities from such events, but it is generally felt that the furniture market (aside from home cinema seating, perhaps) loses out amidst the optimism – does our panel agree?

Peter Harding (Fairway Furniture): Aside from the feelgood factor, England’s run to the World Cup semi-final was yet another demand suppressor we could have done without. It is always very hard to ride on the back of sporting events, as they are often short-term activities – with promotional calendars set months in advance.

Customers’ gestation periods for big-ticket purchases are significant, so seizing the moment and using it to boost sales is more difficult.

That said, we did have a promotion set up to go if England made the final – perhaps it was our fault they failed to beat Croatia!

Steve Adams (MattressOnline): Big sporting fixtures are a double-edged sword – on the one hand they’re a distraction from the purchase journey, yet on the other they can encourage optimism and spending.

MattressOnline had a great June and July – we may have seen less revenue on a day with an important match on, but it soon evened out, with us experiencing great YOY growth through the World Cup overall.

Steve Pickering (Sussex Beds): In my experience, sporting events may have a short-term disruptive effect – however, like weather events, they simply postpone a visit or purchase.

Gavin Boden (sales and marketing professional): In my market it affected footfall, which affected sales. The retailers can try and put promotions on, but when consumers are going out and buying TVs and beer it’s difficult to get them to come in and buy furniture. However, the overall feelgood factor following England’s semi-final success did result in a small uplift in business.

Mike Murray (Land of Beds): Typically, major sporting events lift the nation, and we’ve found that the resulting feelgood factor can also have a positive impact on sales (online data from July shows that this was certainly the case for us during the World Cup).

One of the key benefits has been the power of product endorsements from competing athletes. For example, during Wimbledon we sold more Tempur beds, which are endorsed by superstar Serena Williams. Likewise, Millbrook Beds enjoyed an uplift through their association with competitors in the Commonwealth Games.

We are official partners with Wigan Warriors RLFC, who won the Super League Championship this year. During topical times when teams are doing well, it helps you to cut through the clutter – especially on social media – encouraging fans to engage with content about your business and the products you sell. The only trick is you need to partner with the champs!

Ross Beveridge (Archers Sleepcentre): We did see a drop in footfall when the World Cup was on, and I think major sporting events have that effect on the furniture industry generally. Where are all the customers? Quite simply, they’re sitting at home or in the pub watching the stuff we wish we were!

I know that every time an Old Firm football match is on in Glasgow we experience a significant drop in trade that day. I’m afraid it’s just one of those things, and you have to just get on with it. Unless your bed is broken, you’ll shop another day.

Read more feedback from our panel in the January issue of Furniture News.

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