Furniture Shopping

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Chapter 7, Application Problem 3
The following facts characterize the furniture industry in the United States:39

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39 James R. Hagerty and Robert Berner, “Ever Wondered Why Furniture Shopping Can Be Such a Pain?” Wall Street Journal, November 2, 1998; Dan Morse, “U.S. Furniture Makers Seek Tariffs on Chinese Imports,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2003; and Mark H. Drayse, “Globalization and Regional Change in the U.S. Furniture Industry,” Growth and Change 39 (June 2008): 252–82.

a. The industry has been very fragmented, so that few companies have the financial backing to make heavy investments in new technology and equipment.

b. In 1998, only three U.S. furniture manufacturers had annual sales exceeding $1 billion. These firms accounted for only 20 percent of the market share, with the remainder split among 1,000 other manufacturers.

c. Capital spending at one manufacturer, Furniture Brands, was only 2.2 percent of sales compared with 6.6 percent at Ford Motor Company. Outdated, labor-intensive production techniques were still being used by many firms.

d. Furniture manufacturing involves a huge number of options to satisfy consumer preferences, but this extensive set of choices slows production and raises costs.

e- Small competitors can enter the industry because large manufacturers have not built up any overwhelming advantage in efficiency.

f. The American Furniture Manufacturers Association has prepared a public relations campaign to “encourage consumers to part with more of their disposable income on furniture.”

g. In fall 2003, a group of 28 U.S. furniture manufacturers asked the U.S. government to impose antidumping trade duties on Chinese-made bedroom furniture, alleging unfair pricing.

h. The globalization of the furniture industry since the 1980s has resulted from technological innovations, governmental implementation of economic development strategies and regulatory regimes that favor global investment and trade, and the emergence of furniture manufacturers and retailers with a capacity to develop global production and distribution networks. The development of global production networks using Chinese subcontractors has accelerated globalization in recent years.


Chapter 8, Application Problem 4

The following discussion describes recent changes in the strategy of Parker Pen Co.80 80 Cameron McWhirter and Laurie Burkitt, “In China, the Pen Is Mightier When It’s Pricier,” Wall Street Journal (Online), November 2, 2011.

Although consumer interest in fine writing pens in the United States may seem equivalent to consumer response to Kodak film and cameras in the opening case of this chapter, Parker Pen Co., which is owned by Newell Rubbermaid Co., developed a strategy to build its presence in China where there is increased income and strong preferences for fine writing pens as part of China’s gift-giving business culture. Executives in other parts of the world may have substituted smartphones and tablets for expensive pens, but Chinese professionals are often willing to pay thousands of dollars for them. In response, Parker Pen Co. has darkened its pens’ ink to appeal to writers of Chinese characters and added a special Chinese character meaning prosperity and good luck to the pens’ heads. These changes have increased sales from 30% to 50% in many of China’s department stores. See more details at

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The number of Chinese earning a household income of more than one million yuan (approximately $156,000) increased 20% from 2010 to 2011. Pens are an affordable luxury, but also serve as a means for people to display their new wealth. Parker’s pens sales had been declining in North America and Europe, so the company turned to China and adopted a higher pricing policy to emphasize the status of the pens. Parker does have competition for its expensive pens from Montblanc, which has opened stores to sell its pens and other products. However, Parker pens contribute “substantially” to overall sales growth for Newell Rubbermaid.

a.  Discuss the role of consumer demand in influencing Parker Pen’s strategies.

b. Do you think Parker will be able to maintain its market power in China? Explain.


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