Expanding your Market for Furniture

When a cabinet shop starts to make furniture, how can they widen their niche? April 11, 2008

We have a small cabinet shop and want to move into the furniture making business. We need advice on the best way to make this transition and a strategy to get our work into galleries and shops. We have had a little success locally (we are located in Staunton, Virginia) but would like to reach a larger market. If we were able to reach a larger market, how will different levels of humidity in different areas of the country affect the finished pieces?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor A:
You need to have a steady cash flow from a set of items that you can crank out for high profit. It will be a long time before you get the kind of heavy duty furniture commissions and the expertise in doing them that generates healthy profits. For example, design a line of lamps, coffee tables, or other specialty furniture accessory. Make it distinctive and jig it up so it can be produced very profitably. Use those items to get into the galleries (they talk about buying arty stuff, but they need to buy stuff that sells too). My experience in doing this successfully is that it leads to furniture commissions. Make sure that any gallery that carries your smaller items has an album or CD of your furniture available for customers who display your work, contact information and prices.

As far as humidity goes, use construction methods that allow for movement (battens, shop veneer over baltic birch for pieces that would be dicey with solid wood, etc.). My guess is that, at least initially, this won't be a problem, because most of your orders will be regional, i.e. from a similar climate. You'll need to pay closer attention to humidity shifts when you start getting orders from Phoenix or Minnesota, but that's tomorrow's problem.

From contributor B:
If you have some furniture built, try getting into some of the furniture shows like Milwaukee and Providence. This will give you an idea of the acceptance by the public. Also this will allow you to see what others are doing and selling. If you want to start out on a cheaper scale try some outdoor art and craft shows. Sunshine Artists and other sites list art and craft shows around the country. To get into galleries you need a "name" or a unique quality to your product that will set it apart from others. This will get you started. I wouldn't discard the cabinet making until you're financially secure in the furniture making community.