Building Customer Loyalty through Education – Part 1: Leather Education
Furniture Industry News Update – Furniture World Magazine-October 2014
Article Summary: Telling customers the ways to increase the lifespan of their leather furniture helps them to justify the cost.
Leather Preservation and Maintenance Techniques
by Terri L. Sniegolski
This series aims to inform furniture stores professionals on various ways to increase the customer’s knowledge about choosing, maintaining and increasing the life of their furniture. By following the tips below, you will gain the advantage by having useful information at hand to assure your customers that they will get a long and productive life from their furniture.
According to IBSWorld, more than 25,000 businesses currently serve the home furnishing stores industry, which is expected to flourish over the next five years, as the improved economy continues to boost overall consumer spending. To cater to the evolving industry and resulting home furnishings businesses, the team with Creative Colors International (CCI) – an industry leader in on-site repair, restoration, cleaning, protection and dyeing of leather, vinyl, fabric, plastic and carpeting – recommends that furniture store owners make an effort to educate their customers on simple ways to prevent and remedy furniture damage in order to distinguish themselves in the saturated marketplace and outpace competitors. Offering guidance and educational resources free-of-charge will position owners not as only experts, but as caring, knowledgeable local professionals, which in turn will increase customer retention and attraction, as well as serve as a reputation booster.
As industry professionals, it should be a priority to help educate consumers about their options to protect and remedy any material damage. It’s important to explain that taking preservation steps will not only improve the look of furniture but also increases the resale value. For leather seating in particular, many people mistakenly believe that common mishaps like scratches, tears, burns, cuts, scratches, stains and/or fading indicate the interior is ruined so they’ll spend a large amount of money to replace it; however, it’s important for customers to understand that with proper care and maintenance, leather can stay looking new and retain its flexibility, durability, comfort, and beauty for much longer.
By informing customers on the ways to increase the lifespan of their leather furniture, the more they’ll be able to justify the cost of these materials. This is the first step in ensuring your customer is equipped with all the necessary knowledge of leather ownership. Continuing later into the life of the furniture, the customer should be able to undertake routine maintenance to preserve the luster and comfort of their leather. This includes tips on cleaning leather in as part of general care or in case of a stain. Additionally, with these tips, you will be able to overcome the common perception that damaged furniture is ruined furniture.
There are many tips for leather care floating around the web but CCI has compiled the most useful to the average consumer. Through this education, consumers will be well on their way to preserving their leather furniture before repair or replacement is needed.
- Wet Dusting. Without proper care and maintenance, leather can easily be worn down prematurely from cleaning-related factors such as dirt, spills, and oil from skin, making it essential for leather to be wet dusted routinely to minimize the accumulation of dirt, dust, and germs. Wet dusting is the simple process of taking a white cloth towel, immersing it in warm, clean water, wringing out as much water as possible, and wiping down the leather material. To remove stains, wash gently using a homemade solution of 10 parts water to one part ivory liquid dish soap. Allow wet or damp leather to air dry naturally, away from any source of heat.
- Stain Removal. For hard stains such as crayons and dried food, scrape off as much of the debris as possible before wiping or scrubbing using a spatula, putty knife or vacuum. For liquid stains, create a premixed solution of 10 parts water to 1 part ivory liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. Apply and wipe down the area using a clean cloth or soft brush. Finish by wiping the area with a clean, dry towel.
- Regular Conditioning. To help protect leather from drying out and cracking in a dry environment, regularly apply a small amount of natural leather conditioner at least several times a year to help restore its flexibility. For best protection, avoid using too much wax or oil, as it can clog pores and cause leather to lose its ability to let air in and moisture out.
- Avoid sharp objects near leather such as scissors, pens, keys, children’s toys, etc. The leather is skin and is subject to cuts, tears, burns and surface scratches.
- Be aware of dark-colored clothing and blankets as the dye may rub off on leather when the material is dry and will bleed on leather when the material is wet.
- Be careful with dairy products near leather as dairy spills will leave spots; even after cleaning, the oils in the dairy will eventually rise back up to the surface.
- Do not place newspapers on your leather furniture as the ink bleeds through and is very difficult to remove.
- Do not use paint, ink, nail polish or antiseptic dyes around leather since they alter the coloring and will leave a stain.
- Avoid using waxes, silicone products or other leather preparations that impair the ability of the leather to “breathe.” Never use caustic household chemicals to clean leather. Avoid leather preparations that contain alcohol or petroleum distillates, such as Windex, Fantastic, turpentine and mineral spirits.
- Do not use mink oil or other animal fats as they will darken the leather and can turn rancid, causing the stitching and leather to rot over time.
With the furniture industry continuing to evolve in order to meet new demands, stores can be sure to stand out by providing valuable information to their customers considering leather furniture. As they say- preparation is key.
Note: Only use preparations suggested by the manufacturer for full aniline and nubuck material or check with your local professional leather expert. Tips on choosing the right leather for your lifestyle are in the next part of this series.
About Terri Sniegolski: Terri Sniegolski has been CEO/Vice President of Creative Colors International, Inc. since May of 2000. She has been a Director and Secretary of Creative Colors International, Inc. since December 1990. Ms. Sniegolski is an owner of J&J’s Creative Colors since January 2009 and was employed by J&J’s Creative Colors since June of 1988.