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by Joshua Whitney Allen

Bernhardt Furniture accelerates its sales with IBM Bluemix

Published April 22, 2015


As they say in the furniture business, if you can’t find it at High Point, then it probably doesn’t exist.

The High Point Market is the largest furnishings market trade show in the world and brings more than 75,000 people to High Point, North Carolina every six months. It is the industry’s ultimate event, as important to that world as New York Fashion Week is to clothing design or the Detroit Auto Show is to the automotive industry. Designers, interior decorators, and the furniture press encounter the newest products in a multi-billion dollar sector. It is a huge marketing moment for any company in the vertical—one that Bernhardt Furniture needed to make the most of each year.

One of the largest family-owned furniture companies in the United States, Bernhardt has always prioritized key efforts of forward thinking in its corporate strategy: “Adapting to the needs of its clientele, relentlessly exploring new business opportunities, and staying ahead of the trends in the industry,” says Lacey Griffith, the company’s Director of IT.

This spirit, though, did not show in Bernhardt’s outdated sales resources at the High Point events. The company runs a showroom at the market that covers 75,000 square feet, and while thousands of customers passed through the showroom each day, the sales staff on the floor received information on pricing and product details in paper format. Six people were tasked with managing these paper updates. Face to face with a potential buyer, sales reps had to flip through cumbersome binders to suggest product options.

Company At a Glance >>


  • Company Name: Bernhardt Furniture Company, Inc.
  • Headquarters: Lenoir, North Carolina
  • Industry: Interior design
  • Employees: 1,250 worldwide
  • Founded: 1889
  • Website:

Company Details

Bernhardt Furniture Company, Inc., founded by John Mathias Bernhardt, is among the country’s largest family-owned furniture companies and a leading diversified global furniture manufacturer. The company operates eight manufacturing facilities, including a 75,000 sq. ft. showroom in High Point, North Carolina. Bernhardt’s furniture has received numerous awards for product design excellence, in diverse market segments, and the company has earned AHFA’s environmental excellence award for corporate performance.

IBM solutions:

IBM Bluemix

IBM SoftLayer

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If they closed a sale, the order was processed manually, handwritten, and then pushed through a slow process. “Despite the company’s best efforts,” explains Griffith, “this manual process left room for risk, errors, and time-consuming confusion. Bernhardt sought to transform its antiquated, paper-based catalog and ordering process into an interactive, cloud-based mobile application.” 

The 125 year-old company turned to another business with strong North Carolina roots—IBM—to find a solution.  Griffith recognized that building a known, traditional process into a mobile platform and application could increase sales efficiency. He sought out IBM to quickly design and deliver a mobile, virtual showroom app.

“Bernhardt evaluated cloud-based catalog service solutions which were not highly-customizable. We wanted our own look and unique functionality,” says Griffith. “IBM Bluemix allowed Bernhardt to rapidly deploy their mobile solution without up-front capital expenditures.”

Bernhardt’s needs for a technology-based process were considerable. The company hoped to redirect resources burdened by its paper-based workflow to strategic activities and data analysis, as well as improve the sales and ordering experience of both employees and customers. Bernhardt also hoped that a digital-based platform would equip its leaders with new, strategic planning capabilities.

Bernhardt sought to transform its antiquated, paper-based catalog and ordering process into an interactive, cloud-based mobile application.

Lacey Griffith, Director of IT, Bernhardt Furniture

The company meant to obtain speed where there had been sluggishness. Retailers would place orders for furnishings—orders that the staff had to manually track via spreadsheets. The staff had to focus more on the order management process and less on client interaction. The backend of the ordering system left staff redistributing the paper catalogs on a daily basis to update staff on market changes and product availability. This labor-intensive paper-based process also resulted in version-control risks and market fluctuation issues.

“In an industry driven by design, Bernhardt offers products that are stylish and cutting edge,” notes Griffith. “The manual processes previously used did not accurately portray the image of the company and its products.”

Positioned as the proponents of emerging technologies, IBM’s jStart team was formed to identify the emerging technologies that could provide the information and process integrity that Bernhardt sought. For their part, Bernhardt brought its extensive industry knowledge and design capabilities, providing the graphics and imagery that reflects its brand. Once all technical requirements were defined, the IBM team leveraged SoftLayer’s virtual cloud servers and the Bluemix platform to build and deliver Bernhardt’s virtual showroom in mere weeks.

After its design and build on Bluemix’s user-centric development platform, the new tablet-oriented virtual showroom app now allows sellers to demonstrate product views, fabrics, options, and accessories to customers. The app also simplifies order-taking and processing for both Bernhardt customers and operations staff.

Bluemix’s capabilities and services allow the app to feature a “wish list” option, which enables wholesale buyers to consider and compare different products. The app is able to immediately roll out pricing and inventory changes in real time.

By synching the backend data with the real-time markets, Bernhardt is able to adjust pricing based on demand, dynamically adjust its offerings based on market trends, and capitalize on the market intelligence immediately.

Lacey Griffith, Director of IT, Bernhardt Furniture

The app also provides Bernhardt with a new level of data analytics capabilities. Previously, managers had to poll individual sellers and manually analyze data to measure sales and product trends. Using Cloudant’s database capabilities available on Bluemix, Bernhardt is now able to perform strategic analyses with data in near real time.

The reorientation took only two months, from concept through design to implementation. Bernhardt is now able to move the updated inventory, pricing, and availability information out to their sellers with just clicks of a mobile device. This also enables them to work with those outside the market events.

“By synching the backend data with the real-time markets,” explains Griffith, “Bernhardt is able to adjust pricing based on demand, dynamically adjust its offerings based on market trends, and capitalize on the market intelligence immediately.”

Heather Eidenmiller, Director of Brand Development at Bernhardt, adds, “The reaction from the team has just been phenomenal. They are beyond excited that they don’t have to lug all of these binders around and that they have everything in one simple, easy-to-use tool. Not only does the product look fashion forward, but we do as well.”



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