Last Updated Mar 30, 2010 5:52 AM EDT
Any design-led retailer has this problem, but there is one online furniture retailer that has just started up that has a novel approach to ranging.
Made.com, which has just raised Â£2.5m from investors promises to hand over discounts to customers on their purchases through going to overseas manufacturers direct.
I spoke to co-founder Ning Li, who explained the company chooses its ranges by using crowdsourcing. The site is designed to allow new designers, who may find it difficult to get the attention of buyers elsewhere because of their lack of reputation, to post their designs up for customers to see.
Customers register an interest in products they like and if a particular product proves popular, Made.com puts it into production. Li says distribution costs can be cut by six to 10 times because the process circumvents the chain of five or six agents usually employed to run the supply process. There is no wastage in the logistical process, because products being shipped already have a ready market.
Li said the volume of orders have to fill a ship-container to be commercially viable. A good deal of the risk is up front, but more importantly, Made.com will continue to promote fresh ideas in furniture design that match its customers' sense of style, because they are the ones steering the company's ranging.
Made.com can react quickly to changes in its customers' tastes, making it more likely to succeed in the market.