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operations

J o u r n a l o f t h e We s t e r n H o m e F u r n i s h i n g s A s s o c i a t i o n

westernreporter

March 2009

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Western Home Furnishings Association 500 Giuseppe Court, #6 Roseville, CA 95678 CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED

www.WHFA.org


Journal of the Western Home Furnishings Association

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EDITORIAL STAFF MANAGING EDITOR: Melissa Dressler ............................... mdressler@whfa.org PUBLISHER: Melissa Robinson ........................................... mrobinson@whfa.org

table of contents featured articles

2009 WHFA OFFICERS AND EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Retailers’ Perspective: Owning Your Own In-store Financing Program . . 12

WHFA PRESIDENT Marty Cramer - Cramer’s Home Furnishings, Ellensburg, WA ..........(509) 933-2172 PRESIDENT ELECT Claudia LeClair - Fiesta Home Furnishings, Scottsdale, AZ..............(480) 951-3239 VICE PRESIDENT Angel Lopez - Dearden’s, Los Angeles, CA.......................................(213) 362-9600

Safety Corner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

TREASURER Chris Sanders - Everton Mattress Factory, Inc., Twin Falls, ID .........(208) 326-3407

Maintaining Your Online Image . 20

SECRETARY Valerie Watters - Valerie’s Furniture and Accents, Cave Creek, AZ...(480) 483-3327

The Value of Time . . . . . . . . . . . 24

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE CHAIR Keith Koplan - Koplan’s Furniture, Vancouver, WA............................(360) 695-3388 PAST PRESIDENTS

Turn Business Wealth Into Personal Wealth . . . . . . . . 26

George Nader - Nader’s La Popular, Gardena, CA ...........................(310) 327-8585 Cherie Rose - The Rose Collection, Los Gatos, CA..........................(408) 395-7773 EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Sharron Bradley - WHFA, Roseville, CA............................................(916) 784-7677

Twitter Made Simple . . . . . . . . . 28

AT LARGE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS Gary Absalonson - Walker’s Furniture Inc., Spokane, WA.................(509) 533-5500 Howard Haimsohn - Lawrance Contemporary, San Diego, CA ......... (619) 291-1911 Marvin Kerby - Kerby’s Furniture, Mesa, AZ ......................................(480) 834-3888 Lael Thompson - Broyhill Home Collections, Aurora, CO ..................(303) 360-9653 WHFA/NHFA LIAISON David Harkness - Harkness Furniture, Tacoma, WA..........................(253) 473-1234 WHFA BOARD MEMBERS Gene DeMeerleer - Furniture West, LaGrande, OR ..........................(541) 963-5440 Patti Evans - Consignment Plus, Walnut Creek, CA..........................(925) 927-6600 Greg Follett - Follett’s Furniture, Lewiston, ID ...................................(208) 743-0177

in every issue

Eric Foucrier - Linder’s Furniture Mart, Garden Grove, CA ...............(714) 210-4848 Giff Gates - Gates Furniture, Grants Pass, OR .................................(541) 476-4627 Eric Harms - Black’s Home Furnishings, Yreka, CA ..........................(530) 842-3876

Industry Beat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Ron Hoesterey - Royal Mattress Company, Inc., Orange, CA...........(800) 987-6925 Jerome James - Hafer’s Home Furnishings, Manteca, CA................(209) 823-2122

Board Member Q&A with Gene DeMeerleer . . 8

Julian Jeppe - Reeds Furniture, Agoura Hills, CA .............................(818) 597-7800

Retailer Notes: Surviving a Slow Economy . . . 10

Doug Kays - Premiere Home Furnishings, Los Angeles, CA............. (310) 268-0811 Chuck Kill - Bedmart, Tucson, AZ ......................................................(520) 887-7039

Member Profile with Selden’s Home Furnishings . . . . . . . . . 16

Tim Koerner - Koerner Furniture, Coeur D’Alene, ID.........................(208) 666-1525 Karen Kohlman - West Harvard Furniture, Roseburg. OR ................(541) 673-4221 Don Lemieux - Naturwood, Rancho Cordova, CA .............................(916) 638-2424

Program of the Month: Office Depot . . . . . . . 23

Jeff Lindsley - Lindsley’s Home Furnishings, Grangeville, ID ............(208) 983-1040 Sandy Lundgren - Olsen Furniture, Shelton, WA...............................(360) 426-4702 Robert Myers - Ashley Furniture HomeStore, Chico, CA...................(530) 345-2616 Mark Navarra - Jerome’s, San Diego, CA..........................................(858) 753-1549

contact

Michael Nermon - Ergo Customized Comfort, Irvine, CA ..................(949) 833-0338 Scott Selden - Selden’s - Tacoma, WA ..............................................(253) 922-5700 Sally Servidio - Silverado Home & Design, Napa, CA .......................(707) 251-0888 Mike Shuel - Meredith Furniture, Yakima, WA ...................................(509) 452-6221 Tom Slater - Slater’s Home Furnishings, Modesto, CA .....................(209) 522-9097 Pam Wright - Davis Furniture, Wenatchee, WA................................. (509) 662-4511

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Phone: (800) 422-3778 (12 western states) (916) 784-7677 Online: www.WHFA.org

WESTERN HOME FURNISHINGS ASSOCIATION STAFF

Fax:

(916) 784-7697

Executive Director: Sharron Bradley ...............................................(916) 960-0345

Mail:

500 Giuseppe Court, Suite 6 Roseville, CA 95678

Asst. Exec./Marketing Director: Kaprice Crawford.........................(916) 960-0346 Business Manager: Janice Carlson .................................................(916) 960-0347 Events Manager: Cindi Williams ......................................................(916) 960-0277 Operations/Warehouse Manager: Jef Spencer ..............................(916) 960-0386 Communications Planning Manager: Melissa Robinson ...............(916) 960-0349 Managing Editor & Webmaster: Melissa Dressler ..........................(916) 960-0385

Western Home Furnishings Association is the western affiliate of National Home Furnishings Association

Membership Manager: Michael Hill .................................................(916) 960-0263 Member Services Specialist: Margie Jacobs..................................(916) 960-0199 Member Services Rep: Adam Gardner ...........................................(916) 960-0291 Accounting Assistant: Melody King ................................................(916) 960-2476

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

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president’s message I hope all of you are having as much fun running your business lately as I am. I woke up the other morning at 4:30 a.m. and couldn’t wait to get to the office. The past year has been like being on a diet. Anyone that has tried to lose weight knows it doesn’t happen over night. You have to work on it a little every day and before you know it people are walking up to you and asking, “Have you lost weight?” We are really starting to see the effect from the changes we started making six, seven, even eight months ago. I have to tell you we are having a blast watching things turn around. I really am starting to think that the economy taking a dip, in the long run, will be the best thing that ever happened to our business. We are fast becoming a lean, mean furniture selling machine. I wish I could tell you we have an operations genius working with us, but frankly most of the changes we made came from networking with all of you. Below are just a couple of things we did, and I would love to hear some of the changes you made that have had a positive effect. Please feel free to send me an email at any time. A few months ago, I was talking to the manager of a furniture store down the street from one of our stores. He told me a story that happened a few days after they installed GPS tracking devices on their delivery trucks. It was about watching one of their trucks on the GPS system parked out in the middle of nowhere for two hours. After investigating they found out their delivery crew had taken a detour to cut down a couple of Christmas trees. Can you just hear the driver saying, “Is that wrong?” Within a few weeks we had the system installed on a test truck and the next thing we know they were delivering more furniture in less time. Think of how much that will bring to the bottom line. It is not very expensive to do and paid for itself in the first month. Another idea I picked up was to hold company-wide work groups. All we did was get small groups of staff together and figure out ways to save money without affecting our ability to offer the same level of customer service as before. In one of these groups was our company bookkeeper, and when her turn came around she asked me, “Do you know how much we spent in window washers last year?” I of course had no idea. Just over $7,000 was the amount. SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! We just spent $300 buying some of the finest squeegees and buckets money can buy and now we do windows. The communication between myself and our staff is at an all time high, and our bottom line is the main beneficiary. I know I probably sound like a furniture geek, but our staff and I are really having a great time tuning-up our operation. I have to say I believe the most important aspect of fine-tuning retail operations is the involvement of the staff in that process. If you are excited about the process and involve your staff, it should be a lot of fun for everyone. I have always believed: Have more fun, sell more furniture! See you in Hawaii.

Marty Cramer 2009 WHFA president Cramer’s Home Furnishings Ellensburg, WA marty@cramershomefurnishings.com

ON THE COVER Coastal Living™ by Stanley Furniture features Bungalow Bed Retails for $1,449. Finishes from left to right are: Morning Sky, Sand Dollar and Sea Glass. For more information, please visit www.CoastalLiving.com. Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

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editor’s message The Time is Now to Work On Your Business So often I hear retailers say that they are too busy working in their business to actually work on their business. With the current economy, now is the perfect opportunity to take a good look at your business and work on it. Where can you save some extra money, how can you make your business stronger for future downturns or what new advertising avenues can you take? The perfect time to work on your business is during WHFA’s Annual Conference & Expo, May 17 – 19, in Maui, HI. Now, I don’t want you to think that I am just trying to encourage you to come to the conference because I work for WHFA — I want you to come this year because I truly believe it is the most important event for you to attend to actually work on your business. Last year was my first WHFA conference, and I was impressed by the vast amount of knowledge and ideas each attendee has — and is willing to share! Each session during the conference is tailored to meet the current needs of our industry. This year’s education focuses on retail survival skills, remaining positive and generating more revenue in challenging times, succeeding, staying sane while having fun at work, new marketing strategies, sales information — and that is just in the education sessions! Hours have been dedicated for retailers to sit shoulderto-shoulder and discuss what works, and what doesn’t, for their store during the Retailer-to-Retailer Roundtables. The ideas shared at the Retailer-to-Retailer Roundtables will easily pay for your trip! Being away from your business allows you to reflect on your business and see what has been successful and what areas you still need to work on. Everyone in this industry has the same goal — to succeed and prosper. Join other industry peers and work on this goal together. Trust me, you will leave this conference with numerous business-saving ideas, wonderful new friends and maybe even a tan! It is time for you to get out, work on your business and enjoy a few days in paradise — you and your business deserve it. If you would like more information on the WHFA Conference & Expo, please visit www.WHFAconference.com or send me an email at mdressler@whfa.org. I hope to see all of you in Maui — I will be the one with the camera in one hand and a Mai Tai in the other! Aloha,

Melissa “Mel” Dressler Western Reporter managing editor MDressler@whfa.org

looking forward

sales and sales management

J o u r n a l o f t h e We s t e r n H o m e F u r n i s h i n g s A s s o c i a t i o n

westernreporter

February 2009

www.WHFA.org

to April/May 2009

Presorted Standard U S Postage PAID Permit #604 Sacramento, CA

Reassessing Your Ad Budget

Last month’s feature articles are available online at www.WHFA.org.

Creating Successful In-Store Events Marketing During a Recession ... and much more!

Western Home Furnishings Association 500 Giuseppe Court, #6 Roseville, CA 95678 CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED

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Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


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industry

beat

Walker Delivers Furniture to Dozens of Families Las Vegas, NV – For 15 years now, Walker Furniture has furnished the homes of dozens of deserving families down on their luck at Christmas. Given the current recession, the stack of nomination letters last year was larger than ever — nearly 2,000 letters. Aside from the usual catastrophes, like fires and terminal illness, many more of last year’s letters echoed economic hardship — eviction and foreclosure. In fact, Walker Furniture wasn’t even sure the company itself would be in a position to go forward

board

member

Q&A

with Gene

une onth t mber m y r e Eve oard M re into B o learn mo t Q&A your WHFA u o ab t members. board Gene DeMeerleer Furniture West PO Box 580 La Grande, OR 97850 (541) 963-5440

with the giant giveaway last year, “We thought, ‘No, it’s times like this when our community really needs us.’ We’ve got to do even more,” said Linda Alterwitz. The folks at Walker said their own employees needed the morale boost the annual Home for the Holidays program brings as much as the families who were selected needed the new furniture. Walker Furniture says it couldn’t do Home for the Holidays if they didn’t have the help from Help of Southern Nevada. The non-profit group reads every letter, narrows them down to several dozen and then makes unannounced home visits to verify that the need is legitimate. A total of 37 families will received new furniture last year.

Q What motivates, invigorates and inspires you about our A

industry? The home furnishings industry is a fashion industry. Style color and design are constantly changing and there is always something new to offer the consumer. I love seeing the change. I get excited every time we purchase a new product, hoping we’ve made the prefect choice for our market. I am also motivated about promoting my business, in particular with high impact sales. I love when it all comes together and we can do a month’s worth of business in a three-day period.

Q What is your most prized possession? A My most prized possession, without a doubt, is my family — my wife, two

kids and all of my relatives. I have been blessed that my family is very close.

Q How do you describe yourself? A I would consider myself a Type A personality. I am energetic, outgoing and very personal.

Q What does the next five years hold for you? A In today’s economy… survival! The next five years I figure will be more

challenging then the last five. The increasing presences of the Internet and import suppliers are rapidly changing the face of the furniture industry. The key will be to adapt my business model with this ever-changing industry.

Q When I retire, I want to: A I’m a long way from that day, but when it arrives Velma, my wife, and I will

embrace it. I plan on spending more time with my family, and Velma and I will probably travel a little more — there is so much to see and so little time.

Q Why did you join the WHFA board? A Truthfully, I was asked to join. I saw a chance to network with the leaders in

our industry. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to contribute through my personal experiences and build some wonderful relationships along the way. It has truly been a rewarding experience so far, and I look forward to the years ahead!

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Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


Maui Means Business. WHFA Conference Means Value.

Expand Your Mind. Escape to Paradise. Top 10 Reasons to join us at the Westin Maui 10. All your conference meals are included. 9.

28 educational sessions (Mai tai’s are allowed in the meeting rooms).

8.

WHFA conference tote bags hold your notebooks and sunscreen.

7.

Six hours of retailer roundtables to share solutions or make leis.

6.

The Heavenly Spa relaxation room overlooks the ocean.

5.

2009 Retailer of the Year Celebration will be awesome.

4.

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3.

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2.

gives you more resources and connections to help you thrive.

1.

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May 17-19, 2009 The Westin Maui Resort & Spa Maui, Hawaii

Western Home Furnishings Association • 800.422.3778 • www.WHFA.org


retailer

notes

What specific steps have you taken in your business to deal with this economic uncertainty and slowdown in consumer spending? These responses were provided by home furnishings retailers on the WHFA Discussion Forum. To post your own question or answer another retailer’s, visit www.WHFA.org, click on “Community” and then select “Join the Discussion.” I was formerly an investment analyst/financial analyst for 12 years before I bought a small furniture store in a mountain resort community. I have renegotiated our lease and the note we used to buy the business. Let’s face it, your rent is one of your biggest expenses. You can change all the light bulbs in all your buildings and switch to cheaper toilet paper, or cut back a little on advertising but none of that will help you as much as negotiating a sizeable, if temporary, reduction in your lease or debt service. If you think that’s not possible, try to come up with a likely tenant for your current location in this environment, I’d bet your landlord is hoping you won’t go out of business. – Laura Anderson, Back at the Ranch Home Furnishings, Gunnison, CO

We looked at one area of advertising, deliverin g 3,500 large format postcards to our local neighborhoods month ly, which was costing us $10,000 a year, and dec ided to trade that money for having in-store functions and doing qu arterly newsletters. Examples of our In-sto re Functions: • March we're having S ally Morse from Hunte r Douglas come and speak about "The 10 Be st Decorating Ideas" fo r charity, the Susan G. Koman foundation • May is a cooking clas s — our chef comes w ith his own equipment And we should be ahead by about $2,000 – Chrysteen Braun, A agean Designing Whim s, Los Alamitos, CA

ess by Grow the busin involved ng tti ge at looking and local with GSA, state racts for nt government co s. Have ice rv se goods and ailable av e us ho re your wa de e signers to service outsid that are s and contractor ment rn ve doing the go are ey Th g. in contract to ys all looking for wa d do an ad he eliminate over eir th n ai nt ai m not want to ns. io at oper own warehouse e th e, ac You have the sp ow how to staff and the kn receiving e id ts support ou and delivery. – Anonymous

gate this stments to navi ade many adju m here today at s e ha ar e d W an les levels. nce 2005 si sa e es m nu l our ho ve r re ro ir g shrinkin and paid off al ems to m been fighting ve purchased our success se d ha ce an to ni n e a at go re un on O rt Our store has g fo uthern ere sittin s: We were e located in so erations, we w a high op several factor om ay of fr -d e to us aff yst ca economy. We ar r da be no debt for to shrink ou me of 2004 d ve lu ha ha vo e e e w w gs we th t ), in lf bu se th l ha e of the almost it painfu d warehou . Here are som ized. We found ss l showroom an om ai ne si et on (r bu ec e te d th ta an es real wnsized and save the best staff d finally, we do e full ve the jobs of sa cash reserve an to ve d up cutting on ha u w 28. Yo e road. We ende th on ks uc of 50 plus to no tr stops to ber of delivery initiated: e departments ched our num at m e w re ven a day. Som su se e . le to ad s du m ur e he W ho sc e ce 1. th redu drivers out of ff employees or truck and two to the o options: layo tw ts en m t of our spots rt pa r de t to 80 percen urs. en ho rc d pe 2. We gave ou ce 75 du d re e change some took ace heaters, w s. chose layoffs, — no more sp s st by a few degree co ts ta gy os er m en er th e ce th ed st 3. Reduced ju some of our offi lbs, and we ad and eliminated ) rs de fluorescent bu or s . le ng sa ri own l wages and hi (entering their 4. We froze al es ourselves). in point-of-sale ew cr s le sa r nitorial servic ou ja d g ne in ai do tr d e te W 5. , OR we star s, Grants Pass expenses (i.e.: staff. me Furnishing ed outsourced Ho rb s so te ab Ga e s, w te d, we coul – Giff Ga 6. Anywhere

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Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


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TRUCKLOAD SALE Stretch Film and Tape at Truckload Pricing Your WHFA Products Program offers a selection of banding fim l , stretch wraps and packing tape for your furniture warehousing and delivery needs.

ONLY NEED ONE OR TWO CASES? Purchase ANY quantity of Stretch Film or Packing Tape and receive the 8+ case price during the month of March ‘09.

Stretch wrap and banding can be used to hold furniture pads in place and keep drawers and cabinets closed. It also provides a protective barrier from dirt and can reduce minor damage from abrasion. Other uses include securing smaller pieces so they don’t become separated from the main piece during delivery. Packing tape is useful for securing furniture and mattress bags around your product. Attaching delivery documents and sealing boxes are also standard uses for tape.

Western Home Furnishings Association Call Jef Spencer, WHFA warehouse manager, today to place an order. (916) 960-0386 • (800) 422-3778 • www.WHFA.org

I am a member of WHFA because of all the great services they have to offer members. From

education to

special discounts on product and services, WHFA takes all the risk and guess work out of running a business. As a member of WHFA it is like being involved in a large consulting group specific to our industry.

Robert & Vera Myers, owners, Ashley Furniture HomeStore Four Store Locations, WHFA Member Since 2004

Simplify Your Business Life Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

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Western Home Furnishings Association 800.422.3778 • www.WHFA.org

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feature article

Retailers’ Perspective: Owning Your Own In-Store Financing Program

George Nader vice president Nader’s La Popular Furniture Gardena, CA

Mike Boswell vice president of finance R.C. Willey Salt Lake City, UT

Mike Spiller owner Spiller Furniture Tuscaloosa, AL

W

estern Reporter magazine recently had the opportunity to sit down with three home furnishings retailers: George Nader, vice president of Nader’s La Popular Furniture, with two store locations, in Gardena, CA, Mike Boswell, VP of finance for R.C. Willey, with 12 store locations, based out of Salt Lake City, UT and Mike Spiller, owner of Spiller Furniture, with 16 store locations, based out of Tuscaloosa, AL, to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of owning your own receivables. The following is an excerpt from the conversation. To read the full interview, please visit the WHFA website at www.WHFA.org and click on Resources > Western Reporter Magazine Articles > Feature Articles.

Melissa Dressler Western Reporter managing editor

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Western Reporter: What do you see as an advantage of owning your own receivables? George Nader: For us, the original advantage was that if a customer was turned down by our external financing company, which we always try first, then we had a second shot at closing the sale. I think the advantages are quickly changing, and we are about even on advantages and disadvantages right now. Owning your own receivables used to be a good thing, but now we are suing more people and going to court a lot more to get our money. Mike Spiller: Well George, you are right on target and it sounds like you are running this company. We started out 62 years ago and my dad started financing his own accounts. Of course it is very capital intense in that you are basically turning inventory into IOUs. So you buy a sofa, put it on the floor, pay the manufacturer $100 and you sell if for $199, if you are lucky. Then you have an empty place on the floor, you are out a $100, you have an IOU westernreporter

in the ledger tray and you have to go buy another sofa. It is a vicious cycle of replacing inventory. The premise of this is that we are in the financing business and our commodity is furniture. By doing that, we make our own decisions, set our own credit standards, and we have never sold paper to an outside firm. Every time we have thought we might want to do it, we have given the customers the choice of the Spiller plan and the Norwest plan and evidently they took the Spiller plan because they didn’t want to deal with a third-party financier. When the economy was very strong, this changed slightly because customers could get credit anywhere. So, that took some of the luster off of our niche. I am hoping that it is going to come back to where it was because our credit standards haven’t changed. Our advertising program as of late has been, “If you have been turned down by other people, come see us. We still have the same credit standard we have always had, and we would love to do business with you.” So thank goodness we have these account Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


receivables because when you are collecting more then you are selling, which is our case right now, then we have that backlog of receivables to rely on through hard times. I am hearing of many people who do not have receivables having to borrow money to pay the bills. That is a tough place to be, so that is a huge advantage of owning your own receivables. Mike Boswell: It sounds like Mike’s business and our business is similar. We have put a big emphasis on credit for many years. Our business has really taken off in credit over the last 20 years, and we have a huge accounts receivable portfolio out there that is bringing in interest, late charge and insurance revenue. It really has saved our bacon this last year because of the downturn in the economy. Our sales were as affected like everyone else. On a monthly basis, we finance about 43 percent of our sales in our own finance plan. We handle everything; we create the credit cards, we have the collection operation, we have bankruptcy specialists, we do our own billing — the total operation is working so well. One advantage that we believe is we save money on credit transactions. Obviously, we all have to pay transaction costs to banks to process credit cards, whether it is Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, but if we can finance those receivables in house and generate a cash flow, we save a significant amount of money in that aspect as well. And since we have such a large portfolio in cash flow, we don’t have to borrow any money when we purchase inventory and convert it to a receivable. With the backing of Berkshire Hathaway, when and if R.C. Willey ever borrows money, we borrow at ridiculously low interest rates and then lend it out at 21 percent — that spread is just the profitability that keeps our company very strong and healthy. We actually, if you can believe it, have expanded our operation and now do financing for other merchants. We have a string of tire merchants called Big O Tires, and we finance about 189 stores which generate about a $1.2 million in receivables every month on top of the financing we are doing at R.C. Willey. It has really turned out to be quite a cash cow. Now, obviously, we are also struggling with the same kind of situations with higher delinquencies and bad debt, but we have been able to manage it. The other advantage that we have is that we can control our own financing plans. We have competitors come in here and throw out Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

financing for two, three, four, five or 10 years, but we have held our own. We have elected not to go out with long-term, no payment, no interest plans. We require our customers to pay a minimum principle payment each month even though we may not assess them a finance charge if they pay it off in 12 or 18 months. Our longest amortization is 18 months, and we don’t go any longer then that. Mike Spiller: Our longest is 24 months. George Nader: We go 24 as well. WR: Mike Spiller and Mike Boswell both mentioned that they only do inhouse financing. George, what percentage of financing do you outsource to other companies? George Nader: At this point we are just using Citi Retail Services, and I couldn’t tell you exactly what the percentage is. My dad, like your dad Mike Spiller, started our business 53 years ago and it took my brothers and I a long time to get to a point where it didn’t hurt so much to buy the furniture on credit and then wait for the money. It took time to get to a point where our accounts were so high that the payments coming in really took over, and we didn’t have any problems buying the furniture. Another component of owning your own receivables is you have to set up a whole department that just deals with credit. We have several people that just call customers every day, send out statements, sue people, and go to court just about every Friday. Sometimes we have to garnish people’s wages because some people just won’t pay unless you garnish their wages. We first try to work with customers who are having a hard time paying and will help them refinance their payments. Ultimately, we want to help the customer because we want them to come back and buy more furniture. But if there is no other way to get the money and they have a job and just don’t want to pay us, then we have to do what we have to do. Mike Spiller: We have the same delinquency and have run away charge-offs that are higher then they should be and are constantly working on that. Our managers and credit managers pay is very much affected by delinquent accounts so we try and outrun those people. But working with people is one of the main things we try to do. If they call in and tell us their hours have been cut back at the Mercedes plant so they need to make westernreporter

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some arrangements on their payments, then we will gladly work with them. But when the customer was receiving full-time pay and not paying us, then we will say, “Well, when you were doing well you were missing payments so we need to get together and come to an understanding about this.” George Nader: I just want to reiterate that for us, having our own financing is our second shot at the customer. I have talked to people that don’t have the back-up plan for financing their own sales, and I was recently approached by two retailers who wanted to know how to set up their own instore financing because their finance company was turning down a lot of people and they were losing customers. They wanted to know how to do it, and I told them that I wouldn’t set it up today. If we didn’t already have our financing program in place today, I wouldn’t do it. It takes many years to really set up a program where you really understand the business, how to read a credit report, and you know what to do to sue and garnish. You have to be prepared and set up to do all of that and if you aren’t, you are going to lose. So I told them that I wouldn’t do it in this day in age, especially with the way the economy is. I know they are looking for a new way to save the customer, but it isn’t a good time to set up that kind of thing.

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WR: Do you find that having your own credit helps with customer loyalty? Mike Spiller: Absolutely. It has diminished some, but it used to create great customer loyalty. It may come back. George Nader: Even with our Citi Retail program, they get a card with our logo on it and it is only good in our store, so that brings people back in. Mike Boswell: I just want to confirm what Mike and George have said, I think the real advantage of having in-store credit is it gives you the ability to negotiate and work with customers that are struggling to meet their obligations. I am a firm believer that if a person is struggling financially, in most cases, it is a temporary situation and at some point in time their finances will improve. If you take a hard line and boot them out of your store because they didn’t pay their bill, they are obviously not going to come back. If you lower their payment, maybe forgive a few late charges and help them through whatever condition they are in — it could be a divorce, death in the family, illness of a child — they will remember us because we never took a hard line — we took a soft line, helped their payments and

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


got them over the hump. Those people become so loyal that they won’t shop anywhere else because they remember how they were treated in our store. That is a great advantage to having your own in-house financing in your operation. WR: With these current economic times, are you offering different financing programs? Mike Spiller: We have not changed anything but we have put more emphasis on the fact that those plans are in place and ready for you to use. Mike Boswell: R.C. Willey now has stores scattered throughout the West, and we were using specific finance plans for different markets. For example, in areas that we had competition with Ashley Furniture, we were using the 18month, no interest financing to be competitive with their terms. That is one of the beauties of having the ability to move with market conditions and offer up specific finance plans at any time to meet competitive needs. So, we have become a little more aggressive in promoting the nature of our 18-month financing, and it has been fairly successful for us. WR: Do you have a program in place to encourage open-to-buy? Mike Spiller: I am glad you brought that up because we have a computer program that I like to call the, “Did you know program,” which produces a very simple letter to thank the customer for their on-time payments and tells them: Did you know you can add on $648 to your account and not change your payment? That has worked well for us. When you are in the credit business, you would really love to keep them on the books. And the best time to add to an account is when they get a low balance. Don’t let them pay out because they may find that they like that R.C. Willey store better then the Spiller store when they went out to Las Vegas and spent a little money. So, what we try to do is keep them on the books. Mike Boswell: We do it three or four times a year. We do a direct mail piece to our customers that have available credit. Usually there is a free gift involved with it and special financing terms for those individuals. And Mike is right, you want to keep those people on your books and not have them go someplace else. George Nader: We also send out instant credit letters with a picture on it with a free gift to entice them to come back in. WR: George mentioned his thoughts on this earlier, but would you recommend doing your own in-store credit to other retailers? Mike Boswell: I am going to have to agree with what George said earlier. The nature of consumer credit financing right now is so sophisticated that you are going to have to invest a lot of money into technology to be competitive with doing it. I think it is a terrible time, especially in this economy, to come out fresh. I don’t even think I would tackle that. Mike Spiller: I haven’t seen a furniture credit store open up in a long, long time. The reason is because of the time and cost that it takes to develop a program. The other reason is there are other ways to make money besides trying to finance furniture, and I think those shine a little brighter then credit furniture. I think

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

because of those reasons it isn’t something that you say you just want to do. Mike Boswell: You really have to have a large amount of cash to start off with. If you had to borrow that money to supply the inventory in the beginning, it would cost a lot to just borrow the money. You have an added expense on top of purchasing the inventory.

Read the full interv Visit the W iew onl www.WH HFA website atine. Resource FA.org and click Magazines > Western Repo on rte Articles > Feature Ar rticles.

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member profile

Selden’s Home Furnishings Tacoma, WA

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Melissa Dressler Western Reporter managing editor

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he Selden family has been associated with Pierce County commerce for nearly eight decades. In the early 1930s, Syd Selden worked in various flooring stores around Tacoma, WA, working his way up from stock boy to manager. In April of 1940, Syd opened his own floor covering store called Selden’s. “He opened his own 30 by 70 foot showroom in downtown Tacoma and sold primarily floor coverings,” said Scott Selden, Syd’s grandson and current owner of Selden’s Home Furnishings. “When World War II broke out, business picked up and he was making everything from blackout shades to floor coverings for the military.” Shortly after the end of World War II, Syd added appliances and home furnishings to Selden’s product line-up to keep up with the post-war consumer demands. Today the store continues to offer its customers a wide-range of products from floor covers, drapery, furniture, accessories, appliances and paint. Selden’s Home Furnishings has three store operations running out of one location: a Thomasville store, a Bassett store and the Selden store. While the store has evolved since Syd first opened the doors in 1940, Scott says that Syd’s core values are still in place. “Our family’s history is to always put back into the company and invest in technology and people — stick to the basics,” he said. “My grandfather also taught us to bend over backwards for service, and we do that to this day.” westernreporter

Full-Service Store Walking into Selden’s Home Furnishings could be a little overwhelming for some shoppers. The 100,000 square foot showroom is a welldisplayed, high-end store that features a large design center, children’s play area and kitchen deli offering popcorn and coffee. The wellaccessorized store offers Selden’s clients fullservice interior design — from kitchen cabinetry, to flooring, to drapery and home furnishings. In-home visits for the sales and design consultants are mandatory if they wish to succeed. “If you want to survive and make a decent living working for our company, then you have to go into the customer’s home,” said Scott. “Most of our design consultants will go the extra mile for their clients and develop very close, personal relationships with them. Many consultants have their own set of keys to a client’s home and will go over before the client gets home to make them a batch of fresh baked cookies for the client, which is always nice for them to come home to.” They often have clients visit the store looking to redesign their entire home. “It is not too uncommon for us to have $100,000 to $250,000 clients,” Scott said. Their attention to customer service has created a loyal customer base. Clients that have either moved out of state or have a second home often ask for Selden’s to furnish and design their new home. Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


Selden’s Home Furnishings Managment Staff

Open Book Management While Scott believes it is important to take care of his customers, he also believes it is very important to take care of his employees. With a hands-off management style, Scott thinks it is essential to be open with his employees. “One thing we do here that is a little unique in our industry is what we call ‘Open Book Management’. Our financial numbers, volume, profitability and expenses are shared with every staff member. Our Open Book Management is part of a profit-sharing program that the whole company shares in,” he said. By allowing everyone in the company to view the financials, Scott believes it helps motivate everyone and gives them a better understanding of what the true costs are to operate the business. “I think it helps control costs because when they see a line item on how much vehicle maintenance is, hopefully the driver will take a little better care of the truck while he is on the road,” said Scott.

Surviving an Economic Downturn Having been in business for close to 70 years, Selden’s has witnessed and survived many fluctuations in the economy. During this current economic downturn, Scott and his team, “Really got down to the basics of our marketing and found what drives customers to our store in these types of business conditions. We also went to our marketing partners, such as the TV stations and newspapers, and put pressure on them to help us through these difficult times. We have been able to dramatically decrease costs in our television production budget, and we have also started buying our own media and now retain the commissions that you would typically have to pay a media buyer.” Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

By making these adjustments to their advertising and marketing plan, Selden’s has been able to continue to market to their customers and save money from their bottom line.

The Future Scott hopes the future will bring his company and his family financial security. He is content with his current store and wishes to be the best at what they do in their market. Scott also hopes that people see him as an honest businessman that cares for his staff and the customers that have provided for him over the years. Selden’s Home Furnishings has found a winning combination of a vast product-line, a great working environment and the ability to adjust due to business needs, Selden’s will keep customers visiting and enjoying their store for many more decades to come.

At a Glance Store Location: Tacoma, WA Type of Store: Full-line Year Founded: 1940 Number of Employees: 100+ Number of Store Locations: 3 operations in 1 location Annual Sales Volume: $5 million Website: www.seldens.com Top Manufacturers: Bassett, Thomasville, Drexel Heritage, Stickley, Sherril Furniture, Medallion Rug Co. WHFA Member Since: Before 1977

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Safety Corner Warehouse Safety

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arehouses range from product distribution centers to popular retailers that sell oversize and bulk products. Whether it is an industrial, commercial or retail facility, warehouse workers should follow safety guidelines for loading docks, conveyor systems, forklifts and pallet jacks, material storage and handling and good housekeeping. Products enter and exit warehouses through truck and loading dock systems that are usually at a height above the ground. When loading and unloading materials, workers should pay special attention to avoid falls from elevated docks and ramps; yellow striping can draw attention to edges. Trucks delivering goods should be treated cautiously while they are parked at the loading dock. The area between the dock and truck is hazardous because a rolling truck can cause a crush injury; truck wheels should be chocked while unloading. Forklifts and pallet jacks help move products from the shipping area into and around the warehouse. Forklifts are powered industrial trucks; forklift operators require training and certification while pallet jack operators require

training only. Loads should be properly lifted on forks and stabilized, then slowly and deliberately taken to their assigned location. Forklifts and pallet jacks should never be used as rides or man lifts. When large, awkward, and/or heavy items are warehoused, they become a challenge to store in a safe manner. Storage shelving and rack systems should be sturdy, braced, and spacious enough to allow people and equipment to move freely. When goods are shelved, they require slow and careful placement to avoid disturbing or pushing products off the facing aisle on to co-workers below. Products should be stored flat and inside the shelving units with aisleways kept clear. Pallets used for stacking products should be sturdy and in good condition; damaged or unstable pallet items should be restacked on a new one. Where possible, palleted products should be shrinkwrapped or baled for stability.

Tour the WHFA website at www.WHFA.org > This month’s stop . . . Western Home Furnishings Association

About WHFA

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Safety Spot

Industry News Publications and Manuals Safety Spot

Do you need assistance in creating a safer working environment? Through WHFA’s Safety Spot, you will find a multitude of safety information including links to Cal OSHA, brochures on safe lifting techniques and office ergonomics, safety products, companies that provide forklift certification and much more. Visit the Safety Spot today and keep your store a safe place to work.

Sustainable Business Practices Western Reporter magazine articles

Visit the Safety Spot at www.W HFA.org! Click on Resou rces > Safety Sp to view articles, ot brochures and lin ks to keep you and your employ ees safe at wor k.

Western Home Furnishings Association • www.WHFA.org • (800) 422-3778

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Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


Workers can protect themselves on the job with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as steel-toed shoes, gloves and hard hats or bump caps. Proper lifting techniques protect backs. Safe lifting also prevents loads from shifting, falling, and crushing fingers, hands and toes.

Good housekeeping in a warehouse requires keeping dirt, oil and debris off the docks and floors. Floors should be nonslippery and free from pits and dents. Excess garbage, boxes, baling materials, and other recyclables should be removed and stored properly. Training on the hazards and attention to procedures will make sure warehouse workers stay safe.

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For more safety information visit the SAFETY SPOT at www.WHFA.org > Resources > Safety Spot or contact Kaprice Crawford your Association Safety Director at (800) 422-3778.

For generations, California employers have depended on www. scif..com State Fund to meet their workers’ compensation needs. 'PSHFOFSBUJPOT $BMJGPSOJBFNQMPZFSTIBWFEFQFOEFEPO4UBUF'VOEUPNFFUUIFJS Since 1914, through good times and bad, we’ve always W W W S C XPSLFSTÂľDPNQFOTBUJPOOFFET4JODF UISPVHIHPPEUJNFTBOECBE XFÂľWF been on hand for California businesses. Call your BMXBZTCFFOPOIBOEGPS$BMJGPSOJBCVTJOFTTFT broker, or Patty Garcia of State Fund Group Programs $BMMZPVSCSPLFS PS1BUUZ(BSDJBPG4UBUF'VOE(SPVQ1SPHSBNTBU   at (800) 423-0303 and let us show you how we’ve BOEMFUVTTIPXZPVIPXXFÂľWFCFDPNFTVDIBSPDLTPMJEQBSUPGUIJTHSFBUTUBUF become such a rock-solid part of this great state.

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

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Photo on file

Maintaining Your Operation’s Online Image buzzword “Buzz” isthesea bigdays, because

David Lively owner The Lively Merchant

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consumers are buzzing in ways that were unheard of just five years ago. Forget the back fence. Today they share their opinions and experiences on social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. What this means to you is that managing your customer satisfaction department just became a global endeavor. When Harvard sophomore Matt Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004, more than half of his fellow students registered for the service within the first month. Now open to anyone over the age of 13, Facebook currently has 150 million users worldwide, including me. Within days of creating my Facebook account I was invited to become virtual “friends” with a diverse crowd of former high school classmates, business associates and even my mother-in-law, who uses it to share videos of her grandkids. Soon I could see what movies my widening circle of friends were watching, what causes they supported and see pictures of their kids. One person complained about a defective gift, another warned about high levels of lead in thrift-shop finds. MySpace has 76.4 million users just in the U.S. while LinkedIn, a business-oriented network for professionals, has more than 30

westernreporter

million registered users in 150 industries. Twitter is a micro-blogging network that limits posts to 140 characters — just enough to answer the ubiquitous question, “What are you doing?” What your customer is doing is telling her friends, be they actual or virtual, “what she is doing” at work, at home and out on the town with text, pictures and videos. She actually has a tendency to share a little too much, so much so that Webster’s New World Dictionary named “overshare” its 2008 Word of the Year: overshare (verb): to divulge excessive personal information, as in a blog or broadcast interview, prompting reactions ranging from alarmed discomfort to approval. This tendency to overshare has also begun to have a profound impact on the retail home furnishing business because customers can complain to their heart’s content around the world and there is very little you can do about it. She can rant on her own personal profile page or on sites like yelp.com, “The fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what’s great — and not so great — in your local area. It’s about real people giving their honest and personal opinions on everything from restaurants and spas to coffee shops and bars.” A quick search on yelp.com for “furniture” reviews in San Francisco yielded the following results on yelp.com: Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

be afraid of customer complaints. Use them as a tool to build loyalty and get to the heart of the problem. Follow up in person and through email. Ask for comments and provide ample opportunity for contact on your website, and post customer testimonials. Add a live help feature where you can chat with your customers from your site to address problems on the spot. Create a blog and learn to use this low- or nocost tool for instant mass communication. Give your customer a place to be heard where you control the outcome. Next, become a social butterfly. Create a MySpace page and Facebook profile for your company. Go where your customer goes online. Learn how to respond by being open, honest, transparent and conversational. Finally, be informed. Google yourself every once in a while, you might be surprised at what you find. You can also receive customized content to your inbox using free services such as Google Alerts (google.com/alerts). Follow your company by simply specifying your search terms and the type of news coverage you want to follow. Beyond Google, services like Yell if It Changes (yellifitchanges.com) inform you via email when websites you follow are updated, change Google page rank, get more inbound links or change position on Google. Tweet Scan (tweetscan.com) notifies you anytime someone decides to tell the world in 140 characters or less how bad or how wonderfully you are performing. If you want to know what bloggers are saying about you, search blogs for your company name at Google’s new blog search application (blogsearch.google.com) the subscribe to a feed for regular updates. What’s a feed, anyway? An RSS feed (Really Simple Syndication) is the Internet’s version of the scroll at the bottom of a cable news channel or baseball game. A feed is a standardized format for displaying online content that’s updated frequently like blogs, news headlines,

Don’t be afraid of customer complaints. Use them as a tool to build loyalty and get to the heart of the problem.

westernreporter

“My experience with [xyz] Furniture could not have been better. Tom was helpful and informative, but never pushy. I got an amazing deal on a faux leather couch and loveseat, and they were delivered free the following Saturday, within the window promised; the delivery guys carried both items up three flights of stairs, finished constructing the legs and carried away the packaging.” That kind of word-of-mouth is priceless, especially since 16 million unique visitors viewed the site in October 2008. However, many of them undoubtedly read this review: “They have big signs up saying “Mattress Sale” and I ask the salesperson, “Is there any special sale I should be aware of today?” thinking he’ll say something like, “Yes, Sealy mattresses are 5 percent off.” But instead he replies, “Do you like firm or soft mattresses?” Couldn’t get him to leave me alone and stop spouting his 1960s hard sale crap, for example, “Will your wife be involved in the decision?” I’m the easiest sale they had walk in the door all day and they lost it because of their annoying high pressure tactics.” Your customers can also share their opinions at sites like my3cents.com (which allows the company an opportunity to respond), consumeraffairs.com (which hooks complaining consumers up with lawyers for complaints with legal merit) and topix.net (where readers comment on local or topical news feeds). But the highest tier of online opinion-airing are vindictive sites like bassettfurnituredirectsucks.com, which ranks on the first page of Google’s organic search results (right after consumeraffairs.com and right before legitimate store listings in Pennsylvania and Dallas). User groups and social networks also form around their common beefs, like the Facebook consumer group who does nothing but complain about Ashley Furniture or the 431 members who all “can’t stand those terrible [name] Furniture commercials.” Note: As I’m online at Facebook to research this article, one of my “friends,” a former coworker I don’t even remember, sees that I’m online and sends me an instant message about a typo buried deep on my website, which she found through my profile. So, now you know how your consumer is using social networking to make her voice heard. But what are you going to do about it? A fourpronged strategy will help keep your good name squeaky clean: First, don’t screw up in the first place. In this media-hyper age a simple service call could land on the nightly news. Don’t be paranoid, but do remember that anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of public opinion. Be nice. Big Brother is watching (surrounded by his circle of friends), and successful service can earn you kudos and street cred. Secondly, initiate the conversation. Don’t

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conduct full media monitoring on up to three search terms. Think outside your company’s walls when scouring the web for the latest buzz. Track your competition, your vendors and the home furnishings industry for the latest news — both good and bad. You’ll soon be an industry insider with water cooler fodder to spare. No, your customer is not always right — but she is increasingly vocal. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Don’t be silent. Find your own voice and use it to respond.

audio and video. Unlike the cable crawler, you get to choose which content you want to see, and checking out the latest posts is as easy as scanning through your favorites. Feeds can even be delivered to your email. Google has a free RSS Reader at reader.google.com, or check out the help menus on your Internet browser for more information. Monitor your reputation using the free “Reputation Monitor” tool at StrategicProfits.com. This download helps you stay on top of online conversations about you or your company on the Internet. For a few bucks a month, trackur.com will

NEW!

David Lively has over 20 year’s hands-on experience in the home furnishings industry. Twice named to Furniture Today’s “Beyond the Top 100” list of independent retailers and 1997 “Ohio Retailer of the Year,” David’s wisdom was won on the front lines and his battle scars have given him compassion for counseling today’s retail warrior. David is on the forefront of a new phenomenon that will soon rock the home furnishings industry: the transfer of authority, responsibility and wealth from one generation to the next. Four out of five familyowned furniture stores are still led by their founder, and 40 percent of them will change hands in the next five years. David has developed a proprietary and unparalleled system for helping identify goals, strengths and opportunities during this crucial time. You can reach David at (740) 415-3192 or visit www.thelivelymerchant.com.

interactive marketing services EMAIL MARKETING including custom templates, list acquisition & targeted mailings WEB SITE DEVELOPMENT including design, programming, hosting & optimization SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING & ONLINE MEDIA to drive more traffic to your store

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• DIRECT MAIL • EMAIL CAMPAIGNS • GIFT INCENTIVES • EVENT SIGNS & POS

Banker & Brisebois ADVERTISING call to find out more 800.456.0210 22

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bbcmk.com

© 2009 B&B

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


whfa program of the month

Cutting Costs? Start with your Office Products

H

ow much time and money do you spend purchasing office products, business machines and janitorial supplies? Want to spend less? As a member, you have access to extreme discounted pricing with Office Depot only through the WHFA members only website. Cut as much as 75 percent off your purchase by ordering directly through Office Depot’s website. Stop wasting gas and time by driving to the store and receive your online purchases within 24 hours. Ordering online also offers you the following advantages: • Live inventory status: Real-time inventory viewing of all Office Depot Distribution Centers, based on your shipping location • 18 months of order history and tracking — only available online • See your WHFA discount on all items • The ability to build both personal and companywide Custom Shopping Lists containing best value items, favorites, frequently ordered items, etc. • Browse Office Depot’s online catalog of more than 15,000 items • 24-hour delivery: Order by 5:00 p.m., and receive your order the next business day!

WHFA operations programs

YES WE ARE

OPEN

 Discount Paint and Customer Reward Program  Employee Uniform Program  Office Supplies  Business Forms  Business Cards

Kaprice Crawford WHFA marketing director

As a current WHFA member, you are already set up and ready to start ordering! Just call the WHFA office at (800) 422-3778, and obtain your Office Depot specific username and password.

 Otis Spunkmeyer Fresh Baked Cookies

through WHFA’s partner

 Travel Discounts  Products Program  24-Hour Vehicle Monitoring and Safety Management System

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

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The Value of Time Staying home to mind the store won’t help turn it around

A Brian D. Casey, CEM president & CEO High Point Market Authority

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recent “Wall Street Journal” article entitled “Tradeshows Are Likely to Be More Subdued,” raised new questions last month about the effectiveness of tradeshows in light of the rising costs of business travel. The article was published amid a flurry of media speculation that attendance at the largest trade event in America, the Consumer Electronics Show, was lighter than usual. The massive CES show may be the first major event this year to be conducted in the new economic reality we are all facing, but it certainly won’t be the only show that will struggle with attracting attendees, both in this country and around the globe. In my role as a board member of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), I regularly interface with the best and brightest tradeshow executives across all industries, and I can assure you that, no matter the category, every show is struggling with the same issues. Companies everywhere are tightening belts and trimming spending, and less revenue means less travel budget. It would be all too easy to choose to stay home these days. The daily onslaught of media reports about the state of the economy, with nearly every story containing a strong negative bias, makes it natural to succumb to deep concern and even despondency about what the future holds. The irony is that tradeshows of all types actually resonate best when times are toughest. That’s because markets are, if nothing else, highly efficient and cost-effective. While there are costs associated with airfares and accommodations, major exhibitions like CES, and yes, the High Point Market, offer buyers the opportunity to see a lot of the people that they need to see in a very short period of time and all in one place. And, with so many companies struggling with downsized workforces, and executives everywhere grappling with the issue of how to do more with less, spending one’s time wisely now is imperative. Additionally, aggregating buyers and sellers under one roof westernreporter

(in our case, many roofs), eliminates hundreds of thousands of dollars of travel expenses and focuses everyone’s activity on buying and selling.

High Touch Matters More Than Ever At the same time, it’s not realistic to think that all travel can be reduced to an electronic meeting today. The fact is that even in this era of instant messaging, teleconferences, online catalogs and webinars, home furnishings professionals still need to meet and conduct business face-to-face. Shoring up relationships with key vendors and increasing product knowledge is vitally important to ensure a business’ survival. Markets are the place to interface with company executives, ask questions, find answers and get things done. And, meeting face-to-face with your vendors is an integral step in uncovering the ideas that will keep you competitive through any business cycle. Indeed, when times are tough and there is more on the line than ever before, I believe relationships and face-to-face interaction become even more important. Now more than ever, companies must stay engaged with their vendors, suppliers and customers, and every retailer knows that just can’t be accomplished via phone, email and voicemail all the time. When you’re working as hard as you can to find creative solutions to get business moving again, when you are anxious to identify the next big thing, and when you need to explore new revenue opportunities, meeting people who share similar visions and who are wrestling with similar problems, can also be invaluable. When you are struggling to generate new business, you need new perspectives, ideas and resources. And, you need to lay the groundwork for important partnerships and business deals that could eventually change the way you do business. Attending markets and other industry events provides you with an opportunity to network with your peers and to learn something new

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


Make the Most of Every Minute

merely by meeting new people, and frankly, the larger the market, the greater the benefits to be accrued. While fear of falling further behind might tempt a retailer to stay home to “man the store,” the reality is that seeing things beyond the walls of your company will stimulate your thinking, and by extension, your business. Bear in mind too that a premier industry event like the High Point Market is also an excellent opportunity to train people who haven’t had much exposure to our industry. If you’re looking to inject new thinking into your business, try exposing that young designer/ merchandiser/junior buyer on your team who hungers for greater responsibility to the wider world of home furnishings by bringing them along. Think back to your very first trip to the High Point Market. Remember the excitement and enthusiasm for the business that it generated? Expanding your team on the ground at Market will help you see it all with fresh eyes and generate new energy in your business when you’re back home.

Brian D. Casey, CEM, had been in the tradeshow and meetings business for more than 26 years before accepting his current position as president and CEO of the High Point Market Authority two years ago. For more information on the High Point Market, visit www. highpointmarket.org. whfa guide ad revised:whfa ad 2/4/09 1:31 PM

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Since all businesses are increasingly compelled to justify budgets with measurable results, in considering whether to attend a market, ask yourself the following: • Where do I want my business to go over the next couple of years? What information can I learn at market that will help me get there? • What kind of purchases will we need to make in the next 12 to 24 months? What is new that we need to know about for future reference? Once you make the decision to attend, to make the market experience more valuable, profitable and worthy of your time and expense, do your homework. It’s important that everyone on your buying team has a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Visit the event’s website and read through any materials that you receive in advance of the show, such as the Market Preview Guides. Know who you want to see and when, and make appointments with exhibitors in advance. Be sure also to take advantage of the educational offerings and try to leave some breathing room in the schedule. It’s no secret that working a market is hard work, but it’s important to make time for new people, new relationships and, most of all, new opportunities!

The Most Profitable $1.95 You’ve Ever Invested In Your Sales Force! From www.furninfo.com/store It?s lly! Buying, Si g Side Buyin of Side by The Paradox o, Ph.D. Marin By Peter A.

16 Page Guides on products, styles, interior design, wood, fabric, leather, furniture construction & more! Each with a complete glossary of terms.

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Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

Need More Information?

www.furninfo.com/store Call Toll Free 877-235-3095 or 914-235-3095

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From FURNITURE WORLD Magazine

MArCH 2009

25


Turn Your Business Wealth Into Personal Wealth The Future of Small Business Retirement Plans

Soozie McDonald CRPS David White & Associates

26

I

n an ideal world all hard-working Americans would retire at age 65 on a full company pension, collecting adequate social security and comfortably living out their golden years spending time with family and friends. All their years of hard work and devotion to their employer would have paid off. What’s wrong with this picture? Americans aren’t retiring at age 65, companies can’t afford to fully fund a pension plan, and social security may not produce an adequate amount of retirement income. The reality is much worse. Americans are going back to work in their 70’s because they are burning through their savings, and social security isn’t nearly enough to support their current standard of living. What if you’re a business owner? What does your retirement future hold for you? Are you able to save anything for your retirement? Is it enough? Are you relying on the sale of your business to fund your retirement nest egg? What if it takes longer than you thought to find someone to buy your business? How can you turn your business wealth into personal wealth? The answer is pretty obvious: set up a qualified company retirement plan. In these times of economic uncertainty, business owners can take a paternal stance, offering their valued long-time employees a retirement plan which gives them the opportunity to put their own money aside for retirement. Business owners don’t have an obligation to take care of their employees and we know they are often swimming in other business expenses, but they are faced with two choices: either pay the IRS all the

MArCH 2009

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taxes they owe at the end of the year, or reduce their annual tax liability by contributing to their company retirement plan on behalf of themselves and their employees. Who would you rather pay? Most small business owners don’t set up qualified retirement plans for a number of reasons: fees are high, it’s too much work, or they can’t put enough money away to justify the cost. These are all really valid reasons for not setting up a company retirement plan, but in today’s retirement plan arena they just aren’t true. There are a number of ways for small business owners to set up company retirement plans that are cost-effective and allow owners to fund a substantial amount that is 100 percent tax deductible to the company. There are several types of non-qualified company retirement plans that allow you and your employees to save for retirement and some of them don’t cost a dime. So, why set up a qualified plan? Higher contribution limits mean higher tax deductions. If your goal is to find a way to turn your business wealth into personal wealth, you will need to save larger amounts of money on a tax favorable basis. Designing the right qualified plan is a crucial element to getting the highest tax deduction. Now that you are convinced that you and your employees need a qualified plan, let’s discuss the true concern of every business owner. How do we design a plan that allows business owners to save a large amount for Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


themselves and contribute company profits to their own account in order to avoid taxes while at the same time giving their employees a smaller but meaningful company contribution as well? Plan design is crucial. Some great changes have occurred in the retirement plan industry over the past decade. Business owners can now make large profit-sharing contributions to a qualified retirement plan and receive the lion share of it, sometimes 85 to 90 percent of the total contribution. Even better, some business owners can set up one type of retirement plan for their employees where they offer a small company contribution and set up a different retirement plan for themselves and their partners and or spouses where they receive a much larger contribution, sometimes up to 100 percent of compensation. If you are an older employer and you are playing catch-up, this may be a great opportunity for you. Yes, qualified plans do have some expenses associated with them but for good reason. These large tax deductions come with a price, a small fee of about $1,200 to $1,800 per year for administration, but the opportunity for larger tax deductions out weigh the small cost for the plan. The fees for administration are also tax deductible. On average, small businesses are able to save up to $15,000 a year on taxes. Who would you rather give that $15,000 to, the IRS or your company retirement plan? As a member of the WHFA, you have access to many professionals offering a long list of financial services at discounted prices. The WHFA has done their due diligence to pre-qualify these professionals and many of them were approved because they specialize in working with small business owners. Be sure to ask your WHFA member rep who in your area can consult with you on your company’s retirement plan needs.

2009 Qualified Plan Contribution Limits 401(k) Deferral Limit: 401(k) Catch Up Deferral: Individual Limit: Defined Benefit Contribution Limit:

$16,500 $ 5,500 (catch is for those age 50 or better) $49,000 (does not include catch-up) $195,000

Soozie McDonald, CRPS of David White & Associates has been helping small business owners and their employees set up and manage their qualified retirement plans since 1999. David White & Associates, located in San Ramon, CA, specializes in working with small business owners and association members. For more information on qualified retirement plans and other financial services please contact Soozie at (800) 548-2671.

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

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Made Simple

I Leslie Carothers principal The Kaleidoscope Partnership

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n my last column, I gave you a broad overview of the reasons why I believe you would want to consider reallocating part of your existing advertising and marketing budgets to social media conversational marketing campaigns. In this article, I am going to talk about the one social media application that I believe is the number one most important place for all brands to have an online presence — TWITTER. But first: For those of you who might not have read the last column, the most accurate definition of social media is this: Unlike traditional advertising where you are “pushing a message” out to consumers and hoping they see, read or hear it, social media conversational marketing is the opening up, across various online platforms, the ability to have two way, real time conversations with potential customers who are choosing to engage with your company, product or brand online. In addition, unlike all traditional media channels — with the exception of direct mail — the impact of social media conversations is directly measurable through analyzing your website’s analytics and through the use of social monitoring tools offered through third-party providers. Besides the ability to have two-way conversations with customers opting in to engage with you and the fact that it is measurable-there is one other critical differentiator between social media channels versus traditional media channels. Except for the cost of the

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strategy, conversation and monitoring, it’s free. Totally free. So your overhead can be dramatically reduced — permanently — releasing your cash flow for reinvestment in other areas where it is needed most — saving jobs, technology upgrades, etc. Now, back to Twitter. What is Twitter? Twitter is a micro-blogging platform. You sign up and immediately you see a box that asks the simple question, “What are you doing?” You must type your “tweet” inside that box using only 140 characters — not words, characters. Hence, the term micro-blogging. Which furniture/design related brands are on Twitter? @thehomedepot, @landfair, @juliarosien (Natura mattresses), @thecenturyhouse, @ YourFurnLinkSue, @nestliving, @dominomag, @dwell, @imm_cologne, @biOHalljess, @ biOHalltkp, @adamkingstudio, and on and on and on… There are many interior designers on Twitter, home stagers, realtors and many more furniture manufacturers and retailers than I have just listed (not to mention Starbucks, Ford, Dell, Virgin Airlines, Bank of America, Comcast, etc.). There are currently 6 million people using Twitter around the world and Twitter is adding 10,000 new accounts every day. They grew 752 percent last year. They are headquartered in San Francisco and currently have approximately 50 employees. So, what is the secret to Twitter, and why do I think it is so powerful? Twitter enables you to reach potential customers for your product in your local markets faster than any other media and, once you’ve found them, it allows you to start and engage them in real time conversations and it allows you to link together the conversations and resend (retweet in twitter lingo) those conversations. I can hear you saying, Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


“What, I don’t get it?” Ok. Here’s a bit more detail. On Twitter, you have people you “follow” and people who “follow” you back. These are Twitter’s words, not mine. So, when you first get on Twitter, there are many tools to help you find everyone (by keyword and location) that you want to connect with. Twitter allows you to automatically “follow” them. Now, when they see you’ve followed them, they can choose to “follow” you back. Most people do follow back as long as they can see from the short bio Twitter allows you to post that there is some commonality. For example, you own a retail store and you choose to follow all interior designers and home stagers in your geographical region. More than likely, they will choose to follow you back as they need to buy products for their clients and will want to learn about your store and what you can offer. Now, here’s the key, and I will use myself as an example. When I first got on Twitter last October, I had 50 “followers” pretty quickly. Easy to do. Now, just three months later, I have over 2,000 and maybe several hundred more by the time you read this article. That means if I “tweet” something about your brand or product (and I can choose to do this as often as I want) over 2,000 people will see it. Now, here’s the REAL power: If the people reading my “tweets” think their “followers” would be interested in seeing the information contained in my “tweet”, they can choose to “retweet” it out to their followers. This is the power of viral marketing. Now, here’s the win: If we all get on Twitter — all of us in the furniture industry — every segment, then we can link together, retweet each other’s relevant content and help take our respective messages viral around the world instantaneously. Do you understand the power of this? The power is in the linking together and the fact that Twitter operates all over the world all the time and that it is a conversation you are conducting with people — not a broadcast messaging service. It is real time conversational marketing tool that, when used well and consistently, enables you to build up a large following of consumers willing to tell their friends about you and your services. Until you try it, you will never understand what a generous and powerful community Twitter is. You will be amazed. Almost everyone on Twitter realizes the opportunity inherent in this medium to impact the world in many positive ways while at the same time growing revenue through engaging in real, multiple, transparent and ongoing dialogues with an ever-growing number of brand evangelists who

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.

are choosing to follow them. Even if it still doesn’t make any sense to you and you are a complete skeptic, I urge you to follow me on Twitter and just watch how I use it on behalf of my clients. If you will really watch for one week, I believe you will understand how powerfully and quickly adoption of a Twitter strategy can produce sales results for you. I am on Twitter as @tkpleslie. Make sure to say hello!

The Kaleidoscope Partnership is a new media consulting firm specializing in providing retailers, manufacturers and suppliers in the home industries with the tools they need to execute social networking, online reputation management, e-conversion and analytics sales and marketing strategies. For more information, please see Leslie’s profile on www. linkedin.com/in/lesliecarothers, visit her company page on Facebook at The Kaleidoscope Partnership, follow her on Twitter at tkpleslie or visit her website at www.tkpartnership.com.

Hear Leslie speak during WHFA’s 2009 Conference and Expo in Maui, HI, May 17 – 19, 2009. Visit www.WHFAconference.com for more details.

Furniture Retailing 101 The Next Best Thing to Real World Experience By Jim Green This book series, written by industry veteran Jim Green, will help bring new entrants into our industry up to speed and help them become far more productive and effective, faster. This series should be required reading for anyone entering the furniture industry with its practical, nuts and bolts information that is timely and accurate.

Furniture Retailing 101 3-Volume Set only $54.95 Volume One: The Business Volume Two: The Merchandise

FURNITURE RETAILING101

THE BUSINESS, THE MERCHANDISE, AND STRATEGIC CONCEPTS OF THE RETAIL FURNITURE INDUSTRY The Next Best Thing to Real World Experience

JIM GREEN

Individual Book Pricing Available

Volume Three: The Strategic Concepts

est.1944

whfa Members: To obtain your furniture Retailing 101 three-volume set contact your whfa membership representative at (800) 422-3778.

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MArCH 2009

29


meet the new members New Members Who Joined WHFA in November – December 2008 and January 2009 Barron’s Furniture Sutter Creek, CA Founding Year 1976 Chair Choice LLC Los Angeles, CA Founding Year 2000 Designer’s Furniture Warehouse Everett, WA Founding Year 1998 Discount Furniture Henderson, NV Founding Year 2008 EMS Home Furnishings Redding, CA Founding Year 2008

est.1944

Far Fetched Import Furniture Tukwila, WA Founding Year 1986 Gift & Furniture Outlet Sacramento, CA HW Home, Inc. Boulder, CO Founding Year 1999 Liz Andrew Furniture Modesto, CA Founding Year 2004 Mattress World Inc. Clackamus, OR Founding Year 1995

Vancouver Woodworks Vancouver, WA Founding Year 1990 Whittier Wood Furniture Eugene, OR Founding Year 1975

To join WHFA call (800) 422-3778 or visit www.WHFA.org for more information.

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American General Finance ............................4 ..................... (800) 422-3778 B&B Banker & Brisebois Advertising ...........22 .................... (800) 456-0210 Emerald Home Furnishings ...........................2 ..................... (800) 685-6646 Furniture Wizard............................................27 .................... (619) 869-7200 Furniture World Magazine ...........................25 .................... (914) 235-3095 High Point Market .........................................31 .................... (336) 869-1000 PROFITsystems, Inc. ..........................7 & Back Cover ........ (866) 453-5010 ServerLogic ....................................................15 .................... (866) 835-6932 State Compensation Insurance Fund ..........19 .................... (800) 422-3778 TruckSKIN ......................................................14 .................... (877) 866-7546 WHFA 2009 Conference & Expo ..................9 ..................... (800) 422-3778 WHFA Membership ......................................11 .................... (800) 422-3778 WHFA Warehouse Products ........................11 .................... (800) 422-3778 WHFA Website..............................................18 .................... (800) 422-3778

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Northwest Bedding Co. Spokane, WA Rolfsons Furniture Mount Vernon, WA Founding Year 1979 Town & Country Furnishings Cortez, CO

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advertising inquiries & rates Contact: Cindi Williams, WHFA Events Manager, 500 Giuseppe Court, Ste. 6, Roseville, CA 95678. (916) 960-0277 E-mail: cwilliams@whfa.org. Subscriptions: $35.00/year, USA. Published by Western Home Furnishings Association, a National Home Furnishings Association affiliate, in the interests of retail home furnishings dealers, manufacturers, distributors and sales people. Distributed to retail merchants handling furniture, accessories, bedding, floor coverings, and specialty home furnishings in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Mailing list compiled by WHFA. Official publication of Western Home Furnishings Association, which is responsible for editorial content and advertising policy. The views expressed in articles appearing in Western Reporter are not necessarily those of Western Home Furnishings Association. Western Reporter magazine is copyrighted by Western Home Furnishings Association. March 2009, all rights reserved.

Western Reporter:

Read by Retailers in the West

distribution: Western Reporter is read by more than 10,000 home furnishing retail store personnel handling furniture, accessories, bedding, floorcovering and specialty home furnishings in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

marketing philosophy: Western Reporter focuses on western market trends in the furniture, bedding, flooring and accessories industry. It highlights industry finance, state legislation, retail store layout and design, transportation, retail advertising trends, retail store computerization, insurance, succession planning and industry social events.

Contact WHFA at www.WHFA.org or (800) 422-3778.


Are you and your inventory ready for

Relati nship Counseling? Inventory — Do you love it, hate it…or a little of both? Selling inventory makes you money — love that! But, if you aren’t careful, you end up overstocked with a crammed warehouse and little to no cash flow — hate that! PROFITprofessional has all the tools you need to keep in stock only those items that make you money, get rid of those not making you money, and recognize trends so that you can keep your floor fresh with merchandise that sells. We will help you manage your inventory and improve your bottom line. You gotta love that! Interested in more ways to improve your bottom line? Visit us at:

www.profitsystems.com 800.888.5565

“Using PROFITprofessional, we learned to manage our inventory and our profitability has improved substantially. We are able to stay ahead of our competition.” Chuck McMillin McMillin’s Furniture Inc. Yale, MI

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Western Reporter—March 2009  

A look at the back-end of your retail operation and owning your own receivables?

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