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customer experience

Journal of the Western Home Furnishings Association


september 2008


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

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Journal of the Western Home Furnishings Association

table of contents



EDITORIAL STAFF Managing Editor: Melissa Dressler................................ Publisher: Melissa Robinson............................................ Art Director: Rebecca

President’s Message...................................................7 Editor’s Message........................................................8

2008 WHFA OFFICERS AND EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE WHFA PRESIDENT Keith Koplan - Koplan’s Furniture, Vancouver, WA.............................(360) 695-3388

Feature Article................................................. 12 Building Buzz

PRESIDENT ELECT Marty Cramer - Cramer’s Home Furnishings, Ellensburg, WA...........(509) 933-2172

Winning on Customer Experience..............................18

VICE PRESIDENT Claudia LeClair - Fiesta Home Furnishings, Scottsdale, AZ...............(480) 951-3239

The RRC Provides Buyers with Education & Services.... 24

TREASURER Angel Lopez - Dearden’s, Los Angeles, CA........................................(213) 362-9600

Successful Store Layouts............................................34

SECRETARY Chris Sanders - Everton Mattress Factory, Inc., Twin Falls, ID..........(208) 733-3312 EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE CHAIR George Nader - Nader’s La Popular, Gardena, CA............................(310) 327-8585

Managing Fraud.........................................................38 It’s All in the Story......................................................42

PAST PRESIDENTS Marvin Kerby - Kerby’s Furniture, Mesa, AZ.......................................(480) 834-3888 Cherie Rose - The Rose Collection, Los Gatos, CA...........................(408) 395-7773


EXECUTIVE director Sharron Bradley - WHFA, Roseville, CA.............................................(916) 784-7677

Industry Beat..............................................................10 Retailer Notes..............................................................10 Creating a Store Buzz

AT LARGE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBers Bob Ammirato - Design Galleria By Valentine, Sacramento, CA........(916) 922-2200 Taylor Ganz - McMahan’s Furniture, Los Angeles, CA....................... (310) 473-8411 Howard Haimsohn - Lawrance Contemporary, San Diego, CA.......... (619) 291-1911 Lael Thompson - Broyhill Home Collections, Aurora, CO...................(303) 360-9653

Member Profile . ........................................................28 The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse, Sumner, WA

WHFA/NHFA Liaison David Harkness - Harkness Furniture, Tacoma, WA...........................(253) 473-1234

Program of the Month................................................31 Business Insurance

WHFA Board Members Gary Absalonson - Walker’s Furniture Inc., Spokane, WA.................(509) 533-5500 Eric Blackledge - Blackledge Furniture Co., Corvallis, OR.................(541) 753-4851 Dave Cavitt - Furniture Enterprises of Alaska, Anchorage, AK...........(907) 264-5210 James Copitzky - Bassett, Tukwila, WA..............................................(206) 575-8877 Gene DeMeerleer - Furniture West, LaGrande, OR...........................(541) 963-5440 Jack Fendrich - Brenner’s Furniture, Eugene, OR.............................(541) 345-4451 Greg Follett - Follett’s Furniture, Lewiston, ID....................................(208) 743-0177 Eric Foucrier - Linder’s Furniture Mart, Garden Grove, CA................(714) 210-4848 Giff Gates - Gates Furniture, Grants Pass, OR..................................(541) 476-4627 Ron Hoesterey - Royal Mattress Company, Inc., Orange, CA............(800) 987-6925 Paula Holt - Home Collections/Dining Collections, Salem, OR..........(503) 589-4358 Jerome James - Hafer’s Home Furnishings, Manteca, CA.................(209) 823-2122 Julian Jeppe - Reeds Furniture, Agoura Hills, CA..............................(818) 597-7800 Doug Kays - Premiere Home Furnishings, Los Angeles, CA.............. (310) 268-0811 Chuck Kill - Bedmart, Tucson, AZ.......................................................(520) 887-7039 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 Sandy Lundgren - Olsen Furniture, Shelton, WA................................(360) 426-4702 Robert Myers - Ashley Furniture HomeStore, Chico, CA....................(530) 345-2616 Michael Nermon - Ergo Customized Comfort, Irvine, CA...................(208) 326-3407 Ray Nunez - Furniture Savings Center, Sacramento, CA...................(916) 487-6005 Sally Servidio - Silverado Home & Design, Napa, CA........................(707) 251-0888 Tom Slater - Slater’s Home Furnishings, Modesto, CA......................(209) 522-9097 Valerie Watters - Valerie’s Furniture and Accents, Cave Creek, AZ....(480) 483-3327 WESTERN HOME FURNISHINGS ASSOCIATION STAFF Executive Director: Sharron Bradley................................................(916) 960-0345 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 Creative Director: Rebecca Arnn......................................................(916) 960-0350 Managing Editor & Webmaster: Melissa Dressler...........................(916) 960-0385 Membership Manager: Michael Hill..................................................(916) 960-0263 Member Services Specialist: Margie Jacobs...................................(916) 960-0199 Member Services Rep (California): Adam Gardner........................(916) 960-0291 Accounting Assistant: Melody King.................................................(916) 960-2476

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

Meet the New Members............................................33 Fast Forward...............................................................36 Your Family Business Legislative News . ......................................................40 California’s Composite Wood Products Regulation Product Focus.............................................................41 Dining Offers Great Opportunities for Selling Board Member Q&A....................................................45 with Gary Absalonson Industry Dates............................................................47 Tips & Tricks...............................................................49 Fun Facts & Figures....................................................50

contact est.1944

Phone: (800) 422-3778 (12 western states) (916) 784-7677 Online: Fax:

(916) 784-7697


500 Giuseppe Court, Suite 6 Roseville, CA 95678

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


September 2008


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Job Number: FTG8020k Job Name: FTG International Ad Advertiser: FTG Publication: Western Reporter Issue: September '08

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president’s message Another month, another topic… I’ve gotten to where I actually enjoy sitting down to write the monthly column. This month’s edition of the Western Reporter is about the “customer experience” and it is something that I have passionately pursued for several decades. My staff has had to listen to my anecdotal tales for years and now I have a new audience! The timing was perfect yesterday when our group at Las Vegas was greeted at breakfast with a cheerful and helpful waitperson. I placed my order, which is always a little diet restricted, and when I finished my order with “dry wheat toast”, she cheerfully responded she had already assumed that. When she brought out my order she told me my eggs Benedict with the extra sauce looked great; we all had a good laugh and guess where we went to breakfast this morning and who we asked to be our server. Ironically, we had a fabulous waiter at dinner too. He was attentive, professional and had a wonderful sense of humor. While dinner was a bit more expensive than we usually prefer and the food was very good; it was the server that had us saying we’d be back during next market. When complimented, he commented that he was in sales just like we were. We could tell he loved his work. Just like restaurants there are many places to buy furniture. Unlike restaurants, most of our first time visitors are afraid of us based upon a previous bad experience; hopefully at another store. What are you doing to make a good experience for your customer — you know, the one you spent a fortune bringing in the door? Is the parking lot and entry neat and clean? Do the displays sparkle and excite? When entertaining at home I’m sure you are like me and try and see your home through the eyes of a guest and fix up little things before you have a party… change that burnt out light bulb, straighten up the guest bathroom and maybe vacuum with a little extra effort. Each client that enters your store is like a guest and you should view your showroom “home” as each person coming in is a guest. Make guests feel welcome by being interested in them and complimenting them on something that might make them feel good. A guest, even one that “just wants to look” usually wants someone available to answer a question. After all, it’s more than furniture to them, it’s about their home. Whether it is a need or a want, if it feels good to be in your store, it gives them confidence to make a decision. Is it fun to be in your store? Is the staff smiling and welcoming or are they too busy feeling the pangs of the economy? At every level from the people dusting to the boss or manager, take the time to make the customer experience relaxing, inviting, comfortable and fun. When your guests leave, they will want to return and perhaps of equal importance, they will recommend you to their friends.

Keith Koplan 2008 WHFA president Koplan’s Furniture Vancouver, WA

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

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September 2008


editor’s message The Cruise Experience In the last two years I have discovered the joy of cruising. It has become one of my favorite ways to travel because I always have a pleasant experience, and I don’t need to worry about how I am getting to my next destination — the captain and his staff figure it out for me while I lounge by the pool. The moment you walk into the cruise terminal, your experience begins. From the themed photo you take before stepping onto the ship to the music, people and food that greets you onboard, you know that you are going to have a memorable experience. Every staff member is pleasant and there to ensure that you have the perfect vacation. There is no need to lift a finger because everywhere you look there is a person waiting to pull your chair out at dinner, hand you a drink by the pool, make you laugh during an onboard game show or turn down your stateroom bed and leave you a chocolate and towel animal. While I was on my most recent cruise I started thinking about how some of the unique things the cruise industry does to create a memorable experience could relate back to the home furnishings industry. Many retailers say they offer a unique experience, but does your experience truly set your store apart from your competition? While I have seen some stores that stand out from the competition, many of them sort of blend together. To avoid blending together with your competition, think about the different activities that are available on cruise ships for every age group. Offer classes throughout the week on decorating or design. You will draw new customers into your store and give them a reason to return. Do you have a lot of mothers that shop in your store with their children? If so, think about offering a staffed child care area, so your customer can shop without having her kids say they are bored. The design of each cruise ship also has unique points to it. Each area, whether it is the kid’s pool, adult pool, theater, spa or the dining room, has a unique look and feel. Even though all of these areas are on every cruise ship, they all look different. Experiment with creating different themed areas of your store so your customers feel like they are on an adventure while they are shopping. Also think about how your employees interact with your customers. On cruise ships, every employee is friendly and says hello with a smile as you walk by. If you have a question, they stop and take the time to answer it or direct you to a person who can help. Make sure your employees are friendly to all of your customers and are able to assist with any questions. Even if an employee is having a bad day, encourage them to leave the negativity off the showroom floor — a customer can pick up on your employees’ moods, which can influence their buying in your store. This issue of Western Reporter magazine looks at creating a memorable customer experience in your store, from creating a buzz about your store to designing your store interior for a more pleasant shopping experience. I hope you learn a lot from this issue and the next time you take a cruise, pay attention to everything that is done to make it a more enjoyable experience.

looking forward

Melissa “Mel” Dressler Western Reporter managing editor

to October 2008

Benefits of Other Retailers Going Out of Business Developing Future Leaders How to Plan for Upcoming Technology

Last month’s feature articles are available online at


September 2008

... and much more! Member Profile: Fitterer’s Furniture, Ellensburg, WA


Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


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beat WHFA and American General Finance Celebrate a Decade Long Partnership

On July 17, WHFA and American General Finance celebrated 10 years of a wonderful business partnership, which has provided WHFA members with affordable financing options. American General Finance’s Vern Eliason and Steve Evans presented the WHFA team with an award during the Summer Las Vegas Market. “Since the inception of this program 10 years ago, American American General Finance and WHFA celebrate 10 years of partnership. L-R: Steve Evans, Kaprice Crawford, General Finance Sharron Bradley, Vern Eliason and Jennifer Engelmann. has been a valued

partner to WHFA. By providing WHFA members special discounts, programs and promotions, our relationship with American General Finance has helped hundreds of home furnishings dealers in the west save money on their in-store financing,” said Kaprice Crawford, WHFA’s marketing director.

WHFA Unveils New Website Design WHFA unveiled a new, fresh look on their website at the beginning of this month. With a fresh homepage design and improved site navigation, the new WHFA website features intuitive navigation, educational content and expanded resources. View all of the changes today at

retailer notes Creating a Store Buzz

from Tom

unity is by having our store One way that our store has created a buzz in the comm d six local celebrities, like the . We foun interior designers create rooms based on celebrities rateur. We then had our designers restau local us famo a or, senat state a ns, actor Slim Picke ner believed reflected the desig the that create rooms in our six store front windows celebrity to use in their room each from items nal perso celebrity’s personality. We obtained a private party in the store for each and created a story that was displayed. Lastly, we held friends to the event. their of celebrity that was featured and had them invite 20 r wrote a story about the celebrity The event received such buzz that our local newspape room displays, and since we see the rooms. Many customers came into the store just to the customers because they were for sting intere and fun it made it , used local celebrities people that they knew.


September 2008


Tom Slater Slater’s Home Furnishings 1605 J St Modesto, CA 95354 (209) 522-9097 Full-line In our travels to visit WHFA members we ask questions regarding retail furniture operations that may provide ideas for other members to try. If you have a question you would like to suggest, email Melissa Dressler at

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


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feature article

Building Buzz


f these are the messages being delivered in your advertising, they may be getting lost in the chorus of retailers all bombarding comatose consumers with the same themes. In this economy, retailers must differentiate. Even more, you must create a word-of-mouth excitement in which consumers say to each other, “You gotta see this place!” This is what is known as buzz marketing. Traditional marketing delivers a message about your product and service offering to prospective customers. It targets consumers and informs them about the nature of the inventory in your showroom. Informative? Yes. Differentiating? Perhaps. Boring? Probably. In contrast, buzz marketing delivers a readymade story that makes the customer the center of interest with their peers. The message may have nothing to do with your showroom inventory. Yes, people like to be entertained. But they also like to entertain others. Buzz is something that captures the attention of consumers and the media to the point where talk about your brand/store/company becomes entertaining, fascinating or newsworthy. With buzz marketing, you do not target customer segments. And the message is not about you or your brand. It’s about them — the people who will start the conversation for you. And it doesn’t take a lot of money, just a little creativity.

Examples of Buzz In the course of conducting performance groups for furniture retailers, I have collected many examples of successful buzz marketing. You and your staff can readily come up with ideas of your own. All you have to do is know what generates buzz. The Outrageous (something unimaginable) Perhaps one of the most popular ways to generate buzz is to garner attention through the use of outlandish elements in the store or in advertising. One successful rural furniture retailer has used several gimmicks to continue to give regional customers a reason to visit by creating a museum in the store filled with vintage automobiles, airplanes, and even a large tank of water with a mechanical shark. The store is a “must see” destination for miles, a veritable tourist attraction. Take note that the interestdrawing items have nothing to do with furniture, so don’t be afraid to venture outside-of-the-box in your creative process.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

The Novel (something unusual) It is common to find marketing approaches that reflect the personality of the business owner and many struggle with anything other than a “professional” image. Do not be discouraged. Store owners choosing to refrain from the outrageous can still incorporate buzz elements that generate conversation. One store owner uses “living mannequins” in their street-front display window on Saturdays, generating lots of buzz and traffic. Others have used the Christmas season to display side-by-side holiday tree displays created by the top local interior designers. The purpose is not to sell trees and accessories, but to give people a reason to come to the store and to promote relationships with local designers.

Jim Kessler executive director Castinet Consulting Network

The Remarkable (something amazing) Remarkable marketing elements are often novel, but vary in terms of scale. They are created to simply inspire the response of, “Wow!” A good resource to stimulate thinking in this arena would be to scour a catalog Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Whether it is giant Lego displays, eccentric works of art, or the “World’s Largest _________,” (fill in the blank) retailers for years have put on display one-of-a-kind things of a remarkable scale to draw attention to their venue.

Buzz is something that captures the attention of consumers and the media to the point where talk about your brand/store/ company becomes entertaining, fascinating or newsworthy.

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The Provocative (something sexy or forbidden) We all know that “sex sells,” yet many retailers are afraid to embrace this form of buzz generation because of their desire to avoid anything that consumers may find tacky, distasteful or objectionable. This does not have to be the case, especially if you appeal to the romantic, a notion often of particular interest to female customers. Consider the store owner who created a merchandising venue in their bedroom display she calls the “Mood Room.” Using elements of interior design, this room is changed regularly to reflect various ways to create a romantic setting westernreporter

September 2008


in the bedroom. It is tastefully provocative. It also promotes conversations between sales associates and customers that are solution-oriented and customers repeatedly return to the store to see what is new in the Mood Room. The Hidden (something mysterious) Secrets are irresistible and can inject some fun into the buying experience for consumers. A favorite topic of consumers is often “hidden treasure.” For example, store owners located off the beaten track can leverage this theme to encourage consumers to go out of their way to visit. One rural retailer aligned with a charter travel business and a local dinette to offer a Womens Day Out package, bussing groups of women (church groups, sewing circles, Mothers of Preschoolers groups) to their store for a day of discovering hidden treasure. Other retailers have offered “blind draw” giveaways with each purchase. One in particular employed a scavenger hunt approach, having consumers record on a “game card” codes they collected from each merchandising section of the store, much like the completion of a BINGO card. Regardless of the approach, the prospect of discovering hidden treasure in each case created buzz among consumers.

The Funny (something humorous) Of all things that can create buzz, this is the most difficult to implement, primarily because what is considered funny can vary widely from consumer to consumer. Even worse, someone attempting to be funny and failing can often create an undesirable reaction. Still, there are those with the gift of being able to genuinely create humor with a broad appeal. If you are fortunate enough to have this gift in your organization, it can be used in many ways to generate buzz among consumers.

Leveraging the Media One advantage of using buzz marketing as a traffic generator for your store is that, if done right, the media will often underwrite your advertising with their own coverage. Once you have created a buzz-generating approach you must, of course, integrate it into your advertising, communications, promotion, merchandising and pricing strategies. But having a good understanding of the kinds of stories the media likes to cover may impact your decisions. Here are the most commonly sought after stories by the media: The Unusual or Outrageous The media loves to cover something truly unique and buzz generating, and the first two types of “buzz generators” (outrageous and novel) fit perfectly into the types of stories the media likes to cover. Hidden and funny may also qualify for media attention, depending on the specific approach and angle you choose. Always interested in ratings, the media believes their audience will be entertained by these stories. The Controversial Provocative buzz generators can fall into this category, although, as previously mentioned, business owners want to be sure the tone of attention-getting controversy they are receiving is positive, and media members are notorious for putting their own spin on a story. David vs. Goliath Stories The media loves the underdog, and if your marketing strategy creates a compelling story, the media will gleefully cover it. However, these stories often result from an injustice, not from a proactive buzz marketing campaign. Still, the recent backlash against Wal-Mart should alert independent retailers that big-box retailers are vulnerable to this type of news story. continued on page 16


September 2008


Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


September 2008


continued from page 14

The Celebrity Celebrity endorsements are used effectively in both traditional marketing and in buzz marketing. Introducing celebrity into a buzz marketing campaign is a sure-fire way to ensure media coverage. Celebrity appearances, however, can be expensive unless there is a personal relationship with the retailer or a charity is involved, so the free advertising by the media may be offset by the cost of the appearance. In either event, traffic to the store is often generated. What’s Hot The media, wanting to always appear relevant to its audience, loves stories in which evidence of popular culture can be found in the communities in which they cover. So if the topic is “hot” on a national scale, it has a good chance of being covered locally. For example, going “green” is one of the hot topics in today’s culture, and if your buzz happens to also be “green,” you have a good chance the media will clamor to cover the story. A great example of leveraging “What’s Hot” to generate buzz comes from a retailer who two years ago promoted a variation of the Home Makeover experience. Unlike other retailers who at the time were contributing furniture to someone else’s promotion, this store owner decided to promote his own “Free Room Makeover.” After lining up


September 2008


suppliers to contribute to his cause, he promoted the idea through a series of TV ads, requiring entrants for the drawing to register at the store, providing contact information and bringing in a “before” photograph of the room. After three weeks, the drawing was held at the store on a Saturday morning. At 9 a.m. on the appointed Saturday, with the media in attendance, a crowd of more than 2,000 people had gathered. Not only did the retailer record his largest-ever single day of sales, he now had a large database of entrant information, all of whom needed furniture. All of this occurred without discounting a single item for sale.

Sustaining Buzz One criticism of buzz marketing is the tendency for elements of buzz to be temporary, unable to be considered a sustaining marketing strategy. Many “destination retailers” have overcome this, often by applying their creativity to their facilities, layout, displays and merchandising. But there is no question that the best approaches in buzz require continuous creativity. Some may consider that a burden, others just find it fun!

Jim Kessler is executive director of the Castinet Consulting Network, a management consulting organization that serves a variety of industries.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

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Winning on Customer Experience Retail Reality: Product and Price Parity


Jeff Hall president Second To None


hile you may not recall firsthand, there was a time when full-service gas station attendants catered to their customer: pumping fuel, cleaning windows, checking oil level and tire pressure. Sales representatives, offering everything from appliances to shoes, worked diligently to offer the personal touch, differentiating their products from their competition. Much of this changed as three forces came together to define a new retail landscape: a boom in development resulting in overcapacity across much of the U.S., a proliferation in brand choice as a direct result of substantially increased competition, and retailers scrambling after a limited pool of management and hourly employees to support store operations. While consumers now have more retail options then ever, a majority of operators within each industry offer the same or similar products at comparative price points. As a result, significant portions of the retail industry have become commoditized. In reacting to competitive pressures, many companies have opted for a low-price strategy. Unless you dominate the market in scale and buying power, how long can such a business model realistically endure? Retailers poised for lasting market dominance and differentiation understand that the secret lies in delivering a superior customer experience.

September 2008


The Rise of Customer Experience The U.S. is in the midst of a transition from being a service-oriented economy to one focused on experiences. Customer experience focuses on the degree to which a customer feels his or her needs are being met. In order to meet the expectations of today’s consumer, successful brands are strategically uniting and engaging their companies from the top down, starting with corporate culture and vision, delving into upper and mid-management leadership styles and permeating through each employee’s service approach. The entire organization should work as a well-oiled machine driven toward its customer-centric mission. In the new experience economy, merely “satisfied” customers are not enough to drive economic growth. Companies must create superior customer experiences in order to sufficiently differentiate themselves to drive revenue, profits, customer loyalty, and ultimately, shareholder value. In fact, superior customer experiences are the only way to differentiate true value in the increasingly commoditized retail industry. A recent Bain & Company survey reveals just how commonly companies misread the market. Responses from 362 firms found that 80 percent believed they delivered a “superior experience” to their customers. When actual customers of those Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

same companies were asked about their own perceptions, the results were staggering: only 8 percent of the companies were deemed as truly delivering a superior experience. Clearly, it’s easy for leading companies to assume they’re keeping customers happy; it’s quite another to achieve that kind of customer devotion. So what sets the elite 8 percent apart? They take a distinctively broad view of the customer experience. Unlike most companies, which reflexively turn to product or service design to improve customer satisfaction, the leaders pursue three imperatives simultaneously: 1. They design the right offers and experiences for the right customers. 2. They deliver these propositions by focusing the entire company on them with an emphasis on cross-functional collaboration. 3. They develop their capabilities to please customers again and again — by such means as revamping the planning process, training people in how to create new customer propositions and establishing direct accountability for the customer experience. Each of these “Three Ds� draws on and reinforces the others. Together, they transform the company into one that is continually led and informed by its customers’ voices.

Customer Experience Management Many retailers are familiar with Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, which assesses and monitors what a company knows about their customer. Customer Experience Management (CEM), evaluates how that customer views the retailer. This reverse approach recognizes the difference between a customer’s and the company’s perception of the same interactions and relationship. Second To None defines CEM as the practice of designing, delivering and continuously improving the manner and ease with which your chosen customers interact with your brand in order to achieve their desired outcomes. It is a business strategy that focuses and redefines the business from the customer view point. CEM assumes that products and services are no longer solely sufficient in satisfying customer needs and elevates the value Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

proposition to the level of an experience. At the core of the CEM strategy is an organizational framework that defines value for both employees and customers. Through employees’ experiences, CEM unleashes the best innovations and creates superior value and authentic customer experiences. In addition, it promotes an enhanced dialogue between customers and retailers, strengthening the quality and longevity of relationships. Companies that have adopted effective CEM strategies have placed greater emphasis on their employees and customers as part of the experience creation and delivery. CEM evaluates and elevates the customer experience at every touch point — before, during and after a sale is made. continued on page 20

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September 2008


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It resonates throughout each and every customer interaction with the company, its products, packaging, advertising, media coverage, service agents, word-of-mouth recommendations and product reviews. It ensures customer needs are met across all channels, from phone self-service to retail branches, the Web, email, mail order and catalog transactions, kiosks, chat and instant messaging.

progress on a continual basis. Place the customer experience at the top of your priorities at all times. Measure customer feedback to implement rewards that ensure all employees deliver. Survey employees to foster a culture based on brand awareness, acceptance and fulfillment. And benchmark milestones to track management’s ability to translate organizational values into executable strategies.

Is Your Brand For Real?

Customer Experience Design

What does your brand say about you? Do employees enthusiastically deliver your brand promise? Customer-centric retailers live their brand promise each and every day through total organizational engagement. When marketing and advertising messages align with an organization’s personality during each interaction, a company is living its brand. When managers are recruiting and hiring employees with a focus on individuals who share the same values and attitudes, the company is living its brand. When managers demonstrate brand loyalty through genuine day-to-day interactions and motivating corporate communications, the company is living its brand. When management executes ongoing employee recognition programs that reward customer advocacy and further cultivate a culture based on passionate internal advocates, a company is living its brand.

Companies must enable interactions that connect emotionally with target customers at key moments. To accomplish this, retailers should: 1. Define brand propositions 2. Identify high-impact moments 3. Deliver value 4. Enable the experience 5. Measure and refine This planning and execution process lets companies define the desired customers’ experiences and relationships, building their organization’s capacity and systems accordingly to the delivery of those promised relationships to the desired target customers. Enlightened companies realized they sell more than just products or services. They sell an emotional and sensory experience. Starwood’s CEO Steve Heyer puts it this way, “We are not just in the business of selling beds or guestrooms, but rather experiences and memories.” The good news is that consistently delivering predictable, superior customer experiences, and translating that into a competitive differentiator for your organization, is possible — but it’s not easy.

Customer-Centric Culture A unified brand begins with the company’s values and culture, flowing into the actions of leaders and managers, throughout its organizational structure and performance metrics. While many retailers believe customer satisfaction is an isolated issue controlled by a small customer service department, a superior customer experience requires active involvement from all departments. This includes employees and departments responsible for product design or selection/purchasing, web development, merchandising and display. Total company participation directly impacts the overall customer experience, improves satisfaction, addresses needs and strengthens loyalty. An integral aspect of living your brand is total organizational engagement, involving: • Employee training that emphasizes the retailer’s values and brand promise. • Employee awareness, acceptance and commitment to a company’s brand promise. • Ongoing internal communications that reinforce a company’s values, elevate morale, enthusiasm and dedication. • Integration of this brand promise into all policies — from recruiting to advertising and performance bonuses. • Constant, genuine demonstrations of a company’s brand commitment from the top down. Finally, retailers can continue this upward momentum by evaluating and assessing their 20

September 2008


Step One: Define Brand Promise Most large companies are adept at dividing customers into segments and designing value propositions for each one. But those that deliver a truly outstanding customer experience go about the design business in a unique way. In defining segments, they look not only at customers’ relative probability but also at their tendency to act as advocates for the company — to sing its praises to friends. Customer advocacy can be summarized as a net promoter score, calculated as the percentage of customers who would recommend a company (the promoters) minus the percentage that would urge friends to stay away (the detractors). Because such a simple measure is understandable to all parts of a company, it can serve to rally and coordinate the entire organization. The ultimate goal is to shift ever more customers into the high-profit, high-advocacy area. Of course, the experiences that turn passive buyers into active promoters will vary by customer segment. What captivates one group may turn off another. In formulating segments, therefore, it’s important to look beyond basic demographic and purchasing data to discern customers’ attitudes and even personalities. In designing propositions for specific segments, leaders should focus on the entire customer experience. They recognize that customers interact Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

with different parts of the organization across a number of touch points, including purchase, service and support, upgrades, billing and so on. A company can’t turn its customers into satisfied, loyal advocates unless it takes their experiences at all these touch points into account. Design is thus closely tied to the delivery from the very beginning. Planning focuses not only on the value propositions themselves but on all the steps that will be required to deliver the propositions to the appropriate segments.

Step Two: Identify High-Impact Moments Customer Experience Mapping helps retailers gain a clearer understanding of the various ways in which customers interact with their brand. A Customer Experience Map outlines each contact you have with your stakeholders, from the first marketing message and relationship initiation through each sale, product receipt and use, claims and dispute resolutions. Armed with this map, companies can more easily evaluate the customer experience at every touch point. Mapping requires the rethinking of many basic aspects of the business starting with the definition of the core assets of the company and its organizational experience. One of the key principles of Customer Experience Management is the shift in responsibility from the headquarters to the branches and agents. If, in the past, companies determined their value proposition centrally and just instructed their staff to execute, today they must share the power and delegate responsibility to everyone who deals with customers. The days of placing helpless associates in front of the customer are over. Everyone is responsible. When you identify stakeholders and continually monitor important success benchmarks, you can transform your retail brand from one based on price competition to one poised for long-term growth. Start with a detailed Customer Experience Map to identify each customer interaction. Then, integrate key performance measures and monitor Net Promoter Scores to foster ongoing growth and improvement.

segments. But traditional metrics, focused on the performance of individual functions, aren't enough; measures have to be crafted to inspire cross-functional collaboration. One example is Net Promoter scores: Improving them requires a concerted effort from the front line to the back office. Precise customer service objectives for specific customer interactions can also help to rally the troops. A bank might create a goal of phoning each new customer within one week of opening a checking account; a cable company, within a week of installing a line. Hitting such targets requires specific, coordinated contributions from customer support, marketing, channel management and finance. Leaders often integrate other methods of capturing ongoing business intelligence, including regularly scheduled, detailed mystery shopper visits, real-time customer feedback surveys (web and phone-based) and operational compliance audits.

Step Four: Enable the Experience Customer value propositions can never be static; they must be subject to regular innovation. It’s the same with delivery — every company must improve its performance quarter after continued on page 22

Step Three: Deliver Value to the Customer The most brilliantly designed and insightful customer offerings can be rendered impotent by poor execution. To ensure effective delivery, the leaders must first create and motivate crossfunctional teams — from marketing to supply chain management — to deliver their value proposition across the entire customer experience. Second, they must treat customer interaction as a precious resource. Data mining and customer relationship management (CRM) systems can be valuable for creating hypotheses, but the ultimate test of any company’s delivery lies in what customers tell others. The best companies find ways to tune in to customers’ voices every day. They allow companies to be sure their delivery continues to meet the needs of the target Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


September 2008


continued from page 21

quarter, year after year. Leaders in crafting the customer experience have established a number of capabilities to achieve this kind of systematic innovation and improvement. They include: • Tools that aid customer-focused planning and execution. An integrated marketing plan developed by Vodafone, for instance, unambiguously puts customers at the top of the company’s strategic priorities. • Customer-based metrics and closed feedback loops that establish accountability. Enterprise Rent-A-Car tracks customer satisfaction with its rental experience on a five-point scale for every branch, and employees of branches that fall below the corporate average — getting top-box scores 80 percent of the time — are ineligible for promotion. • Customer-focused management incentives. Net promoter scores, for example, are increasingly used in performance reviews. Top-performing companies also create processes that seek direct, immediate customer feedback — not simply to ensure that things are going well but also to build in methods of systematic innovation and improvement. Which customers should you target? If you say “the most profitable ones,” you’re only half right. It’s also important to attract buyers who will act as your company’s growth advocates, encouraging

Educational DVD Rentals WHFA has developed a rental video training library available to members. This comprehensive training library is complete with an array of topics from sales and marketing, customer service, attitude and motivation to warehouse and delivery. These DVDs can be rented for up to three weeks at a time. Call today or visit our website at for a complete listing of DVDs.



To rent a video or if you have questions on a DVD, contact your WHFA membership representative at (800) 422-3778.

September 2008


others to buy from you. By assessing customer profitability and customer advocacy, you can tailor your strategies — and your investments — by segment: • High-profit promoters. These are the customers you can’t live without — your core. You want to design and deliver your offerings in a way that expands this group, and to target new buyers who share their characteristics. • High-profit detractors. These customers, often as important as your “core,” are sticking around because of inertia or because they feel trapped. They are profitable, attractive to your competition, and unlikely to suffer quietly. Losing them can dent your bottom line and your market share. You need to find out what’s irking them and fix their problems fast. • Low-profit promoters. These are diamonds in the rough — loyal customers whose current buying patterns leave money on the table. Tap into their advocacy by offering them additional products and services, but don’t alienate them with heavy-handedness. • Low-profit detractors. You can’t please everyone. If there is no economically rational way to solve their problems, then help unhappy customers move to other providers.

Step Five: Tools to Measure and Refine Leading retailers can use one of several effective and cost-efficient resources for measuring, understanding and optimizing the customer experience. Today’s technologies may be used individually or integrated into a blended performance measurement strategy, and may include: mystery shopping, competitive benchmarking, operational compliance audits, and capturing Net Promoter scores through ongoing voice-of-customer surveys, conducted online and by phone.

Elements of Strategic Differentiation 1. Obsess about customer needs, not product features. Rather than racing to bring new product features to market, companies need to refocus on the needs of their customers — who might even want fewer features. While most firms have invested in customer analytics, even the largest data warehouse and most sophisticated software can’t model the nuances of human likes and needs. That’s why firms should augment data crunching with some old-fashioned techniques, like talking to customers and observing their experience.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

2. Reinforce brands with every interaction, not just communications. Traditional brand messaging is losing its power to influence consumers — that’s why branding efforts need to expand beyond marketing communications to help define how customers should be treated. To master differentiation, firms must articulate their brand attributes to both customers and employees, clearly describing how the firm wants to be viewed. That’s just the first step, because companies must go on to translate brand attributes into requirements for how they’ll interact with customers. 3. Treat customer experience as a competence, not a function. Delivering great customer experiences isn’t something that a small group of people can do on their own. Everyone in the company should be fully engaged in the effort. It all starts at the top, with the CEO and his executive team. To maintain a company-wide customer focus, businesses must systematically and continuously incorporate customer insights into all of their efforts. In other words, delivering superior customer experiences consistently and predictably is not an event; it’s not an initiative; and it’s not a department. Delivering superior customer experiences is a culture — and this culture must permeate every person, process and system throughout the organization.

Conclusion While price is an obvious competitive advantage, retailers can achieve a much higher success threshold when they compete on the customer experience. Those poised for long-term growth are brands that focused primarily and passionately on the delivery of superior customer experiences. Consistently delivering predictable, superior customer experiences and translating that into a competitive differentiator for your organization requires a deeply committed customer-centric culture supporting a holistic and methodically designed experience delivery strategy. Start by asking yourself: What dimensions of customer experience should you be managing? What experiences should you be monitoring and improving? How should you measure results? The customer experience encompasses each and every interaction with a brand — from advertising and media coverage to retail sensory design, product enhancements and customer service. A superior customer experience satisfies the customer’s need, shapes their decisions and promotes long-term loyalty. While total company engagement into a customer-centric business model involves a long-term vision, small incremental steps can immediately improve the customers’ experience: Start by defining your brand personality, identify the most important attributes of customer interaction, enable your organization to consistently deliver on those attributes and continually measure performance. Retailers passionate about longevity are moving more-and-more toward a business model founded on superior customer experiences. What actions will you take within your organization to assemble a legendary brand?

Second To None is a multi-disciplinary customer experience optimization firm. Based in Ann Arbor, MI, Second To None is the pioneering architect of Holistic Customer Experience Management™, a proprietary and innovative approach to supporting customer-focused organizations in consistently delivering authentic brand experiences, outmaneuvering the competition and achieving their full potential. We assist Fortune 1000 brands and emerging companies seeking to become the leaders of tomorrow in measuring, understanding and optimizing their brand performance across all points of customer interaction. For more information, contact Jeff Hall, president, at (734) 302-8401 or

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


September 2008




National Home Furnishings Association Western Home Furnishings Association

The RRC Provides Buyers with Education and Services World Market Center, Las Vegas Building B, 16th Floor


ith the grand opening of Building C, Market attendees were excited to view the new building and eager to shop during July’s Summer Las Vegas Market. Buyers were seen crowding the hallways and elevators discussing the latest business trends, the new express elevators in Building B and the opening night Rod Stewart concert.


The first stop for many buyers each day was to the Retailer Resource Center (RRC) on the 16th floor of Building B for a delicious, complimentary buyers’ breakfast, sponsored by Argo Select and Furniture Transport Group. “It is a great way to start your day at Market,” said Dave Harkness, Harkness Furniture, Tacoma, WA.




Many buyers attended the daily educational seminars that were held in the RRC. With another excellent line up of industry experts, many buyers attended numerous sessions each day to receive top-notch, industry specific education. One retailer said he learned more in a few days of education then he had learned in an entire year of being in business.

4 24


September 2008


Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

Throughout the week, attendees were also able to shop the two business services tradeshows held in the RRC and the satellite location on the 4th floor of Building C. Many eager buyers were looking for new tools to help their bottom line and were delighted by the assortment of business service vendors that could be found in both locations. The Launch Pad featured two new products, PROFITon-demand and e-Showroom, from PROFITsystems, Inc.

9 7

8 On Tuesday night, buyers and vendors took a break from their hectic Market schedules and mellowed out to psychedelic tunes during the Summer of Love industry party held in the RRC. With a chocolate fondue fountain flowing, party attendees enjoyed great conversations over Love Potion cocktails.


11 12 With another successful market completed, the WHFA and NHFA are already working on an even more exciting Winter Market, February 9 –13, 2009 — you won’t want to miss it! View more photos from the Retailer Resource Center at

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

1. Shane Curry and Rhonda Santamaria, Casa Bella Galleria. 2. Buying team from Contents Interiors planning their buying strategy over breakfast in the RRC. 3. A buyer learns about freight logistics at the Furniture Transport Group booth. 4. The always popular Phil Gutsell presenting on how to improve sales training issues. 5. Buyers take a break from the hectic week at Market to enjoy hot coffee and cookies. 6. Seminar speaker, Ken Mahar, presenting email marketing strategies. 7. Dave Harkness, Kellen Harkness, Harkness Furniture, and Elie Samuel, Samuel’s Furniture. 8. Keith and Merle Koplan, Koplan’s Furniture. 9. Andrew Zuppa, Discount Furniture Network, and Bill Hayes, Design Furnishings. 10. Andree Dempsey, Valerie’s Furniture and Accents, Chuck Kill, Bedmart, and Valerie Watters, Valerie’s Furniture and Accents. 11. John Tyson and Jerold Payney, Tyson Interiors. 12. Lily and John Chan, Gift & Such enjoying the Summer of Love industry party.


September 2008


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The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse Sumner, WA

The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse decorated for Christmas.


reeeek! This is the first sound you will hear as you walk through a vintage, handcrafted wooden door into the 100-year-old building Melissa Dressler that houses The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse editor in Sumner, WA. Once inside, you walk under a brick archway and are greeted by old world charm with a wood burning fireplace, the aroma of cinnamon sticks, fresh baked cookies and fudge in the air and the friendly, helpful faces of The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse’s employees. In 1953, before The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse was even a thought, Tony and Mabeth Grout began constructing and selling upholstered furniture out of their home. Having learned how to sew from his grandmother, Tony honed his sewing skills while working as a firefighter and repairing turnout jackets to occupy his spare time during shifts. On his days off, Tony would build furniture from scratch and sold it to customers from his home. “He realized that if he built some [furniture] in advance, especially prior to holidays, people could get what they wanted right away,” said Pam Leonard, a buyer for The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse. At a Glance “So one year they did Store Location: Sumner, WA that, and put an ad in the newspaper. People showed Type of Store: Full-line up at his house and he sold Year Founded: 1985 everything in one weekend. Number of Employees: 100 Tony and Mabeth decided to build more furniture, and Number of Store Locations: 1 again the furniture sold out Website: in one weekend.” Top Manufacturers: Emerald Home Unable to keep up Furnishings, Ashley Millennium, with the demand, Tony Stanton, AAmerica, Klaussner partnered with a few WHFA Member Since: 2007 manufacturers in the Pacific 28

September 2008


Sherry Grout, Chris, and Tony and Mabeth Grout

Northwest and developed new products to sell out of his home. The business continued to grow until the house was so full of furniture that it was filling every room and spilling out into the foyer. When the house became too small to accommodate the large amount of furniture they were selling, the Grouts moved their business into an old brick warehouse which they called Off Center, because it was located just off of Center Street in Tacoma, WA. Business continued to boom through happy customers telling their friends about the store. In 1985, the Grouts opened up a second store location called The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse in Sumner, WA. The century-old building had previously housed a fruit cannery where local farmers could bring their produce in and have it canned. Over the years, the building had seen some wear and tear, so Tony began to refurbish it to create the masterpiece that it is today. The business now occupies 500,000 square feet which is how their slogan, “Ten Acres of Furniture” came about. Today, Tony and Mabeth’s daughter, Sherry, runs the business and continues to create the memorable customer experience that generations of consumers have come to expect.

Fudge in a Furniture Store? One of the first things many customers will notice in The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse is the aroma from the fudge factory. Created out of a historical tree that used to sit in front of the Sumner Historical Society, the fudge factory is a favorite stop for customers young and old. Pam first thought of the idea while attending the Seattle Gift Show, “You should have heard the expressions when we came up with that one! I came back from Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

the show and told the owners, and they said we could sell the fudge. Tony asked me where I wanted to put the factory and I had an idea, and he said, ‘Hmm… let me think about that,’ which was a classic answer of his. A year or so passed by and one day Tony is on a forklift coming down the center of the store with the world’s largest tree stump that was about 10-feet tall and 6-feet in diameter, and he is bringing this tree in to create the fudge factory.” The fudge factory isn’t the only must-see stop for customers visiting the store. Seven scale miles of overhead G scale trains travel through the showrooms and the warehouse. Children can climb up onto a 12-foot tall platform to get a closer view of the five different trains and customers watch them as they move throughout the store. In other parts of the store, customers are greeted by animatronic robots named Jack and Ellwood, or Grandma and Grandpa sitting on a porch chatting with each other. The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse has created an interactive showroom that keeps customers surprised at every corner. “Everywhere you turn there is something interesting to see. There are always little surprises around the store that puts a smile on your face,” said Pam.

The Blue Pen In an effort to always create a special and memorable experience for the customer, The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse is known for occasionally handing over the blue pen to the customer and allowing them to create their own price. Pam said there are many ingredients in making a store special and The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse has all of the ingredients to make that happen, from their historical building to their unique approach to selling furniture. “We will actually startle people because we will sometimes hand customers the blue pen and have them create their own price,” she said. “It is cute because many times people will say $1,000 and I am thinking, you didn’t even know that if you said $50, you would have gotten it for $50 and it is a leather sectional. It is the element of surprise that keeps people smiling and gives them something to talk about.” They are able to use such a unique approach to selling because their advertising costs are much lower than the national average. Since the business began, most of their advertising has come from word-ofmouth which they find is more effective and gives them a little room to play with their numbers.

hold their largest event which includes a bridge lighting, live reindeer and photos with Santa. “We have a city bridge that is off on the far end of our parking lot. It is an old iron bridge that is shaped like an arch,” said Pam. “It takes us 10,000 lights to light the entire bridge, and we put beautiful, fresh cedar garlands and huge red bows on it. The mayor comes over, and we do a countdown to the lighting [of the bridge]. We have the media there and it is pretty spectacular.” Along with the bridge lighting, The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse offers complimentary carriage rides and pictures with Santa. Many generations of families have made it a tradition to come to The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse for their holiday photos. “We get letters from people saying that they have been coming for 15 years, and they will include a picture of themselves when they were little and it is a picture of them at The Cannery,” Pam said. Many of their summer special events increase sales while others, such as their Halloween, Christmas and Easter events are more about giving back to their loyal customers. “It is all about creating that warm, fuzzy feeling,” said Pam. “We love our customers, and we want them to feel happy and come back. Things like the Easter bunny, petting zoo, pumpkin patch and Christmas Santa are the warm fuzzies that get them to come back [to the store] later.” With all of their effort in creating a memorable experience for their customers, it is no surprise that people keep returning to shop at The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse. In the future, Pam hopes that the company can continue to be profitable and service their customers’ needs. “We want to continue to evolve and meet the needs of our customers. Whatever the changing trends might be, we want to get the job done,” she said. By creating happy customers and a unique customer experience, The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse will be bringing customers into the store for generations to come.

Giving Back to Their Customers Another way to create a unique customer experience for their customers is by holding special holiday events at the store. Whenever there is a legal holiday, The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse creates an event in the store as a thank-you to their customers. To kick off the Christmas holiday, they Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse Fudge Factory sells fresh fudge to customers. westernreporter

September 2008


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I “Not only does Argo Select know my retail business, their quote was under my renewal and they worked with my existing broker. Thank you WHFA and Argo Select!” Keith Koplan, Koplan’s Furniture, Vancouver, WA

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just attended a seminar by Doug Knorr at the Summer Las Vegas Market where he was discussing ways of increasing profitability in these trying times. At the top of his list was reducing business insurance costs. His advice was to get a quote every year… to keep your friends honest. WHFA has one of the strongest business insurance programs specifically designed for furniture retailers. WHFA joined forces with Argo Select, an insurance company with over 35 years of dedicated service to retail operations. Our program with Argo Select is designed to give you insurance coverage created exclusively to fit your store’s individual needs. Argo Select’s property, liability and optional coverages are specifically for your retail operations; plus their Furniture Program Advantage provides you with enhanced coverages that are automatically included with your policy. Their retail-specific loss prevention advice and customized services help prevent claims from occurring. Argo Select knows retail business and is a specialist in this field. If a claim does occur, their exceptional claims handling staff is ready. With Argo Select you receive exemplary customer service and competitive rates. When you receive a quote from Argo Select, you speak directly to agents, no brokers or commissioned salespeople need to be involved. Argo Select’s rates and service all benefit you, the client. Lower your premium costs today and receive a quote from WHFA’s Argo Select program by calling (800) 422-3778. This program is not offered through regular business channels, although brokers can access it through WHFA.

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2 Giant Banners

25’ x 3’ Indoor/Outdoor

5 Pennant Strings 100’ Strings

50 Posters

18” x 12” Double-Sided

200 Price Tags

8.5” x 11” Double-Sided

250 Adhesive Badges 3” Round

288 Jumbo Balloons 17” Heavy-Duty Latex

25 Pens

Ballpoint with Event Logo

12 Giant Posters

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meet the new members New Members Who Joined WHFA in July 2008 Back at the Ranch Home Furnishings Gunnison, CO Founding Year 1993

Harwell’s Furniture Inc. Chino, CA Founding Year 2008

Color & Life San Diego, CA Founding Year 1985

L.A. Mattress Santa Ana, CA Founding Year 1991

Warehouse Furniture Outlet City of Industry, CA World Class Furniture Las Vegas, NV Founding Year 1979

Copperwood Furniture Gallery Cheney, WA Founding Year 2007 est.1944

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September 2008


Successful Store Layouts

W Melissa Galt publisher Interior Destinations


hen creating a layout to maximize traffic and sales, there are several critical factors to address and it is about more than furniture placement. You must carefully define the lifestyles of your target demographic; learn to maximize sales by layering your merchandise in lifestyle looks. Pay careful attention to the sight lines throughout your store and use color to capture attention and drive behavior. Addressing lifestyle first, it is imperative that you determine the most popular lifestyle looks in your unique market. Often they can be categorized simply by learning your market’s color choices, the patterns they look for, listening to where they like to vacation and travel, becoming familiar with their favorite seasons and holidays and how they entertain, and noting personality types as each lifestyle can be fully detailed with this information. While lifestyle depends on your market there are some general styles you can look at as a starting point. Often your market will either have these within it or a combination of these can be found. Coastal Breezes are those that love a casual beachside look, tend to entertain by grilling out spur-of-the-moment and inviting everyone and summer is their best season. Rustic Retreat is for those customers that enjoy mountain escapes, log cabins and timbered furnishings. They entertain on a smaller scale and with a little more planning; they are generally quieter and more reserved. Their treasured time of year is autumn. Classic

September 2008


Traditionalists appeals to the clientele that don’t take chances but appreciate style that is tried and true, antiques and pieces with history often get their attention. They always cook for family and entertain at holidays. Classic Traditionalists are usually corporate types, not entrepreneurs and don’t have a favorite season, instead they follow tradition. On the city side of living, Urban Sophisticates are often loft and condo dwellers who relish the buzz of city life. These customers are workaholics, high energy and must have the hottest, latest and greatest to show off to friends. They make reservations for dinner and love winter because they ski and shop. Their palette is sophisticated with elegant neutrals and sexy metallic. Eclectic Contemporaries are similar but rather than liking the formality of city neutrals, they like a lot of vivid, dramatic color and have a sense of whimsy in their interiors. They entertain but with a caterer or private chef and again are very home proud and like to show off their place every chance. Both of these types are great for business as they buy often and must have the newest and trendiest, the trick is satisfying them regularly as loyalty is not their strong suit. Once you’ve gotten a handle on lifestyles you can better design your store vignettes with layers of personality and merchandise that literally invites the customer to move right in (or better yet take it all home). You are providing a complete look that they relate to and desire. As a retailer, it is your job to show them a slice of Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

their dream life and get them to buy into you as the resource that can make that interior vision a reality today. The trick to effective vignettes is to ensure clean site lines so that if someone is looking for a Coastal Breeze feeling they don’t get blinded by the Urban Sophisticate look that has a huge contemporary armoire blocking the view to that refreshing seaside cottage nook just beyond. Consider making it obvious and hanging signage that directs, informs and entertains. Use other tags for lifestyle like aromas or sound effects. In the seaside retreat vignette it might be waves on the beach and the sound of gulls, in the mountain getaway it would be wind through the trees and a burbling brook with birds chirping, in the urban loft look you might have a jazzy mix that indicates the city. Remember to appeal to all of your customers senses. When you provide a multi-sensory experience you multiply your opportunity for increased sales. In addition, while there are vendors who believe cluttered outsells minimalist, the key is to allow comfortable movement in and around your store so that no one is in danger of knocking merchandise over, backing into a piece, or otherwise doing damage. Think home-like atmosphere and subsequent space requirements. That means tables within comfortable reach of every seated surface, 18 inches between a coffee table and a sofa, and rugs that are big enough that when chairs are pulled out they stay on it. The more “real” you make it, the greater your audience will relate and imagine themselves living in it. When too much is jammed in together, it is impossible to really embrace the lifestyle showcased and presented, and when too little is given, customers lack imagination and can’t put it together to take it home. Retailers are the bridge of imagination between the manufacturer and the consumer. Your mission is to delight, engage, entertain, awe, inspire and deliver dreams. Color is one of the most useful but often least understood sales tools. And knowing how to romance your product and colors with language that your customers will buy is paramount. Let’s look at a quick example with color palettes. The palette for Coastal Breezes is sunshine yellow, Caribbean blue, seashell pink and mango orange. However if you just told a prospect it was yellow, blue, pink and orange you can’t even begin to sell it. You are painting a picture with words and hues. If you are working on a Rustic Retreat vignette you might use goldenrod yellow, pumpkin orange, slate blue, and Indian red. It is vital that you not only use the hues to drive visual interest, but use the language to drive imagination. In addition, knowing some basics about color psychology can be very useful. Most of us forget that we are bombarded daily by color messaging but respond to it regularly. Here are the basics starting with the warm hues and moving into cooler shades. Red stimulates your appetite and drives sales more Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

than any other color. Consider how many eating establishments, fast food and fine dining use red. Orange represents affordability (Home Depot uses it for a reason) and safety (think roadway construction). Often orange is used to promote learning and laughter. Pink increases your desire for sugar (Baskin Robbins!) and soothes (Pepto Bismal), if you want to sell it go fuchsia for kids or rose for seniors. Yellow is more than simply cheerful, it promotes memory retention (legal pads started out yellow because of this). A great deal depends on the tint or shade of the color being used and what they are being paired with. Neutrals can be bland and boring or divine and sophisticated; a lot is in the language. Black sounds so much more inviting when named ebony, charcoal, or inky and should be used sparingly as it implies untouchable and nonnegotiable. Brown is dependable and reliable (UPS!) but also delicious when made chocolate. White represents a sense of independence and even glamour. Grey is about indecision (use it sparingly) and electronics. Take any of these and turn them into metallics and they can fly out the door, jet, bronze, diamonds and silver that gleam, sparkle and shine. Blue and green are the most universally accepted colors as they are above us and all around us (despite pollution). Blue promotes trust but also is an anti-food color and not usually a good choice for dining or kitchens because of that (unless your customer is on a diet). Green is about renewal and compassion and welcome by most depending on the shade (Vets and military often do not like olive or sage). Purple is most often associated with teens and creates opportunities for daydreaming, great for creativity, not so great for homework success. Knowing these tips can inform your staff and allow you to give helpful advice and fun tidbits to your customers. It can always empower you in how you use color in your store to generate sales, impact memory and attract attention. Creating a successful store layout is about far more than simply arranging furniture. It starts with knowing your market’s lifestyles and includes essential knowledge of color psychology and that magical place between too much, perceived as clutter, and not enough, perceived as empty. Often the best results are achieved by constantly studying your market, looking for the latest products that fit your demographic and your presentation, and creating events and displays that engage, inform, entertain, inspire and sell.

Online entrepreneur, home furnishings industry consultant, and design trade mentor Melissa Galt publishes “Interior Destinations” a monthly ezine with 3,500+ subscribers. If you're ready to work with a true professional to invigorate your career or ignite your business, get greater financial rewards, improve your health, find time for family and friends and live the life you always imagined, sign up now at Design your business for your best life now!


September 2008


Your Family Business The Principle of Role Choice

James Lea columnist Your Family Business


ver the past 30 years or so I’ve collected a number of universal principles, little gems of insight that both reflect and influence the way things work and also suggest how we can make them work better. They’re valuable tools for families in business. Among them is the principle of role choice. It goes like this: “You can be a worker, or a manager, or an executive or a leader. But you can’t be any of them successfully if you try to be all of them at the same time.” One of the lessons we learned from Jimmy Carter’s presidency is that the higher you rise in the hierarchy of authority and the broader your responsibility becomes, the less time and attention you can afford to devote to operational details. Ever the engineer and a man of the people, Carter buttoned up his cardigan each morning and went downstairs to the Oval Office to micromanage the world. It turned out that he couldn’t do it.

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The lesson? Don’t hesitate to work, read or brush your teeth with your door closed. Don’t feel that you have to make a decision or announce an opinion on everything. Otherwise, you’ll get swamped with everyone’s details because everyone wants his problem attended to by big daddy or big mama, by the boss or by the designated successor, the person who’s going to become the boss. Sure, it tickles your ego to think of yourself as the indispensable do-everything team leader/team manager/team member. But that’s self-deceptive. And if you refuse to choose your best role and hand off the others, you’ll weaken your company and your family by suffocating everyone else’s growth and development. “I don’t deal with that anymore” is the motto of the rising star and the responsible leader as well as the person with sound controls in place. “Call me if you really need help, but first try to work it out yourself” is the motivational pitch of the responsible parent. There’s a point where you have to stop schlepping

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September 2008



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the load and start generating the vision and providing leadership to other people who are schlepping the load. You have to give up being a laborer to become a good manager. You have to give up being a manager to become a good executive. You might have to give up being an executive to be truly a leader. Speaking of which, there’s much more text out there on leadership than on workership. Not much of it, however, talks about how to decide when to lead the troops out of the trench and when to sit out the fight in a command post on high ground. There are scads of descriptions of what leadership is. Now here are a few things that leadership isn’t. Leadership isn’t just ability. It’s an atmosphere of confidence and a light of clarity that flows from and surrounds the real leader that fills the room with the exhilaration of possibility. Leadership isn’t just vision. It’s an exuded sense of great destinations that brings others on board. It’s not just being at the head of the parade. Sometimes it’s being way out in front of the parade, scouting the opportunities and illuminating the way. Leadership isn’t just the acknowledgement of some grander purpose and greater good. It’s a bonded commitment to them. Real leadership is grounded

in a higher level of self-interest that’s tied to the interests of those who trust and follow it. Leadership isn’t just the exercise of authority, regardless of how well founded and inspired the authority might be, or the application of bring-‘em-off-their-chairs motivational techniques. It’s the building of mutual respect and interdependence and the rewarding of loyalty, even if that occasionally calls for laying the tools of authority and motivation aside for a while. Leadership isn’t just an act of intuition, and it isn’t a part-time or temporary occupation. Leadership requires concentration and as you ascend into it, leadership demands that you cultivate its craft and its inspiration. Greatness, say some sages, may be thrust you when you haven’t chosen it. But you can usually choose your role in the scheme of things. If you’re inclined to choose leadership, choose it very carefully. Because once you accept the role, in your family, your business, or your community, you usually have it for life.

James Lea advises family owned companies and other privately held businesses in the U.S. and other countries. He is a speaker, author and columnist. Visit him at, and send comments or questions about this column to


It Out!

A New and Improved! We are redesigning our website to make it easier for you to find the information you need. Complete with a new look and feel, it will feature intuitive navigation, educational content and expanded resources. Here’s what you can expect to see on our new website: 1. Clean home page and banner navigation: You can easily find what you are looking for on our home page and drop down banners. 2. Convenient Access to Membership Information: Our membership information is easily located and all in one spot. 3. Tools at your fingertips: You can access numerous industry resources and tools in the new Resources section.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


September 2008


Managing to Stay Afloat in a Downturn Economy Part 4 of 4

William Randall client manager Bank of America



hen sales are slow and profits are under pressure, the last thing any of us wants to worry about is being swindled. But if financial fraud is always painful for furniture retailers, in a difficult economy, it can be downright fatal. One forged check can wipe out an entire month’s working capital; one stolen account number can create a financial crisis. And thanks to the Internet, crooks seem to have more opportunities to perpetrate these kinds of crimes than they ever have before. Fortunately, there are also more ways than ever to protect yourself and ensure that you’re not the next victim. Most of them are easy and inexpensive to implement, yet they might mean the difference between surviving this downturn or not. Whatever the size of your company, they should be an integral part of your cash management strategy. With the help of a relationship banker, now is the time to take steps to keep fraud from making a tough economic situation even tougher. The most effective fraud protection tool is one you are probably already familiar with: Positive Pay. Despite all the publicity given to Internet hacking and identity theft, the No. 1 kind of payment fraud perpetrated is still paper checks that have been forged, altered or stolen. Most of us have been a victim of this kind of crime at least once and we know what a hassle it can be even when the dollar amounts are small.

September 2008


Yet thanks in part to Positive Pay, banks prevent seven times as many cases of fraud as is actually committed, according to the American Bankers Association. And now that many checks are converted into electronic images before being transmitted to the bank — which eliminates the ability to physically inspect the paper and ink or lift fingerprints — Positive Pay is more valuable than ever. How does it work? You send a file listing all of the checks you issued to your bank. It matches

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

up the numbers and amounts with the checks from your accounts that have been presented. If it receives a check that isn’t on your list, you find out immediately and have the opportunity to have the bank return it. It’s as simple as that. If that’s not enough, there’s also Teller Positive Pay, to prevent fraudulent checks from being passed at the bank counter, and Payee Positive Pay, which extends the inspection to the payee name line, protecting checks you’ve issued against tampering. But Positive Pay is not the only tool available. Another simple way to reduce the risk of fraud is to enroll in your bank’s online banking program. Seeing transactions in real-time can give you a heads-up about suspicious activity in your account before it has decimated your balance. You can also request that your bank send you an email alert if your balance falls below a pre-determined threshold, a potential red flag that your account has been compromised. In a similar way, if you use credit cards or purchasing cards instead of checks or petty cash, you can monitor

and control your company’s spending online and in real-time. And plastic brings the added protection of liability limits up to as much as $100,000. Indeed, contrary to what many people think, electronic payments are actually safer than paper checks, whether you’re the payer or the payee. That’s because they offer multiple ways to automatically identify and verify or deny suspect items. For example, you can set up your accounts to filter out electronic debits above a certain amount or block them entirely into accounts in which you don’t typically receive them. You can also ask your bank to profile the payments you receive and create a database of payee characteristics that’s used to check future activity. And it goes without saying that because they’re faster, more timely and more efficient, electronic payments inherently give you and your bank earlier warning of fraudulent activity and greater opportunity to react. We’ll never do away with fraud entirely, even after the last paper check has been written and furniture retailing has gone completely digital. But smart business people are working with their banks now to try and prevent it, and protect what they’ve worked so hard and so long to create.

If you are interested in learning more contact William Randall, Bank of America client manager at (888) 852-5000 ext. 8251.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


September 2008


legislative news California’s Composite Wood Products Regulation Effective Next January


eginning January 1, 2009 any composite wood product, or finished good containing composite wood products (a.k.a. finished Angela Csondes good, such as furniture, cabinets, etc.), intended California Air for the California market, must meet California’s Resources Board clean air emission standards limiting formaldehyde emissions. The regulation addresses three types of commonly used composite wood products — hardwood plywood, particleboard and mediumdensity fiberboard. Responsibility for compliance will run through each link in the commercial chain of control and each will be held liable and subject to enforcement actions. Formaldehyde was identified by the California Air Resources Board in 1992 as a toxic air contaminant and state law requires that the public’s exposure be reduced through the use of best available control technology. Sufficient evidence exists for the California Air Resources Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer to conclude that formaldehyde causes cancer in humans. In addition to cancer health concerns, exposure to formaldehyde can cause headaches, nausea and fatigue. Moderate levels of formaldehyde can cause a number of adverse health effects including temporary burning or itchy eyes and nose, stuffy nose and sore throat. At higher concentrations formaldehyde can irritate the lung’s passageways and cause chest tightness, coughing and wheezing. It is for these reasons, and the fact that technology currently exists to reduce the health risks, that the California Air Resources Board passed this regulation. Recognized as the most stringent productionbased emission standards in the world, this regulation will be implemented in two phases requiring increasingly stringent emissions reductions. Phase 1 emission standards will be effective on January 1, 2009, and Learn More Phase 2 emission Formaldehyde standards will be implemented Regulations Webinar between 2010 Thursday, September 25 and 2012. 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Responsibility for compliance Attend a webinar presented by the applies through California Air Resources Board on the new the entire formaldehyde regulations affecting retailers. commercial Register today — Call (800) 422-3778 productor email distribution 40

September 2008


chain. The manufacturers of composite wood products, third party certifiers, fabricators, distributors, importers and retailers of composite wood products and finished goods must collectively assure that the composite wood products and finished goods manufactured for sale in California are compliant in commerce. This will require that each recognizes and clearly understands the California’s composite wood product regulation. Retailers are required to keep records and document their products for California sale to comply with the requirements. At a minimum, records must include the names of suppliers, dates purchased and a description of the “reasonable prudent precautions” taken. Reasonable prudent precautions include instructing suppliers that they must supply goods that comply with California standards and documenting this exchange. Records should be kept in electronic or hard copy form for two years. California’s composite wood product regulation contains sell-through provisions. This allows a period of time to sell existing inventories of composite wood products and finished goods containing composite wood products after the January 1, 2009 effective date. The same set of sellthrough periods apply as Phase 2 emission standards become effective between January 2010 and July 2012. For retailers, the sell-through period for composite wood products (particleboard, mediumdensity fiberboard, and hardwood plywood) is 12 months after the emission standard effective dates. Retailers will also have 18 months, to use, sell, supply and offer for sale finished goods containing composite wood products. California Air Resources Board enforcement officers and local air pollution officials are authorized to conduct inspections at retail facilities and request documentation proving compliance. Any outlet found with non-complying products will be subject to penalties. California Air Resources Board staff’s outreach efforts indicate that major big box retailers are aware of the regulation and working to be in compliance by January 1, 2009. All North American producers of particleboard, hardwood plywood and medium-density fiberboard are anticipated to be in compliance in advance of the January 1, 2009, implementation date. For more information please visit the website at:, or contact Ms. Angela Csondes at

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

Emerald – Willowbrook

Emerald – Hillsboro

Emerald – Drop Leaf

Emerald – Dakota

Emerald – Brayden

product focus

Dining Offers Great Opportunities for Selling


ining room furniture has always offered a great opportunity for sales. From casual to formal, traditional rectangular tables to ovals and rounds, standard height to gathering, counter or pub height as well as a wide variety of styles to satisfy different lifestyles. The key to selling dining room furniture is to keep an open mind and listen to the customer’s needs. Often we have preconceived ideas about what a particular person wants, or we get wrapped up in groups that have been popular sellers. Consider the following story about an elderly woman, Mary. While shopping for a dining room set, she entered a store and was quickly approached by Tom, who introduced himself and asked how he could help her. She said that she was looking for a dining room. Tom thought of the two cherry dining rooms he’d sold that day, envisioning the easy sale of a third. He walked Mary through the 20,000 square foot showroom to the dining department and straight to a cherry dining room. She strongly said, “I don’t want cherry. I’ve had cherry for 50 years and don’t want that anymore.” Tom attempted to show her other styles, but the tone had already been set and she ended up leaving shortly afterward without purchasing anything. Mary went to another furniture store and was greeted by Bill, who gave a wonderful greeting with a warm smile and asked Mary what brought her into the store today. She said she was looking for a dining room. Bill replied, “That’s great! What kind of dining room are you interested in? Do you want something formal or a set you’ll use every day? Do you have a wood or finish preference?” She explained that she had spent many years with a cherry dining set and she knew that she did not want that, but she did want something she could use when her grandkids came to visit. Bill showed her a great selection of dining groups that would accommodate her extended family with a finish that her grandkids wouldn’t easily scratch. He wrote the sale and Mary went home happy. Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

I share this story because many salespeople don’t go the distance. The greatest tools salespeople have are the answers to the questions that they can ask a customer. For openers, does the customer want a casual or formal dining set? Secondly, how many people does the customer want to accommodate? What shape will work best? Today, we can offer a 60-inch square that can sit up to eight people and offers the ability to have interactive conversations at gatherings. One of the most exciting new trends in dining is the variety of heights we can offer in dining tables and the ease with which they can be changed to fit a consumer’s taste. Not only are different heights a common occurrence in dining groups, but often the table legs are interchangeable offering a customer the opportunity to choose the top they desire at the height that works best for them with the option of changing the height at a later date with the simple and inexpensive purchase of different legs. Another important consideration for consumers is wood type. There is such a wide variety, including solids and veneers, oak, pine and other exotic woods. Finishes range from dark, light or natural. Table tops can offer quarter match veneers or inlays, and can have several colors or variations. It doesn’t stop with wood; there is a large selection of metal, slate or glass top dining tables. Consumers have endless possibilities. The salesperson’s goal is to zero in on what is going to make the customer happy. We accomplish this by asking great questions. The more questions the salesperson asks a customer, the more that customer will help the sales associate to focus in on the right selection. This, in turn, will help the customer make the right buying decision and hopefully become a loyal customer for life.

Michael Cohen vice president of sales western region of Emerald Home Furnishings

Michael Cohen is the vice president of sales for the western region of Emerald Home Furnishings. Emerald is a full-line importer of upholstery, bedroom, dining and occasional and is a manufacturer of a full line of bedding through its Emerald Sleep Systems division. For more information, visit westernreporter

September 2008


It’s All In The Story!

I Brad Huisken president IAS Training

n today’s retail environment, it is all about the story you tell that creates the excitement in the customers mind that will cause them to buy from you. Every company has a story that is unique to only that company. Usually the advertising does a great job of telling the story — the question is do the salespeople convey the same message that is displayed in the advertising? When you are thinking about going to Disneyland or Disney World, their advertising conveys the message that it is the Happiest Place on Earth. All the employees have a mission of making a Disney property the happiest place on earth. When you check into a Ritz Carlton Hotel — you expect a high level of professionalism and a great sense of eloquence. Employees of the Ritz Carlton are not allowed to say the word “yes” — they are required to say the word “certainly”. Just that one word “certainly” displays eloquence and professionalism. Should you rent a car from Avis — if the employees of Avis are not trying a little bit harder we are disappointed with the experience. One particular vacation company advertises, “Having the time of your life.” You can bet that the employees of this company do everything possible to ensure that their guests have the time of their life. In retail furniture, the same holds true — just from a couple different perspectives, your story and probably more importantly the customer’s story. We will explore both in this article.

What’s Your Story Selling Yourself And Your Company! It is becoming increasingly more important to sell yourself, your company and your branded 42

September 2008


lines. Telling your story or a company story just might be the edge that you need to close the sale. The story should be phrased as 15 to 20 words highlighting the competitive advantage that you, your company or your branded line offers. With competition increasing from others in your industry, the Internet, and other areas where customers can spend their disposable income, selling yourself, your company and your branded lines is essential. I believe that it is more important to sell yourself and your company than it is to sell your merchandise! I suggest that companies should have a brainstorming session with their employees and come up with the top 50 or 60 reasons why a customer should buy from you and your store as opposed to buying from the competition. When discussing reasons “why” these could also be called competitive advantages or unique selling propositions (USP). Then take these top 50 or 60 reasons and convert them into 15 to 20 word company stories. For example, a competitive advantage of being independently owned might translate to a company story that sounds like: One thing we are very proud of at ABC Furniture is that our store is independently owned meaning that the owner is also the buyer and all of the furniture is hand-picked for the finest quality and value. Meaning that as a customer you will receive the highest quality at a great value. It may come down to what you do not say that will make the difference between a sale being made or lost! Another reason it is so important to tell your story or company stories is that the difference between making a sale and not making a sale may come down to what you don’t say as opposed to what you do say. For example, let’s say one of Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

your competitive advantages is that you offer free delivery or free fabric protection. During the sales presentation, you forget to mention the free delivery or fabric protection. The customer doesn’t buy at your store, then they are shopping at your competition and the competitor just happens to mention that they offer free delivery and/or free fabric protection. Who gets the sale? Probably the competition because they mentioned the added benefit of buying from them and you simply forgot to mention that particular company story. Thus a lost sale. Company stories do not necessarily have to be things that you offer that no one else does. They are simply reasons why the customer should buy from you, spoken in terms of a customer benefit. I assure you that if you sell yourself and the store you will find more people buying from you simply because not many of your competitors are proactively selling themselves rather than just the furniture. It's the extra information that will allow you to focus on the emotional side of the purchase. The professional will ask the questions, get the answers, respond to the answers and develop the type of relationship that will get their clients to trust them. Additionally, a professional will not only respond to the answers to the questions, but will respond to the extra information that they receive through the process of the needs assessment. This is where the trust is developed. Trust is essential in order to sell your customer on dealing with you. Trust is established and relationships developed in conversing about the emotional side of the purchase or in the customer’s story. Let’s say a customer is remodeling their living room, dining room and looking for new patio furniture. Through asking questions, we find out that the emotional reason behind the purchase of all this furniture is that their son is graduating from medical school and they are having family and friends fly in from all over the country to attend the graduation party. The party is going to be held at their home and some of the relatives are staying at the home as well. In this situation, I would certainly spend an enormous amount of time talking about the Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

party, the family and friends, where they are coming from, what college the son graduated from, what his plans are for the future, etc. In other words, spend an enormous amount of time on the emotional reason why the customer is buying furniture and this is where the customer will feel that they have had the experience of a lifetime in purchasing furniture from you. Anybody can show and sell furniture. The professional develops relationships with their customers through sharing in life’s special moments and on the emotional excitement the customer has in making the purchase. I would be willing to bet that 90 percent of all furniture purchases are made based on some emotional reason “WHY” the customer is buying! continued on page 44


September 2008


continued from page 43

Get the customers talking about and sketching their home, the furniture that they have had in the past, how often they entertain in the home, their remodeling or decorating plans both current and future, special events they have coming up, their families and their business. Think about your very best customer. Think about everything that you know about that person. You probably know their name, spouses name, where they live, where they work, their children’s names and ages, what schools they attend, what kind of car the family has, the family pet and so on. Then think about the customer that you did not sell the other day and ask yourself what do you know about that person? The answer probably is not much. In other words, the difference between your very best customer and the one that did not buy from you really comes down to your ability to befriend another human being. Befriending comes from your ability to get a person to open up and talk to you about the emotional reason behind the purchase followed by the emotional reaction that you give them. In other words, you are sharing and caring about the emotional reason behind the purchase and sharing in the excitement of the event.

The Next Best Question In sales, there is always a next best question! Follow the railroad track of next best questions! Your ability to communicate through asking questions will have a direct relationship on your success in sales! Customers will tell you everything you need to know to make the sale, add-on and develop a relationship based on the emotional information that the customer wants to share if you ask the right questions!

The Seven Key Questions The following are questions that I refer to as The Seven Key Questions. It is my belief that these questions are so important that they should be asked in 99.99 percent of all sales presentations with new customers. Each question has more than one reason behind asking it. See how many reasons that you can come up with as to “why” you should ask each of these questions. Additionally, the questions will allow you to sell 44

September 2008


based on the reasons the customer wants to buy, create a relationship and focus on the emotional reason behind the furniture purchase. 1. Who recommended our store? This will increase trust in buying from you and it increases the perception that you get a lot a referrals or recommendations. I would definitely want to thank the person giving me recommendations. This is the only time I say do not change the word recommended to referred or where did you hear about us. These words have a completely different meaning than recommended. 2. Who are you shopping for? This will give you a gender and a relationship of the person they are buying for if it is not for them. 3. What have you seen before that he/she/you would love to have? This will tell you what you are up against from a competitive perspective. 4. What brings you in today? This is the transition question from non-business conversation to business conversation. 5. What is the special occasion? This question will give you the emotional reason behind the purchase to enable you to share in the emotional excitement of purchasing new furniture. 6. What is important to him/her/you in selecting a _________? This is the most important question in sales. The answer to this question allows the salesperson to sell based on the reason the customer wants to buy as opposed to the reason the sales person wants to sell. 7. When is the special occasion? This question will allow the salesperson to put urgency to the purchase. In most selling situations one of these questions will be your next best question in determining your customers’ wants, needs and desires. Thus, allowing you to sell the customer based on telling your stories and in sharing in the special stories that the customer has that, they are hoping to share with someone. I know that someone is you. When a customer comes into a furniture store today, they are not looking for furniture — they are looking for a place and a person from whom to buy the furniture! Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is president of IAS Training. Mr. Huisken authored the books “I’M a salesman! Not a PhD.” and “Munchies For Salespeople, Selling Tips That You Can Sink Your Teeth Into,” he developed the PMSA Relationship Selling Program, the PSMC Professional Sales Management Course, The Mystery Shoppers Kit, The Employee Handbook and Policy & Procedures Manual, The Weekly Sales Training Meeting series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers, along with the new Weekly Internet Sales Training Series. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight” For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at (800) 248-7703,, or fax (303) 936-9581.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


Q What motivates, invigorates, inspires you about our industry? A We are in a profession that helps people. We make customers’ lives better. We are



with Gary

able to fulfill their desire of having a better quality of life at home. We make their homes more beautiful and more comfortable. I am also inspired by helping my co-workers to achieve success in their professional and personal lives.

Q If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? A There is just something about the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean that makes me smile. Warm weather, beautiful waters and nice, inexpensive golf courses is where I would want to go.

Q What is the most overlooked secret to success? A To have people working with you who love their work is important. We must

surround ourselves with people who are strong where we are weak. A furniture company is a TEAM effort. Always treat everyone as a TEAM member because they all play an important role in your success. Q What does the next five years hold for you? A Change. Now is the time to re-evaluate what we have been building and creating for the last 28 years. I want to make sure our systems and policies are current, efficient and relevant. Our goal is to have a solid foundation in place to be able to grow through the next generation. We need to be more creative, and exceed the wants and needs of a more demanding consumer to secure our future. We need to be open to change with an ever changing consumer, marketplace and disposable income.

Q What are three words that describe you best? A Encourager, Dad (now Grandpa, too!) and fun. Q What’s your secret indulgence? A Anything raspberry. Q What did you want to be when you were growing up? A I always wanted to be a dad. My parents taught my two brothers and I that

tune onth, mber m y r e Eve oard M re into B o learn mo t A F A H Q& your W about members. board

being a family is what life is all about. They worked hard, played hard and were successful. My wife of 29 years, Nancy, and I have three sons, one daughter, two daughter-in-laws and one grandson. In college I majored in accounting and wanted to be a CPA. I realized that my passion was working more with people rather than numbers. In 1980, Mark Walker offered me a job to sell unfinished furniture with him in a 2,500 square foot store in Spokane, WA. Now 28 years later, Mark and I have eight stores in six different cities. When I do grow up, I’ll let you know what I am doing.

Gary Absalonson Partner Walker’s Furniture, Inc. 2611 N Woodruff Road Spokane, WA 99206 (509) 533-5500 x207

Q Why did you join the WHFA board? A I always learned a lot at the WHFA conferences. I left motivated and excited to go

back and apply what I had learned. The furniture industry has been very good to us. I thought we could give back to the industry by serving on the board. It has been a great experience learning and sharing experiences and ideas with other furniture dealers. Some of my best new ideas have come from other board members.

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industry dates Market Dates September 13 – 15, 2008

November 23 – 25, 2008

Total Home & Gift Market Dallas Market Center Dallas, TX (800) DAL-MKTS

Long Beach Furniture & Accessory Market Long Beach Convention Center Long Beach, CA (800) 605-7440 Future dates: March 39-31, 2009

October 14 – 16, 2008 Train the Trainer Course IAS Training Holiday Inn at Los Angeles International Airport (800) 248-7703

October 20 – 26, 2008 High Point Market High Point, NC (336) 869-1000 Future dates: April 27-May 3, 2009

February 9 –13, 2009

Las Vegas Market — World Market Center Las Vegas, NV (866) 229-3574

October 26 – 28, 2008 Ryan’s Furniture, Art & Decor Market Palm Springs, CA

WHFA Educational Events October 20 – 26, 2008 High Point Market — Free Business Seminars Retailer Resource Center IHFC Main Street, Floor 12 High Point, NC (800) 888-9590 RETAILER


National Home Furnishings Association Western Home Furnishings Association

February 9 – 13, 2009

WHFA Educational Events Las Vegas Market — Free Business Seminars Retailer Resource Center WMC Building B, 16th Floor (800) 422-3778



National Home Furnishings Association Western Home Furnishings Association

May 17 – 19, 2009

2009 WHFA Conference & Expo Westin Maui (800) 422-3778

For more industry dates, visit and click on EVENTS.

tips & tricks Captivate Their Senses and You’ll Capture Their Dollars: Creating a Unique Customer Experience The fastest way to capture customer dollars is by creating a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that captivates their every sense. Savvy retailers know how to tickle their taste buds, delight their noses, soothe their ears, invite their touch and dazzle their eyes. Tantalize customers with every sense, taste, scent, sound, touch and sight.

Aromas that ring registers! These days many consumers have become very sensitive and are unable to tolerate high degrees of scent. On the other hand a subtle, carefully selected scent that distinguishes your merchandise and can even be used as a memorable marker for increasing sales. Match your scent to your style; consumers are used to buying fragrances with names like mountain fresh, coastal breeze, lavender dreams and such. You can market aroma by room or by look.

Tempt them to touch! Creating opportunities for consumers to touch your merchandise is paramount. If you are selling a lot of glass or other fragile goods this can be a recipe for disaster, but it is the mix that matters. For every hard, slick surface you want to provide a counterpoint of a soft, cozy touch point. On the arm of that great leather armchair toss a luxurious chenille throw, use toss pillows with touch factor and you’ll get the consumer much closer to a sale.

Making it taste great! As a designer and a shopper one of the things that really invites me into a retailer is something to munch on. This can be as simple as a cup of coffee, a soda, a pitcher of cool water and a plate of cookies or you can go all out with an espresso machine, fresh brewed iced tea and home baked goodies. Knowing your customer can get refreshment will slow them down. This allows you a chance to engage them in conversation, determine their needs on a deeper level and give them more time to truly embrace the experience you are offering.

Sounds that sell! I also always pay close attention to the music played in a retail establishment. Is it random CDs, a proprietary mix, or the radio? I also notice the tempo and if it suits the type of goods being offered. Using classical to sell modern isn’t often a good fit. Match your music to your merchandise. If you are offering a lot of coastal breeze and beach style goods maybe Jimmy Buffet or a Caribbean-themed tune base will get goods moving. On the other hand if you are going for an urban sophisticate or contemporary eclectic, consider using a jazzier, upbeat tempo.

Sights that make sales! It is vital that you layout your floor in a way that customers can clearly see where they want to go and how to get there. It is frustrating to have to hunt and be unable to see from the front entrance. While many retailers do use maze layouts, it is far better to vignette your merchandise by style and allow the customer a chance to linger in any one are, but be able to find that area easily. Make it easy to get to but difficult to leave. Once they’ve found their style, you have layered in so many desirable elements that they want to buy, buy and buy. Copyright Melissa Galt 2008

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


September 2008


fun facts & figures Fun Facts about Customer Loyalty 1. Dissatisfied customers tell an average of 10 other people about their bad experience. Twelve percent tell up to 20 people. 2. Satisfied customers will tell an average of five people about their positive experience. Conversely, the good news, unfortunately, doesn’t spread so quickly. To the contrary, the bad news moves twice as quickly as the good. While customers do appreciate good service, they either don’t reward it quite as soon or they don’t reward it at all. 3. It costs five times more money to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. Before you go out investing hundreds or even thousands of dollars chasing after new clients, think about the acres of diamonds in your own backyard. 4. Providing high quality service can save your business money. The same skills that lead to increased customer satisfaction also lead to increased employee productivity. You can kill two birds with one stone. The same things that make customers happy make your employees happy.

Have your employees put a big smile on their faces. People want to do business with winners. They want to do business with happy people. People don’t smile because they’re happy, they’re happy because they smile. 5. Customers are willing to pay more to receive better service. You remember...Marketing 101. What do you get when you have a high demand for something and an extremely low supply? The price goes up, of course. The price (in case of service) is the loyalty the client has to you and your firm. If you provide good service, they pay you loyalty. Loyalty means they will do business with you again. And remember, it only costs one-fifth as much to do business with an existing customer as it does to find a new one. These fun facts are an excerpt from Michael Aun’s article, “Thirteen Customer Service Facts”. To read the full article, visit

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American General Finance............................................... 11.................................. (800) 422-3778 B&B Banker & Brisbois Advertising................................. 45.................................. (800) 456-0210 CDS Solutions Group........................................................ 48.................................. (888) 309-8002 Citi Retail Services............................................................. 15.................................. (800) 422-3778 Emerald Home Furnishings............................................. 2-3................................. (800) 685-6646 Furniture Transport Group................................................ 6................................... (800) 438-8244 Furniture Wizard................................................................ 43.................................. (619) 869-7200 High Point Market............................................................. 46.................................. (888) 284-3074 Hoyt Highfill & Associates................................................. 19.................................. (318) 322-3846 JRM Sales & Management, Inc........................................ 23.................................. (678) 574-5541 Karel Exposition Management......................................... 39.................................. (305) 792-9990 MicroD, Inc......................................................................... 17.................................. (800) 964-3876 PROFITsystems, Inc........................................................4 & 51............................... (866) 453-5010 Restonic Mattress............................................................... 9.......................... (800) 521-3985 x105 Sale-In-A-Box..................................................................... 32.................................. (800) 894-8234 ServerLogic Corp............................................................... 21.................................. (866) 835-6932 Simmons Company....................................................back cover........................... (510) 357-2230 TruckSKIN........................................................................... 16.................................. (877) 866-7546 ViewIT Technologies...................................................... 26-27............................... (905) 639-8609 WHFA Membership........................................................... 33.................................. (800) 422-3778 WHFA Warehouse Products............................................. 36.................................. (800) 422-3778 WHFA Website.................................................................. 37.................................. (800) 422-3778

advertising inquiries & rates Contact: Cindi Williams, WHFA Events Manager, 500 Giuseppe Court, Ste. 6, Roseville, CA 95678. (916) 960-0277 E-mail: 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. September 2008, all rights reserved.

Western Reporter:

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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.

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September Western Reporter  

This issue of Western Reporter focuses on customer experience.

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