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

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HW Home

CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED Western Home Furnishings Association 500 Giuseppe Court, #6 Roseville, CA 95678 est.1944

May 2010


n i t o g n i r p

EmErald’s HoT nEW looks

EmErald HomE FurnisHings Tacoma, Wa 253.922.1400


Emerald Home Furnishings

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

western retailer

EDITORIAL STAFF Managing Editor: Melissa Dressler................................ Publisher: Melissa Robinson............................................

table of contents featured articles

Advertising Manager: Cindi

2010 Retailer of the Year HW Home...................................... 10

2010 WHFA OFFICERS AND EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE WHFA PRESIDENT Claudia LeClair - Fiesta Home Furnishings, Scottsdale, AZ...............(480) 951-3239 PRESIDENT ELECT

It’s All About Sales and Marketing Is Your Store’s Message Right for Today’s Consumer?......... 22

Angel Lopez - Dearden’s, Los Angeles, CA........................................(213) 362-9600 VICE PRESIDENT Chris Sanders - Everton Mattress Factory, Inc., Twin Falls, ID..........(208) 326-3407 TREASURER Valerie Watters - Valerie’s Furniture and Accents, Cave Creek, AZ....(480) 483-3327 SECRETARY Lael Thompson - Broyhill Home Collections, Aurora, CO...................(303) 360-9653 EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE CHAIR

Rep’s Perspective Your Furniture Sales Rep Can Help Grow Your Business........ 26

Marty Cramer - Cramer’s Home Furnishings, Ellensburg, WA...........(509) 933-2172 PAST PRESIDENTS George Nader - Nader’s La Popular, Gardena, CA............................(310) 327-8585 Cherie Rose - The Rose Collection, Los Gatos, CA...........................(408) 395-7773 EXECUTIVE director Sharron Bradley - WHFA, Roseville, CA.............................................(916) 784-7677

Get Involved! National Home Furnishings Month......................... 30

AT LARGE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBers Gary Absalonson - Walker’s Furniture Inc., Spokane, WA.................(509) 533-5500 Howard Haimsohn - Lawrance Contemporary, San Diego, CA.......... (619) 291-1911 Marvin Kerby - Kerby’s Furniture, Mesa, AZ.......................................(480) 834-3888 Karen Kohlman - West Harvard Furniture, Roseburg. OR.................(541) 673-4221 WHFA/NHFA Liaison David Harkness - Harkness Furniture, Tacoma, WA...........................(253) 473-1234

in every issue

WHFA Board Members Buzz Burnett - Treasures Furniture, San Diego, CA...........................(858) 586-1900

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

Gene DeMeerleer - Furniture West, LaGrande, OR...........................(541) 963-5440

Program of the Month: Office Depot. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Mark Flegel - Flegel’s Home Furniture, Menlo Park, CA....................(650) 326-9661 Eric Foucrier - Linder’s Furniture Mart, Garden Grove, CA................(714) 210-4848 Travis Garrish - Forma Furniture, Fort Collins, CO.............................(970) 204-9700

Western Retailer Celebrates 20 Years How to Get the Most Out of Conferences. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

Giff Gates - Gates Furniture, Grants Pass, OR..................................(541) 476-4627 Eric Harms - Black’s Home Furnishings, Yreka, CA...........................(530) 842-3876 Ron Hoesterey - Royal Mattress Company, Inc., Orange, CA............(800) 987-6925 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


Don Lemieux - Naturwood, Rancho Cordova, CA..............................(916) 638-2424 Jeff Lindsley - Lindsley’s Home Furnishings, Grangeville, ID.............(208) 983-1040 Robert Myers - Ashley Furniture HomeStore, Chico, CA....................(530) 345-2616


Mark Navarra - Jerome’s, San Diego, CA..........................................(858) 753-1549 Michael Nermon - Ergo Customized Comfort, Irvine, CA...................(949) 833-0338 Scott Selden - Selden’s - Tacoma, WA...............................................(253) 922-5700


Mike Shuel - Meredith Furniture, Yakima, WA....................................(509) 452-6221 Tom Slater - Slater’s Home Furnishings, Modesto, CA......................(209) 522-9097 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

(800) 422-3778 (12 western states) (916) 784-7677 Online: Fax: (916) 784-7697 Mail: 500 Giuseppe Court, Suite 6 Roseville, CA 95678 Twitter: Facebook: case sensitive

Operations/Warehouse Manager: Jef Spencer...............................(916) 960-0386

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

Communications Planning Manager: Melissa Robinson................(916) 960-0349 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: Adam Gardner............................................(916) 960-0291 Accounting Assistant: Melody King.................................................(916) 960-2476

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


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may 2010

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President’s Message

This is my fourth president’s message, and I know some of you are expecting a message any time now on warehouse and delivery. Well, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, because it’s not one of my strong points. However, for those of you needing immediate warehouse/delivery advice, call Dave Harkness of Harkness Furniture at (253) 473-1234! So let’s move on to my topic of the month — continuing education. Author Harvey Mackay says in his book Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, “Hire people who are still learning, people who feel that learning is a lifelong process, either in the classroom, the office, or at home. Develop a business library and stock it with written material, videos and CD’s. Show them you want them to grow — and your business will grow too!” I strongly believe in continuing education for myself and my entire staff. We’ve all heard the saying lately, “Only a fool keeps doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” (or something like that!) There are so many ways to obtain education and most of them come at a very nominal charge. Let’s start with WHFA. The yearly conference, of course, is a given, but don’t forget to look at the options they offer as far as video rentals and training videos. Some of the video rentals available (at only $15 for members) are Closing the Sale, Attitude is Everything and How to be a Winner by Zig Ziglar. As an example, there’s a training video available called Warehouse Procedures and Delivery:The Ultimate Impression. See, you don’t have to call Dave after all! We have a library of books available to our staff. Years ago, Giff Gates suggested I read a book called Hug Your Customer, by Jack Mitchell. It’s now required reading as part of our training for all new hires. It’s an extremely insightful book full of ideas on relationship building, and it’s a fun read! A few other books we have on hand are, What Clients Love- A Field Guide to Growing Your Business, by Harry Beckwith, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, Retail Success, by George Whalin, Sales Management, by John F. Lawhon, Sales Management Made Easy, by Ron Martin, Built to Last, by James C. Collins and Jerry I Porras, and The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D and Spencer Johnson, M.D. Also don’t forget community colleges, webinars and performance groups for yourself and your managers. Andrew Carnegie said, “The secret of success lies not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right man to do it.” Very true, but remember, it all starts at the top!

Claudia LeClair 2010 WHFA president

Fiesta Furnishings / Brix Home Scottsdale, AZ (480) 951-3239

ON THE COVER WHFA 2010 Western Retailer of the Year HW Home co-founders Ron Werner and Jim Hering with their spokesFURperson, Zach, based out of Boulder, CO.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

western retailer

may 2010

Editor’s Message What Inspires You?

Melissa Dressler Western Retailer managing editor

As a writer, I often need to find something to inspire me. I usually find my inspiration from traveling to new locations, running, meeting new people or immersing myself into books or music. The one thing that I have noticed is that for me to become inspired, I must be relaxed and completely in the moment. My mind can’t be thinking of everything I need to accomplish at work the next day — I need to be immersed in the situation. Unfortunately, most of my traditional ways of inspiration became much harder to utilize during the last year — even I became a victim at times to the negativity and fear that the economic crisis had created. Many of you would agree with me that 2009 was one of the worst years for retail business in recent history. Throughout the year, I heard so many stories of retailers that just couldn’t hold onto their business any longer, or stories of retailers who hadn’t had a customer walk through their doors in weeks. Western Retailer was even experiencing it’s own issues, and we had to cut down our page count all while trying to give you the most timely advice and positive hope that change was on the horizon. At times, I will admit, it was very hard to find any inspiration, but then I would talk to you, our members. I would hear your stories of amazing ideas that you had to get people in through the door or how to save thousands of dollars — your stories of survival became inspiring to me. This month, I was greatly inspired by WHFA’s 2010 Western Retailers of the Year, Jim Hering and Ron Werner, owners of HW Home in Boulder, CO. From the moment I started speaking with them, I could feel their passion for their business and their compassion for others. Their story of joining the home furnishings industry and building a beautiful business empire, all while providing exceptional customer service and taking care of their employees is truly inspirational to me — I hope it is to you as well. What inspires you and your business? Have you been having a difficult time finding inspiration lately? Take some time to stop and think about your business, step out of it for a bit and see the whole picture. Read some new books, listen to music, visit art shows. Talk to your peers and hear their stories. You never know when you will be inspired again, but take the time to step back and relax, you will find something to inspire you to continue moving forward in building a successful and healthy business.

(916) 960-0385

looking forward to June/July 2010 • Facebook and Your Business • Are Your Trucks Impacting Your Image? • 2010 Western Retailer of the Year Nominees

Last month’s magazine is available online at

may 2010

... and much more

western retailer

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

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Industry Beat Goore’s Takes Infant and Youth Retail To The Next Level The largest independent baby and children’s specialty store on the West Coast, Goore’s for Babies to Teens, celebrated the opening of the second phase of its Young America Signature Shop in March. Conveniently located within the store’s existing footprint in Sacramento, CA, the expansion of this unique store-within-a-store concept continues to focus on providing consumers with a thorough and meaningful Young America shopping experience. In 2006, Goore’s became one of the first infant and youth retailers to outfit its existing location with a Young America Signature Shop. Owners Ken and April Goore proudly dedicated 1,800 square feet of floor space to feature expertly-designed vignettes exclusive to Young America. For Goore’s, this gallerylike setting succeeded in displaying Young America’s best selling styles in the most consumer friendly conditions. “We have been extremely pleased with the success of our Young America Signature Shop,” said Ken Goore. “But like all retail-savvy businesses, we are focused on continuous improvement. That’s why we decided to implement a Phase 2 of our Young America Signature Shop.” Goore’s for Babies to Teens, Inc. is a family owned business that is operated by Ken, April and Richard Goore. Founded in 1992, Goore’s began as a 2,000 square foot boutique store offering primarily furniture and bedding and flourishing into a 32,000 square foot baby and children’s superstore. For more information, visit

Fishels Takes Top Honors at Apollo Awards The casual furnishings industry honored its leading retailers at the 50th annual Apollo Awards, held at Chicago’s Union Station last September. Portland, OR-based Fishels won the multi-store category award. Owner and President Larry Talbot accepted the award and turned attention to fellow casual furniture retailers who may have never been nominated. “I am truly honored to be up here,” Talbot said, acknowledging the support of the other nominees as well as “the vast sea of other retailers out there who all contribute so much to the industry.”  Mark Gorr gave a brief history of Fishels, describing why the retailer ranks among the industry leaders. “They are selling fun,” Gorr said. “The fun begins when customers walk in the door and then continues for years.”  This year, selection for the Apollo Awards began with nominations from International Casual Furnishings Association members. Winners are selected from hundreds of retailers throughout the country. The top five finalists in the two categories — single store and multi-store — were then selected by a vote of ICFA manufacturer / importer members. After the top five stores in each category had been selected, the ICFA Board of Directors then submitted their votes online to name an Apollo Award winner in each category.

may 2010

western retailer

Otis Sponsors the Make-a-Wish Foundation® for Third Year; Brings Back Highly Successful Wish Cookie Laughter and creativity were the orders of the day when Otis Spunkmeyer employees welcomed five wish kids from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to their corporate offices in late October. The occasion was the second annual Otis Spunkmeyer Cookie Creation Event, which honors the company’s support of the Make-AWish Foundation — the world’s largest wish-granting organization benefiting children with life-threatening medical conditions. Otis Spunkmeyer has sponsored the charity for the past two years and will do so again in 2010, offering wish cookies for sale from April 15 through June 15, to raise funds. Following the wish cookie limited-time offering last year, Otis Spunkmeyer donated $75,000 to the Make-AWish Foundation. To date, the company has contributed a total of $150,000. It also offers a specialty oven and supply of cookie dough to every Make-A-Wish® chapter in the continental United States — bringing the magic of fresh-baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies to local Make-AWish events and fundraisers nationwide. Retailers may request Official ’10 Wish Kits by contacting their Otis representatives, visiting or calling 1-888-ASK-OTIS.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

2010 Retailer of the Year

Building a Retail Empire WHFA’s 2010 Western Retailer of the Year: HW Home


hat do you get when you combine high style, an eclectic product mix, refreshing taste, passionate owners and employees and a loyal customer base? You get WHFA’s 2010 Western Retailer of the Year, HW Home based out of Boulder, CO. In 1998, co-founders Jim Hering and Ron Werner visited Ron’s sister in Boulder to design the interior of her new home and immediately saw an opportunity to bring fashion-forward designs and styles to the area. “The true reason we opened the store is because we saw a need,” said Jim. “We were researching and scouting local shops to furnish Ron’s sister’s home, and we realized there was a void in the market. We had been toying with the idea of doing something in Chicago, but when we came out to Colorado and Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

saw how beautiful it was, we decided to seize a very great economic opportunity.” “We built the business with a very classic method; we had an idea and then we went and researched the market. The first weekend that we visited my sister’s home and had the initial idea, we decided to immediately change our flight back to Chicago in order to spend more time here,” Ron added. “We went and researched all of the other stores in the area, did demographic and real estate research to look at all of the possible locations and really started to put ideas together. Once we did that, we concluded that it was a viable idea. Colorado was a thriving market that had the demand but didn’t have the supply; there wasn’t a chic home furnishings store there.” Once the idea was solidified, Ron and Jim western retailer

Melissa Dressler Western Retailer managing editor

may 2010


sat down to write out their business plan. With Ron’s past business experience working for Smith Barney, and Jim’s innate design experience and skills acquired while he was a general manager for Holly Hunt’s design studio, the two were able to blend their skills and knowledge to create a beautiful and successful business. Their plan was relatively simple; they wanted to bring high-end, couture, designer-like furniture to a retail setting that offered instant gratification to the customer. The focus of the business would be to deliver a very high-level of service and comfort and to always put the customer first. “If you read that plan today, and sat down in any of our stores, you would see what you read,” Ron said. “We believed that if we created a great experience for our customer, and had beautiful stores that people liked, we could build a solid business. Eleven years later, our model is still intact.” In 1999, Jim and Ron opened the doors of the first HW Home in Boulder’s historic Johnson-Betasso Terrace. The store was an instant success, and HW Home quickly grew to occupy more of the building’s space. Today, there are four HW Home locations spanning 55-miles along the base of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Averaging about 7,000 square feet, each store is unique and tailored to the local neighborhood. “Each store isn’t set up the same way. If you go into a Pottery Barn, every Pottery Barn is going to look the same — they are going to have the same vignettes in the same locations. If you go to our stores, each store is adapted to its neighborhood and the personality that mixes within that neighborhood, making each store a little different,” Jim explained. Typically each store has about 50 percent of furniture overlap and about 90 percent of accessory overlap. By selling different products in each store, HW Home has been able to leverage their aggregate footprint and show more products while keeping a smaller, boutique feel to each showroom. Jim and Ron also discovered that many customers will take the 55-mile journey and visit the different showrooms to see the various products that are offered. While the product assortment varies from location to location, the customer experience is always a welcoming, comfortable experience. Each showroom plays great music — which customers can also purchase — that gets customers excited to shop. Customers always notice that each store smells the same, even though there is not one scent that is used throughout. “There is no particular fragrance,” Jim said. “When people ask us what the smell is, we just point around the store and say that it is a mix of everything.” Each showroom is also merchandised uniquely which is all a part of the eclectic mix that Ron and Jim are striving for. They both believe that a customer should never buy a piece of furniture for a specific house — even if it is a house that the customer plans to spend their entire life in. Instead they believe customers should buy a piece of furniture because they love it or because there is something unique about the product and it will be relevant in customers homes today as well as in 10 years. Jim and Ron use their entire showroom as a way to set the stage for their merchandise. From the old maple wood floors that used to be in a tobacco processing company to the onyx walls, HW Home incorporates different styles and textures to create a welcoming and comfortable setting. “We merchandise things very creatively and eclectically so customers can see how different pieces would fit together, how stone and wood work together, and how different textures combine to create a really warm and inviting setting,” Jim said. Using his innate design skills, Jim, along with a visual merchandiser, designs each showroom and vignette. “We try very hard to bridge the gap between being a really beautiful store, and being an accessible store,” continued on page 14 12

may 2010

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Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


We are proud to be partners with HW Home and congratulate you on this much deserved honor. We appreciate your support and wish you much continued success.

Elite Leather Company has proudly graced homes around America for over 50 years. Known for our wide selection, our exceptional hand-made craftsmanship and our quick turnaround, we build each piece of furniture with passion and integrity here in our Southern California factory.

E L I T E L E AT H E R . C O M

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he said. “You have been in those stores where you feel like you’re in a museum and can’t touch anything — that is the worst possible retail environment to be in. I always appreciate the beauty of those stores, but you never feel like you are invited to purchase or attain that beauty for yourself. We try to make our store as accessible as possible for our customers.” One way of making the store feel accessible to all is by allowing customers to bring in their four-legged friends. At the bottom of the front door, at pet height, it says “Pets Welcome” and Ron and Jim truly mean it. “We want people to know that the items in our store can be used in their home if they have pets,” Jim said. “We like inviting everyone into our store. It is again about that accessibility — we want them to know they can come in and feel comfortable. Often when people are buying furniture, they can be just as indecisive as when they are buying a car. The decision can take just as long in furniture. We know that for customers who are having a difficult time making that ultimate decision, they are going to spend a lot of time in the store, and we want them to be comfortable. So, if they want to have their dog with them, they can have their dog with them! If they want to sit down and have a meal, they can do that too.” “At the beginning of the day and the end of the day, it’s about experience. If you are a student of business and a student of retail and merchandising, what you see is that those who can deliver experience will succeed in business,” Ron added. “We have all seen too many businesses vaporize in the last two years, and they have failed for a variety of reasons, and it is never because they didn’t work hard enough or have a great idea, it has to do with the experience they were offering.” Another aspect of HW Home’s exceptional experience is the interaction each employee has with the customer. Each salesperson is paid an annual salary, and HW Home doesn’t operate on a traditional UP system. “We try to engage with the customer, but we don’t follow them around since we aren’t on any type of UP system,” Jim said. “We want to do the right amount of engaging with the customer so the customer feels comfortable and confident enough to ask us about specific products without feeling pressured. The interaction with the customer is a critical part of our experience.” To maintain a positive relationship with their customers, Ron and Jim also believe it is important to take care and maintain a great relationship with their employees. Dealing with HR issues in their opinion takes a lot of listening, continued on page 16 14

may 2010

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Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


from your friends at


continued from page 14

and they are always considerate of how certain items may affect their employee. Over the last year when things were tight for the company, Ron and Jim made a conscience decision to not cut employee hours or benefits. They also knew that since they are a salaried company, their overall sales would most likely drop while their overall percentage of labor costs would increase. Instead of cutting from areas such as 100 percent medical coverage for all employees, they made cuts in other departments. To make sure things never get stale and that every employee is educated on every product that HW Home offers, each employee rotates working in the four different showroom locations. Since the product lines vary, this allows employees to become familiar with the inventory in each location and it gives them the opportunity to work with different people throughout the organization. “It keeps it fresh and exciting for the employees, and our customers that visit the stores notice the freshness that they bring with them,” said Ron. 16

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They also believe that it is important to motivate and reward their employees for their successes. Recently after the Annual Warehouse Sale, Jim and Ron took the entire company out to dinner at a local Brazilian steakhouse. “We brought the entire company, no guests because we just wanted the team to join us, and for days afterwards we received so many emails from our staff thanking us and saying that it was our best company outing,” said Ron. Also, every year each HW Home employee decides on an employee of the year and a distinguished employee. The peer-voted winners are announced at their annual holiday party and receive an awards trip hand-selected by Jim and Ron to best suit the winner. “Once we know the winner, we select an awards trip that we think will fit that person,” Ron said. “Our visual merchandiser won it a couple of years ago, and we decided that his trip would be to Argentina. We knew that he would be inspired by the inherent style of Buenos Aires. We also know Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

that we couldn’t send him somewhere expensive because while we do give the winner airfare, hotel and some spending money, we know that they are going to want to do more things. So, we will send a person to Buenos Aires where you can have a $5 lunch instead of Paris where you can get a Coke for $20. We really think about those details, and we have been able to send a lot of people to places that they would have never been able to go.” Jim and Ron don’t only pay close attention to the details of planning an awards trip for their employees, it also comes into every aspect of their truly white glove delivery service. All deliveries are done internally within the company and each piece of furniture originates from their centrally located, 12,000 square foot warehouse. When it comes to delivery and installation, Jim and Ron make sure that no detail is left out. “We recently had to do a weekend installation for a developer project in the mountains. This was a case where it was a model unit that would be shown, but it was also to be used to put up perspective buyers for the night,” Ron said. “We went in with what I call a ‘surgical strike team’ and set everything up, wiped everything down and removed all of the packaging and debris. Then we did the small things, like bring light bulbs to make sure all of the lights were lit and select all of the televisions, clock radios, DVDs, etc. We not only purchased all of the bedding and towels, but we washed them, had them pressed and then made each bed. All someone had to do was show up with their toothbrush. That is standard operating procedure for us — we do a true white glove delivery. Details matter and that is the theme of our business. We remind our employees about it on a daily basis. We tell them all the time that our neurosis is their job security.” Jim and Ron are also willing to ship their products anywhere in the world and have done jobs in places such as Italy, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Alaska. “We are not afraid of any location. Having been a stock broker for a long time, the execution side of business was very important. The same thing applies in this business, you have to be able to execute, or as I joke, you have to be able to deliver,” Ron said. HW Home’s attention to detail can also be seen in the company’s unique marketing strategies. Always looking for new ways to promote the company and never afraid to ask for press, Jim and Ron have created some ingenious marketing campaigns. A few years ago, the community of Cherry Creek North approached Jim and Ron to partner with the community on a roving living room. The living room featured furniture from the HW Home store and drove

SpokesFURpeople HW Home prides themselves on being a “fur” friendly business and allows their customers and employees to bring in their four-legged friends. Some of the dogs in the HW Home family have become so popular over the years that they have turned into official SpokesFURpeople for the stores. Each dog is featured on the HW Home website alongside the employees. Zach is the official HW Home SpokesFURperson and is featured in the HW Home advertising campaign. Baron, who is another full-time HW Home dog and spends his time between the warehouse and Boulder store, now sends out the company’s email blasts. “We figured we needed a name to send our emails from, and a lot of people know Baron, so we thought we would have him send the emails out. Now our emails to customers come from the email address,” said Ron.

continued on page 19 Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

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HW Home for receiving the

2010 WHFA Retailer of the Year award.

Hickory, NC 828.328.5631

van • guard n. the foremost or leading position in a trend or movement

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throughout the Denver area. “It was difficult to do because everything had to be bolted down and they used live models on the truck, but it was very successful in driving traffic to our store,” Jim said. “We also handle our own PR and marketing, and we are never embarrassed or ashamed to ask for opportunities,” he added. “We got our first article because I got on the phone with a local newspaper and said, ‘I don’t really know how this is done, but I have a story for you.’ The next day, they were in our store taking pictures and they wrote a story — the media attention really hasn’t died down from there.” One of their close media connections is with the local Fox affiliate TV station has led them to design the set for the station’s afternoon show Everyday with Libby and Natalie. Ron and Jim’s ability to connect with the media has also made them the go-to people for advice in business, design and furniture. “We have established ourselves as experts to a lot of people in the media, so if they have a question on business, furniture or design, they will come to us as a source,” said Ron. Along with being involved with the local media, HW Home gives back to their local community. They support numerous organizations that focus on education, health care and human rights. “We are really trying to help people, and we usually work with smaller organizations so that we can have a greater impact. We are also responsive to the requests of our customer,” Ron said. For the last five years, HW Home has partnered with the Boulder Valley Humane Society for their Annual Warehouse Sale. This year’s sale took place in a 35,000 square foot former Linens ‘n Things location, which was re-merchandised nightly. “Every night when the sale shuts down, we pull all the sold products off the floor, and we completely remerchandise the entire sale,” said Ron. “So if a customer is coming in day after day, they will see new products. It is an incredible amount of work, but it is also incredibly effective and successful. The Humane Society partners with us and bring out their mobile unit with a team of volunteers and they set up a booth for adoptions inside our sale. Over the last five years they have had over 60 animals adopted.” HW Home is also a very close partner to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Always interested in participating in various boards, Ron promised Jim he would not become “board crazy” when they left Chicago since he continued on page 20 Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

Sustainability HW Home prides themselves on the steps they have made towards sustainability, and they are constantly making changes to improve. Jim and Ron only work with manufacturers that offer sustainable products. “It is always the first question we ask, and we only work with the companies that use sustainable products,” Ron said. “It has become very easy for us to find, which wasn’t always the case. There is no one set standard that we use for our purchases, but we do ask the question of, ‘How green is it?,’ and we find out about the fillings used in the seat cushions and types of woods being used.” HW Home has also taken the steps to ensure their showrooms are sustainable. They are currently in the process of changing all of the lighting in their most recent store additions, which opened about two years ago. “We went through a massive audit and review with the local electric company — since we use so many bulbs in retail, we were really interested in learning how to use more efficient lighting. In retail, if it doesn’t look right, and it isn’t lit well, then you aren’t going to sell the product and you use a ton of bulbs,” Ron said. “A typical store might have 200 flood lamps in the ceiling. Those 200 lamps typically draw 75 watts of power each. We embarked on this mission to find replacements, and we are in the process now of switching those lights out with a CFL, compact fluorescent bulb, that will deliver the type of light that we are happy with, and they will go from about 75 watts each to about 15 watts each. So we are going to save 60 watts per bulb times over 200 bulbs in the ceiling. We think we will bring our total electric bill down 20 percent.”

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The Look Book When Jim and Ron first started attending various markets years ago, they wanted to show their vendors who they were and the dream that they had for their business. They decided to start a “Look Book” that would tell their story to their vendors. “We run a little operation based in Boulder, CO, so we started doing this book that allows us to hand it to a vendor and it tells our story,” Jim said. “They might take three minutes to go through it or 20 minutes, but it shows them what our stores look like, a little of our personnel, product mix, etc. The ‘Look Book’ shows them where we have been published and it allows us to communicate visually, which is very important in a design business, to people that we work with and have relationships with. They then understand who we are and what we need, so we can build a better relationship with them. The vendors also like to see the pictures that have their product in it. “Now vendors know who we are, and they just like to see what we are doing. We still create a new one for every market, and it is important for us to show people that we are still in the game. We were here, pushing the envelope and showing vendors that we were still working. We are still being aggressive and aggressively looking to get people into our stores.”


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knew their new business would be very demanding. Then last year, Judy Shepard approached Ron about joining the board. “Judy is Matthew’s mom, and she is an incredible woman that for the last 10 years has committed herself to what she calls, ‘erasing hate’. It isn’t a big organization and they have a limited budget, but I felt like I would really be able to help them and share with them my business and fundraising experience,” he said. Because of HW Home’s great success, dedication and focus on the community, they have received numerous accolades over the years. They are a four-time winner of the ARTS Awards and were just named WHFA’s 2010 Western Retailer of the Year. “We’re incredibly humbled, elated and kind of blown away to be named Retailer of the Year,” they said. “To be honest we thought our business was a little small since we knew we were up against larger companies that are really great, successful, beautiful furniture retailers with great industry experience. We weren’t counting on anything, and we were just so excited to find out that we were nominated back in the fall. We are very honored and thrilled to be the recipient of this prestigious award.” Ron and Jim have seen great success over the last 10 years and are looking to continue building a strong business and eventually grow to new opportunities. “We will find opportunities and when we do, we will surely jump on them but right now we want to run a good business and run it well,” Ron said. “I also believe that we have a great opportunity to grow our business organically, and we need to do this well before we go on. In 10 years, we have built a very solid business that we need to work on operating very well today.” With Jim and Ron’s passion for their business, customers and employees, and a strong business plan, HW Home exemplifies everything that is needed to become a strong, successful home furnishings business. The HW Home family will continue to furnish homes around the world for years to come.

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Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

It’s All About Sales and Marketing

Is Your Store’s Message Right for Today’s Consumer?

O Douglas Knorr Knorr Marketing president


may 2010

ver the years, I have stood fast on this marketing strategy: Your unique retail store brand needs to be the foundation for a company’s marketing and advertising efforts. Again and again, I have stated the most important thing you can do to be successful is to create a unique brand promise that differentiates your store from the competition. Today, furniture retailers are battling a combination of adversities. This includes: dwindling consumer confidence, smaller sales tickets generated by frugal consumers who are spending less, diminishing consumer loyalty, increased competition from the big boxes, and the list goes on. During the last few years, we have seen the magical “sale” word continue to yield a smaller return on an advertising investment. If that isn’t enough, the consumer is getting tougher to reach because of the Internet and a plethora of communication channels that did not exist just a few short years ago. There has never been a more important time to make your company’s brand promise targeted and relevant to the needs and wants of today’s consumer! In this article, we will take a close look at the following: 1. What is a unique brand promise, and what will it do for you? 2. How has the consumer changed, and how does that affect your marketing and advertising efforts? 3. The 3-M Strategy

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First let’s discuss what it means to develop a unique selling proposition (USP) to build a brand. In his book Reality in Advertising, Rosser Reeves proclaimed there are three aspects to building your USP. 1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer that clearly communicates why the consumer should do business with you rather than another company. 2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot or does not offer. For example, do you offer a bigger selection or lower prices than a competitor? Do you do a much better job with in-home decorator services or have the strongest mattress department in the marketplace, etc.? 3. The proposition must be so strong that it can move the targeted consumers to respond to the unique message and promise. In addition to the above three points, the brand promise must be clearly seen and experienced by the consumer. In his book, A New Brand World, Scott Bedbury, a former senior vice president of marketing for Starbucks, coined the term, “Brand Environmentalism” to refer to this activity. Bedbury went on to say that your brand must be clearly communicated at every level of the company and at every point of contact with the customer. When this is accomplished, customers will clearly perceive that the brand promise is, in fact, true and they will understand why they Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

chose your company instead of a competitor. What that means to you and your company is that when you take the time to develop a unique brand promise and empower your team to communicate and carry the promise to every customer, you will create satisfied customers that clearly understand “why” they chose to shop at your store. There is certainly risk involved with this. If you don’t live up to your brand promise, the customer will say you lied and most times will not give you a second chance. Now, let’s take a look at how the consumer has changed, and what you need to do today in your merchandising and marketing to gain market share. All of us can probably agree that today’s consumer has changed. However, I still see retailers around the country opposing change and continuing to communicate the same message in the same manner they did years ago. Let’s take a brief look at how our digital society has changed the way women shop. • 84 percent of moms research products online. This percentage is higher than the national average for women which is 78 percent. • 82 percent of new moms purchase products online. • According to Mindshare’s MORe Annual Study of U.S. consumers, “At least 62 percent of all women multitask while consuming any form of media (TV, radio, reading newspaper/ magazine, using the Internet and cell phone). Mothers, in particular, are gifted multi-taskers.” • The term “Multi-Minding” has been coined to point out that women frequently juggle home, family and career topics while they interact with media, leaving them little time for commercial messages. • Searching coupon websites are a must before they go shopping. • The printed yellow page directories are being ignored in favor of Google. … and the list goes on. In a white paper called “WOMEN in their digital domain” produced last year by Oglivy & Mather, Microsoft Advertising and Mindshare, we see that today’s coveted consumers, females 25–54, have changed dramatically. If we are to be relevant to this consumer, we need to adjust to what is important to them and how they communicate and get their information. We offer a free download of this 32page white paper and you can get it in its entirety

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

at The report provides a dozen points of action for marketers, but here are a few of the recommendations: • Dream bigger than your consumers. For example, go beyond typical marketing tactics like couponing and get creative. Take advantage of the way digital can fulfill needs and build relationships. • Squeeze Yourself In. Create flexible content that she can consume in the time she has available, whether it is five or 35 minutes. • Let women talk themselves into loving you. Utilize message boards and blogs as channels. Remember, 75 percent of women want to sign up to be part of a consumer panel… so, let them talk. • Make your communications both attractive and functional. The paper states: “Women want something that is both pretty and functional. Design without function is aggravating and function without design in uninspiring.” • Get personal. Don’t be afraid to break down the distance between you and your customers. Companies that engage with their customers on a more genuine, personal level are more apt to get women on their side. In this way, you build trust and gain their loyalty. • Don’t get distracted from the store/brand/customer relationship. Remember at the end of the day, the most important thing is building a relationship between your store and your customer. Your website and Internet strategies provide dynamic and effective ways to strengthen this relationship. In addition, if your store’s merchandising includes custom and special orders, by developing a quality in-home decorating service, you will build stronger relationships with your customer and you will enjoy much larger sales tickets. Finally, one of the most important aspects of growing a successful retail operation is what I call the 3-M Strategy. No, this has nothing to do with a certain business that doesn’t use the hyphen in its name. continued on page 28

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3-M is a term we use to build a successful advertising strategy. 3-M stands for the Message, Media and Marriage strategy. I want you to really think through what I am going to say to you now. I see retailer after retailer focusing on just one or two of these parts of the strategy and I always hear the same thing, “It’s just not working!” Although the media channel can be right, if the message is not correct or not positioned correctly, you will not get the return you should from the dollars you invest. In addition, if the message is correct but the media is wrong or not efficient, you will continue to get a poor return on your investment. So what does it take to achieve the right combination that will provide you with a successful marketing and advertising campaign? Following are a few of the elements that you need to build into your marketing efforts. First, the message needs to provide that unique promise that we spoke about earlier. Determine what you can do better than the competition 24/7 and, if it is relevant to what the consumer is wanting, build that into your every message, so that the consumer clearly understands why to choose you over the competition. Make certain the promise you communicate through your advertising is also communicated throughout your store. We strongly believe many retailers miss the opportunity to re-sell customers while they are in the store by developing a creative in-store signage campaign that communicates the brand promise throughout the store. Next is the Media. As you all know, communication mediums have changed dramatically


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these past few years. Satellite TV and radio, cable TV, iPods, the Internet and DVRs have created a very competitive landscape, fractionalizing the consumer’s available time with individual mediums. Some of the things to consider when investing your precious advertising dollars are: • Who is my target? We are not just speaking about demographics, but also psychographics (how will they emotionally respond to my message?), as well as geographics. For example, if I have one small store in the southwest corner of a large metropolitan city, is television the most efficient and effective way to reach my customer? • What about frequency and reach? Too many retailers are so focused on reach (how many households they are reaching) that they do not have a large enough budget to build enough frequency to drive targeted consumers into their stores. • Hold your advertising accountable! I am fond of saying, if I cannot measure a part of my business, I am probably losing money. Demand that the TV and radio stations provide you 100 percent of the cost-per-point they promised. Make sure the local newspapers are, in fact, being delivered to the number of homes they promise (not total papers printed, which includes freestanding racks). Develop a spreadsheet to watch sales-by-zip code and then define communication mediums that effectively and efficiently reach those households whose occupants you are trying to drive into your store. • Be selective to be effective! You can’t buy every communication medium. Make a choice as to which ones you deem to be most efficient and then spend enough to adequately move that segment of the populous into your store. • Make sure your broadcast commercial does not get lost in a long line of TV or radio commercial pods. • Make the Internet central to your marketing efforts! Your website should be intuitive, easy to navigate and filled with relevant information useful to your targeted consumer. Make it engaging, informative and interesting. • Develop a two-way communication strategy on the web. Learn to allow the consumer to speak to you and then listen and respond. Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

• Direct mail continues to provide our clients a great return on investment. However, the use of direct mail must include new options such as interfacing with your website and providing value-added offers that create a “WOW!” Finally, we come to the third “M” which stands for the Marriage. When you build your advertising on the word “sale,” you are investing your advertising budget in a flirtatious enticement that lasts for a day or two, trying to get the customer into your store. It does nothing to develop a strong promise as to why the customer should come to your store whenever the need arises for what you offer. However, when you focus on building a defensible brand promise that is relevant to your consumer, you will earn the opportunity to build a long-lasting relationship with that consumer. Once they become a customer, your job is not over. Rather, it has only begun. It is vital today to continue to know each customer better and seek to provide them with special offers that remind them how good it is to be one of your customers. When you consider how much it takes to get an UP into your store, and how much you spend on each customer that makes a purchase, you will understand how important it is to go the extra mile and invest the time to build a customer loyalty program that thanks customers and develops strong relationships. In closing, I want to share what another famous advertising man had to say about building a brand. David Oglivy, known as the father of advertising, admonished the advertising world when he said, “Any fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand!” If you will focus on building a brand that focuses on your targeted consumer, you will ensure your success.

© Copyright 2010, Knorr Marketing Douglas Knorr, known as a “retail marketing activist” is president of Knorr Marketing (, a full-service marketing and advertising agency specializing in the home furnishings industry. The agency provides strategic planning, creative production, public relations, sales promotions, website development and media buying services. Headquartered in the resort community of Traverse City, MI, the firm serves clients throughout the United States.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.


Products Catalog Announcement 10 Spring 20


Keep an eye on the mailbox for WHFA’s new products catalog. We have everything you need to run an efficient warehouse and delivery service.

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4 130%6$5 $"5"-0( ing Exclusive Pric A Member WHFA/NHF bers add 25% Non-Mem


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Call (800) 422-3778 or visit to place an order today.

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may 2010


Rep’s Perspective

Your Furniture Sales Rep Can Help Grow Your Business

B Mike Root Furniture Sales of Mid-America president


may 2010

efore you look at that person walking in your door carrying a sales bag full of furniture pictures as just another annoyance to your otherwise hectic schedule, take time to consider some of the ways a furniture sales rep can help you grow your business. There are two parts to what a furniture rep can provide to help their retailers grow sales even in a tough economy. In this first of a two part series, I will present what retailers expectations should be of their furniture reps. Next month I will give you some secret strategies to maximize a reps benefit for your store. We all know that reps love to present product. That is the way they are compensated and many times graded by their management. So most reps spend time figuring out how to properly present their products to retailers both at furniture markets and then through pictures back at the store. You could say that’s “Job One” for a rep. Good reps know their retailer’s store and

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merchandise. They have walked the floor and know where their product fits in the dealer’s assortment. They make it easy for a retailer to buy from them because they only present those things that fit their retailer’s floor. They do not waste a retailer’s time by showing every single picture in the line with hopes of maybe getting a lucky sale. Good retailers on the other hand are always open to seeing what is new because you never know where the next “hot” line may come from or who might be repping it. The best merchants take time to look at everything that fits their style category or price points. Sometimes a good rep gets the “hot” line right off the bat, and then it is easy for the retailer to buy the line. The rep figures out what will work for the retailer and makes it easy to buy. But sometimes a not so good rep will end up with a “hot” line. As a retailer, your job is to present the best value for your customer and it may involve buying it from someone who is not Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

the best rep. In that case, it’s kind of like training your sales staff. Let them know what your expectations are for the presentation so that they will know how to work with you. Another aspect of a rep’s job is to make sure the floor salespeople have the materials and the knowledge to sell the product to the consumer. Expectations from a retailer in this regard would be for competent sales training. Certain categories may not require much in the way of sales training because what you see is what you get (like occasional tables for example). But a good furniture rep can still help your sales staff with selling techniques on ways to market the products to the end consumer. If you have multiple stores or remote stores, and it is difficult for the rep to see you on a consistent basis, ask the sales rep to provide training materials that you or your sales manager can use for staff training purposes. Because reps have a very large territory, it is not uncommon for us to provide a sales training worksheet for our lines and bullet points for each product we sell so that as new retail floor salespeople come on the retailer’s team, they will have information about our products immediately. For certain retailers, we have also done video sales training. It’s not quite as good as the real thing, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Reps are responsible for taking care of customer service issues. Depending on the retailer, this can be minimal rep involvement or significant. One common function would be to keep point-ofpurchase materials such as catalogs, price lists and swatches up to date. Another area is the actual service of the product that does not arrive to the store or the retail customer in an acceptable manner. Many times factories have systems in place that a retailer can just order a part and get it shipped out quickly. The process in that case can bypass the rep for sake of time. If there is actual service and labor involved or the repairs are more complex than just replacing a part, a rep generally helps the process by working for the satisfaction of both the retailer and the factory. This may require getting pictures continued on page 24 Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

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so that the factory can improve future manufacturing processes or getting some form of additional allowance for the retailer to handle extra labor charges to make repairs or markdowns to sell “as is”. In other cases, especially with larger retailers, there may be damage allowances in place. The retailer takes an allowance and basically is responsible for all the costs of taking care of the customer, selling off the problem product, etc. In this case the rep helps the factory monitor this account. Furniture sales reps have a unique position in the home furnishings industry insofar as they see all sides of the distribution cycle from factory to retailer to end user of the product through customer service issues. Next month I will discuss some secret strategies on how a savvy retailer can use their furniture sales reps to help grow their business. Mike Root is president of Furniture Sales of Mid-America, a furniture wholesale and rep company in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states that has been recognized by numerous national furniture factories for sales excellence including Salesman of the Year more than 10 times. Mike serves on the Executive Committee of the International Home Furnishings Representative’s Association (IHFRA). Mike’s perspective is one of a third generation furniture guy who has been involved in many aspects of the furniture business including furniture retail, wholesale and rental. He has been recognized by the Small Business Administration as an Entrepreneur of the Year, and his furniture retail stores were honored by the Omaha Chamber of Commerce as one of the Top 25 Fastest Growing Enterprises three years in a row. More information about Mike can be found at or by email at

All That’s Missing Is YOU! The Faces of WHFA Join WHFA and experience a sense of community that will add to your bottomline. Be a face of the home furnishings industry’s premier retail association. Visit our website or call us today. Western Home Furnishings Association Ph: (800) 422-3778 Web: Facebook: (case sensitive)



may 2010

western retailer

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

Program of the Month

SPEND YOUR TIME WISELY Discover the Benefits of the WHFA Office Depot Program


ake advantage of your association’s group buying power and get all of your office products at discounted rates and 24-hour delivery. WHFA’s program through the Business Services Division of Office Depot offers members discounts off the entire catalog.

How much time and money do you spend on purchasing office products, business cards and janitorial supplies? Utilizing Office Depot Internet purchasing can cut the cost of your purchase order process by as much as 75 percent. Ordering online elimi­nates costly steps from the purchasing process, wasted gas and time out of the office. By switching to Internet purchas­ing for your office supplies you receive the following advantages: • Live Inventory Status – Real time inventory viewing of all Office Depot Distribution Centers based on your shipping location. • 18 months of order history and tracking online. • Your WHFA discount on all items. • The ability to build both personal and companywide custom shopping lists containing best value items, favorites, frequently ordered items, etc… • Browse the Office Depot’s 15,000+ item catalog online. • 24-hour delivery. Place orders up to 5:00 p.m. and receive your order the next business day! If you are a current WHFA member, you are already set up and ready to start ordering — just call the WHFA office (800) 422-3778 and get your password.

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

Kaprice Crawford marketing director WHFA

SAVE EVEN MORE Office Depot has introduced their own line of office products. The Office Depot line of supplies is the perfect solution to help you save money on the products you use every day without compromising quality and reli­ability. They went straight to the source — the world’s largest manufacturers — and lever­aged their $12 billion buying power to guarantee a quality line of office products that won’t break your budget. Office Depot brand offers products on some of the most popu­lar items in your office, from ink and toner, to tape, envelopes, pens, paper clips, scis­sors, staples, paper, etc… all backed by their 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

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may 2010


Get Involved!

National Sales Event Returns September 18-26, 2010

How it Works for Retailers How It Started? Marking an historic effort for the home furnishings industry, the first-ever, multi-channel marketing campaign, Is it Home Yet?TM and the campaign’s inaugural event National Home Furnishings Month (NHFM), successfully reached its first-year goals — to unite home furnishings retailers with a cohesive branding and sales event, while inspiring today’s “everywoman” to reconnect with her home through furnishingsrelated content, information and ultimately driving to retail. Created by World Market Center Las Vegas, the home furnishings industry’s leading international marketplace and launched in partnership with eight industry associations including the Western Home Furnishings Association, the fourth quarter 2009 advertising campaign was the first-ever industry-wide initiative that encouraged consumers to celebrate the idea of “home” and refresh their living spaces through new home furnishings purchases. In addition to room makeover sweepstakes, the campaign’s website,, featured advice from top designers with home makeover tips and trend information. Exclusive information about sales and promotions at participating retailers across the country was also available online. More than 7,000 retailers nationwide participated in the program and were included 30

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on the site’s store locator section. Geographically, the campaign saw broad support from retailers across the country: 49 percent of retailers from the West; 19 percent from the Midwest; 23 percent from the South; and 9 percent from the Northeast. Nearly 2,000 retailers downloaded the complimentary National Home Furnishings Month Retailer Toolkit, which equipped them with marketing tools to support the initiative in their advertising programs. The average age of consumers who engaged with the campaign was 49.9 years old. Of all consumer respondents, which skewed 2:1 female, 78 percent said they planned to make home furnishings purchases in 2010, with the living room ranked as the first choice of rooms to be refurnished in their home. Consumers also indicated that blogs and online are the dominant sources of information that influence them to make furniture purchases, followed by in-store visits. The campaign — which centered on a robust digital strategy aimed at retail activation, industry partnerships and print and outdoor placements — generated an unprecedented 500 million impressions in paid, earned and donated media. Additionally, during the course of the month, attracted 340,000 views with nearly half being unique visitors. “This was an ambitious undertaking and we are extremely pleased with what we accomplished Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

during the first-ever National Home Furnishings Month,” said Robert Maricich, president and chief executive officer of World Market Center Las Vegas. “The launch was a homerun by all measures, although nothing will be as critical to future successes as retailer activation in order to truly capture consumers’ share of mind and wallet. For over a decade our industry has lost a share of consumer spending, and only with a broad-based, cohesive and focused message can we turn around this disturbing slide.”

How Do I Get Involved? Save the Date. List Your Store. Download the Tools. Capture the Sales. This September welcomes the second anniversary of National Home Furnishings Month and retailers can take advantage of this comprehensive campaign in two ways. First, retailers are encouraged to sign up to include their stores on the Store Locator. Those interested should visit Not only are the store listings free of charge but consumers can access the Store Locator to identify participating

Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

home furnishings retailers within their geographic region, making the connection process easier for both. Second, retailers can activate a free plug-and-play advertising toolkit. The updated toolkit can be downloaded now at and includes creative assets like print advertising, press release templates, and other components that retailers can adapt to promote themselves during National Home Furnishings Month and beyond. The creative assets are designed to work with retailers’ own advertising and brand which helps to maintain a cohesive marketing message for the home furnishings industry.

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Morris Home furnishings carries only the best brands. GE Money is proud to be one of them. In 1947, Morris Home Furnishings started with a single store and a belief in treating customers like friends. When the company decided it wanted to reach more customers, they shopped for a partner as carefully as they chose the quality brands they carry. GE Money, a division of GE Capital, has helped Morris grow from one store to 12, including eight Ashley Furniture Home Store showrooms, providing credit and service to tens of thousands of residents. How’s that for treating customers right. American Renewal is happening. Right now.

Celebrating 20 Years

Celebrating 20 years of Home Furnishings Reporting Twenty years ago, Western Retailer magazine (then known as Western Reporter) blossomed from being a small newsletter, to a full magazine. Join us throughout this year as we look back at the last 20 years with stories, past articles and fun.

The following article was orginally run in the January 2004 issue of the Western Retailer. The content of getting the most out of conference experience still applies today.

How to Get the Most Out of Conferences

Photos taken at WHFA’s 2004 Conference and Expo


onferences are what you make of them. If you’re not sure why you’re going, or what you want to get out of the experience, you’re unlikely to get it. It is important to learn how to make them more valuable and engaging experiences. Take more responsibility for getting value from the experience and you will get a greater return on your investment.

Conversations are as Valuable as the Sessions It might surprise you to know that in many cases the most interesting, informative and educational moments are not spent in the sessions themselves: it’s in all of the other interactions with peers from other companies and organizations. The lectures, talks and panels can provide useful approaches or ideas, but the real value is the unique, personal and insightful conversations you might have with other people during and after the sessions. A special thing about a conference is the opportunity for those interactions. This means that you need to invest time in connecting with other people. It’s like going to a party where you don’t know anyone except the host. You have to have some strategy or plan for ensuring that you do not spend the entire time standing alone in the corner, holding a beer, hoping someone will talk to you. If the conference is well designed, there should be workshops or Best Idea sessions, where smaller groups meet for some period of time and talk about a specific subject of interest. Contact WHFA at or (800) 422-3778.

How to Spend your Time Aside from finding ways to talk with other people and make some connections, it’s worth thinking about the kinds of sessions that are typically available at a professional conference. Here is a good way to look at the program for a conference and rank the different kinds of sessions: 1. Contributing to something: Many professional conferences have a process for accepting ideas or material for the conference. Anyone can submit a panel session idea, or workshop proposal. There is no better way to meet people and get access to the smartest and most interesting people at the conference than participating. Even the process of submitting something is rewarding: you’ll spend some time trying to express your work in a way that others can get value out of, which always improves your ability to think and communicate about what you do. 2. Workshops: There is no substitute. It is the only organized forum for a small/mid-sized group to spend serious time discussing one or more topics. These are consistently the most enlightening sessions and give you the largest opportunity to meet and interact with intelligent people interested in a topic that you are interested in. Even in a bad (as in boring, poorly organized, or just plain frustrating) workshop, ask around for people who want to go out to dinner. Sometimes the conversation over dinner is better than the workshop (but the workshop gives you access to the right people to have an interesting dinner conversation with).

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3. Best Idea Sessions: Basically these are informal workshops, sometimes called special interest groups sessions. These can be organized around special interest topics where there are round table discussions. Sometimes they’re short meetings where people agree to create a new topic for discussion. Other times there is an agenda, with speakers, and it’s like a mini-session. 4. General Sessions 5. Tradeshows

Coming Up with a Plan A day before the conference begins, sit down with the agenda and the small guidebook often provided. Go through the guidebook with a pen and mark anything that looks interesting. If you find things that sound cool but vague, flip open the detailed agenda and check them out. Circle all of the sessions that look interesting, and if two or more occur at the same time, flag the one you want to go to first. Then during the actual conference, go to the first session you’ve marked. Have a plan to bail after 15 minutes if you’re bored. Odds are it’s not going to get better. Go to the next session in that timeslot that interested you. Repeat the same thought process. The result is that you maximize your time spent in sessions you will actually enjoy. If you run out of sessions to go to, head over to the tradeshow area. It is a good time to introduce yourself to the various people manning the different booths during sessions.

After Hours Conference Socializing Some conferences have scheduled social events or dinners one or more of the nights of the conference. Use these events to meet new people. If you have met enough people in the workshops and other sessions you can wander around at the social event and say hi to people. If you made some decent connections, you’ll be able to jump in on some conversations and meet more people. If you have a few drinks and can get into the right mindset, you can have fun mingling with different groups. Structured receptions aside, everyone at a conference eats dinner, whether there is something set up through the conference or not. If you can find other folks and take them to dinner, you’ll find it’s a great way to build some relationships. Set yourself up with a plan early in the day, and ask people you run into or meet what their plans are. Often they’ll say that don’t have any, which is your opportunity to make some. One idea is to tell everyone you meet that day to meet at 6 p.m. at a hotel lobby and for them to tell others the same. Then whoever shows up goes to a nearby restaurant together, breaking into groups if necessary. If you ask enough people odds are good you’ll have a nice sized group. If things go well, and you’ve got a fun crowd, you might head out for drinks afterwards. © 2004 Western Home Furnishings Association, all rights reserved.

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Advertising Inquiries & Rates Contact: Cindi Williams, WHFA Advertising 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 salespeople. Distributed to home furnishings retailers 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 Retailer are not necessarily those of Western Home ­Furnishings ­Association. Western Retailer magazine is copyrighted by Western Home Furnishings Association. May 2010, all rights reserved.

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Western Retailer - May 2010 - Retailer of the Year  
Western Retailer - May 2010 - Retailer of the Year  

This issue of Western Retailer highlights WHFA's Western Retailer of the Year HW Home in Boulder, CO.