Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest

NEWARK, N.J. – High-end mattress manufacturer Shifman Mattresses has named bedding 20-year bedding industry veteran John Lowrance to manage the Northwest region as the company continues to expand its national footprint.

In the newly created position of Northwest territory manager, Lowrance will develop and grow retail partnerships to increase awareness of Shifman’s brand in the new region for the company. Lowrance reports to Lisa Frey, Shifman’s national sales director.

“John’s depth of experience and valued industry relationships in the Northwest will contribute tremendously to the success of our national strategy to bring our luxury brand to the upscale customer seeking the finest handmade mattresses,” said Bill Hammer, president of Shifman.

Lowrance has more than 20 years in the industry, most recently as senior territory manager in the Portland, Ore., area for Serta Simmons Bedding. Prior to that, he was an independent sales representative Ashley Furniture, Pure Talalay Bliss and Glideaway. Lowrance began his career at Sealy and Rev Sleep.

The post Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest appeared first on Furniture Today.

PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations

ENFIELD, Conn. — Planned Furniture Promotions Inc. has promoted Ed Hendon to senior vice president of operations.

In his new role, Hendon will continue to work directly with the company’s event coordinators and office teams, improving training programs, merchandising, marketing and logistics.

“As a 15-year senior event coordinator and a four-year director of operations for PFP, Ed has proven his ability to professionally oversee and maximize an event for our clients,” said PFP President Rob Rosenberg.

A third-generation retailer, Hendon began his furniture career in a family owned furniture store in Kentucky. As owner and operator of a 51-year-old business, Thurman’s Furniture, Hendon made the decision to close his business and chose PFP to liquidate his store. After the event, Hendon joined PFP as an assistant manager and quickly worked his way into a position as an event coordinator.

The executive team at PFP now includes Rosenberg and Roy Hester, Tom Liddell and Ed Hendon, all serving as senior vice presidents and managing directors. Hendon will report to Rosenberg.

The post PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations appeared first on Furniture Today.

RMT establishes stateside operating division

HO CHI MINH CITY – Major recliner mechanism manufacturer Remacro Machinery & Technology has launched a U.S. division to serve and speed product to furniture manufacturers in the United States.

Based in Tupelo, Miss., Remacro Machinery & Technology USA Holdings Inc. is supported with a more than 75,000-square-foot warehouse and office. The location has a full staff of engineers, managers and assemblers, as well as finance and warehouse personnel.

The facility will inventory hardware and accessories including seating mechanisms, motors, headrests, seat boxes, controls and sleeper mechanisms. This inventory will support a quick-ship replenishment commitment. RMT USA’s Tupelo location enables “speed-to-market” service to a critical mass of nearby upholstery manufacturers as well as the East Coast.

“Supporting the need for an effective supply chain provider, RMT is making this major investment in capacity and support,” said Jerry Wang, USA sales director for RMT, in a release. “Our commitment is to be the leading global provider of smart home accessories with innovative designs and high-quality service.”

Established in 2011 with a single factory in China, RMT has grown to become a major global manufacturer of reclining mechanisms. Today, RMT makes more than 1 million sets of reclining mechanisms and more than 500,000 motors per month.

RMT expanded in 2018 with the opening of two factories in Vietnam. Located in Bau Bang Binh Doung and Xinpeng Town, Binh Dong, these plants are strategically located for export and domestic Vietnam manufacturing. The expanded Vietnam factories have more than 400,000 square feet of manufacturing and employs more than 800 workers.

RMT has committed a major investment in new equipment, training, embracing lean manufacturing and, creating manufacturing efficiencies. The Vietnam factories today make motors, mechanisms, smart home devices, storage bases, sleeper mechanisms and adjustable beds.

The company also has incorporated testing rooms and product laboratories in each of its factories. All testing meets and exceeds country standards in North America, Europe, and Asia.

The post RMT establishes stateside operating division appeared first on Furniture Today.

Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest

NEWARK, N.J. – High-end mattress manufacturer Shifman Mattresses has named bedding 20-year bedding industry veteran John Lowrance to manage the Northwest region as the company continues to expand its national footprint.

In the newly created position of Northwest territory manager, Lowrance will develop and grow retail partnerships to increase awareness of Shifman’s brand in the new region for the company. Lowrance reports to Lisa Frey, Shifman’s national sales director.

“John’s depth of experience and valued industry relationships in the Northwest will contribute tremendously to the success of our national strategy to bring our luxury brand to the upscale customer seeking the finest handmade mattresses,” said Bill Hammer, president of Shifman.

Lowrance has more than 20 years in the industry, most recently as senior territory manager in the Portland, Ore., area for Serta Simmons Bedding. Prior to that, he was an independent sales representative Ashley Furniture, Pure Talalay Bliss and Glideaway. Lowrance began his career at Sealy and Rev Sleep.

The post Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest appeared first on Furniture Today.

PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations

ENFIELD, Conn. — Planned Furniture Promotions Inc. has promoted Ed Hendon to senior vice president of operations.

In his new role, Hendon will continue to work directly with the company’s event coordinators and office teams, improving training programs, merchandising, marketing and logistics.

“As a 15-year senior event coordinator and a four-year director of operations for PFP, Ed has proven his ability to professionally oversee and maximize an event for our clients,” said PFP President Rob Rosenberg.

A third-generation retailer, Hendon began his furniture career in a family owned furniture store in Kentucky. As owner and operator of a 51-year-old business, Thurman’s Furniture, Hendon made the decision to close his business and chose PFP to liquidate his store. After the event, Hendon joined PFP as an assistant manager and quickly worked his way into a position as an event coordinator.

The executive team at PFP now includes Rosenberg and Roy Hester, Tom Liddell and Ed Hendon, all serving as senior vice presidents and managing directors. Hendon will report to Rosenberg.

The post PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations appeared first on Furniture Today.

RMT establishes stateside operating division

HO CHI MINH CITY – Major recliner mechanism manufacturer Remacro Machinery & Technology has launched a U.S. division to serve and speed product to furniture manufacturers in the United States.

Based in Tupelo, Miss., Remacro Machinery & Technology USA Holdings Inc. is supported with a more than 75,000-square-foot warehouse and office. The location has a full staff of engineers, managers and assemblers, as well as finance and warehouse personnel.

The facility will inventory hardware and accessories including seating mechanisms, motors, headrests, seat boxes, controls and sleeper mechanisms. This inventory will support a quick-ship replenishment commitment. RMT USA’s Tupelo location enables “speed-to-market” service to a critical mass of nearby upholstery manufacturers as well as the East Coast.

“Supporting the need for an effective supply chain provider, RMT is making this major investment in capacity and support,” said Jerry Wang, USA sales director for RMT, in a release. “Our commitment is to be the leading global provider of smart home accessories with innovative designs and high-quality service.”

Established in 2011 with a single factory in China, RMT has grown to become a major global manufacturer of reclining mechanisms. Today, RMT makes more than 1 million sets of reclining mechanisms and more than 500,000 motors per month.

RMT expanded in 2018 with the opening of two factories in Vietnam. Located in Bau Bang Binh Doung and Xinpeng Town, Binh Dong, these plants are strategically located for export and domestic Vietnam manufacturing. The expanded Vietnam factories have more than 400,000 square feet of manufacturing and employs more than 800 workers.

RMT has committed a major investment in new equipment, training, embracing lean manufacturing and, creating manufacturing efficiencies. The Vietnam factories today make motors, mechanisms, smart home devices, storage bases, sleeper mechanisms and adjustable beds.

The company also has incorporated testing rooms and product laboratories in each of its factories. All testing meets and exceeds country standards in North America, Europe, and Asia.

The post RMT establishes stateside operating division appeared first on Furniture Today.

Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest

NEWARK, N.J. – High-end mattress manufacturer Shifman Mattresses has named bedding 20-year bedding industry veteran John Lowrance to manage the Northwest region as the company continues to expand its national footprint.

In the newly created position of Northwest territory manager, Lowrance will develop and grow retail partnerships to increase awareness of Shifman’s brand in the new region for the company. Lowrance reports to Lisa Frey, Shifman’s national sales director.

“John’s depth of experience and valued industry relationships in the Northwest will contribute tremendously to the success of our national strategy to bring our luxury brand to the upscale customer seeking the finest handmade mattresses,” said Bill Hammer, president of Shifman.

Lowrance has more than 20 years in the industry, most recently as senior territory manager in the Portland, Ore., area for Serta Simmons Bedding. Prior to that, he was an independent sales representative Ashley Furniture, Pure Talalay Bliss and Glideaway. Lowrance began his career at Sealy and Rev Sleep.

The post Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest appeared first on Furniture Today.

PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations

ENFIELD, Conn. — Planned Furniture Promotions Inc. has promoted Ed Hendon to senior vice president of operations.

In his new role, Hendon will continue to work directly with the company’s event coordinators and office teams, improving training programs, merchandising, marketing and logistics.

“As a 15-year senior event coordinator and a four-year director of operations for PFP, Ed has proven his ability to professionally oversee and maximize an event for our clients,” said PFP President Rob Rosenberg.

A third-generation retailer, Hendon began his furniture career in a family owned furniture store in Kentucky. As owner and operator of a 51-year-old business, Thurman’s Furniture, Hendon made the decision to close his business and chose PFP to liquidate his store. After the event, Hendon joined PFP as an assistant manager and quickly worked his way into a position as an event coordinator.

The executive team at PFP now includes Rosenberg and Roy Hester, Tom Liddell and Ed Hendon, all serving as senior vice presidents and managing directors. Hendon will report to Rosenberg.

The post PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations appeared first on Furniture Today.

RMT establishes stateside operating division

HO CHI MINH CITY – Major recliner mechanism manufacturer Remacro Machinery & Technology has launched a U.S. division to serve and speed product to furniture manufacturers in the United States.

Based in Tupelo, Miss., Remacro Machinery & Technology USA Holdings Inc. is supported with a more than 75,000-square-foot warehouse and office. The location has a full staff of engineers, managers and assemblers, as well as finance and warehouse personnel.

The facility will inventory hardware and accessories including seating mechanisms, motors, headrests, seat boxes, controls and sleeper mechanisms. This inventory will support a quick-ship replenishment commitment. RMT USA’s Tupelo location enables “speed-to-market” service to a critical mass of nearby upholstery manufacturers as well as the East Coast.

“Supporting the need for an effective supply chain provider, RMT is making this major investment in capacity and support,” said Jerry Wang, USA sales director for RMT, in a release. “Our commitment is to be the leading global provider of smart home accessories with innovative designs and high-quality service.”

Established in 2011 with a single factory in China, RMT has grown to become a major global manufacturer of reclining mechanisms. Today, RMT makes more than 1 million sets of reclining mechanisms and more than 500,000 motors per month.

RMT expanded in 2018 with the opening of two factories in Vietnam. Located in Bau Bang Binh Doung and Xinpeng Town, Binh Dong, these plants are strategically located for export and domestic Vietnam manufacturing. The expanded Vietnam factories have more than 400,000 square feet of manufacturing and employs more than 800 workers.

RMT has committed a major investment in new equipment, training, embracing lean manufacturing and, creating manufacturing efficiencies. The Vietnam factories today make motors, mechanisms, smart home devices, storage bases, sleeper mechanisms and adjustable beds.

The company also has incorporated testing rooms and product laboratories in each of its factories. All testing meets and exceeds country standards in North America, Europe, and Asia.

The post RMT establishes stateside operating division appeared first on Furniture Today.

Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest

NEWARK, N.J. – High-end mattress manufacturer Shifman Mattresses has named bedding 20-year bedding industry veteran John Lowrance to manage the Northwest region as the company continues to expand its national footprint.

In the newly created position of Northwest territory manager, Lowrance will develop and grow retail partnerships to increase awareness of Shifman’s brand in the new region for the company. Lowrance reports to Lisa Frey, Shifman’s national sales director.

“John’s depth of experience and valued industry relationships in the Northwest will contribute tremendously to the success of our national strategy to bring our luxury brand to the upscale customer seeking the finest handmade mattresses,” said Bill Hammer, president of Shifman.

Lowrance has more than 20 years in the industry, most recently as senior territory manager in the Portland, Ore., area for Serta Simmons Bedding. Prior to that, he was an independent sales representative Ashley Furniture, Pure Talalay Bliss and Glideaway. Lowrance began his career at Sealy and Rev Sleep.

The post Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest appeared first on Furniture Today.

PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations

ENFIELD, Conn. — Planned Furniture Promotions Inc. has promoted Ed Hendon to senior vice president of operations.

In his new role, Hendon will continue to work directly with the company’s event coordinators and office teams, improving training programs, merchandising, marketing and logistics.

“As a 15-year senior event coordinator and a four-year director of operations for PFP, Ed has proven his ability to professionally oversee and maximize an event for our clients,” said PFP President Rob Rosenberg.

A third-generation retailer, Hendon began his furniture career in a family owned furniture store in Kentucky. As owner and operator of a 51-year-old business, Thurman’s Furniture, Hendon made the decision to close his business and chose PFP to liquidate his store. After the event, Hendon joined PFP as an assistant manager and quickly worked his way into a position as an event coordinator.

The executive team at PFP now includes Rosenberg and Roy Hester, Tom Liddell and Ed Hendon, all serving as senior vice presidents and managing directors. Hendon will report to Rosenberg.

The post PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations appeared first on Furniture Today.

RMT establishes stateside operating division

HO CHI MINH CITY – Major recliner mechanism manufacturer Remacro Machinery & Technology has launched a U.S. division to serve and speed product to furniture manufacturers in the United States.

Based in Tupelo, Miss., Remacro Machinery & Technology USA Holdings Inc. is supported with a more than 75,000-square-foot warehouse and office. The location has a full staff of engineers, managers and assemblers, as well as finance and warehouse personnel.

The facility will inventory hardware and accessories including seating mechanisms, motors, headrests, seat boxes, controls and sleeper mechanisms. This inventory will support a quick-ship replenishment commitment. RMT USA’s Tupelo location enables “speed-to-market” service to a critical mass of nearby upholstery manufacturers as well as the East Coast.

“Supporting the need for an effective supply chain provider, RMT is making this major investment in capacity and support,” said Jerry Wang, USA sales director for RMT, in a release. “Our commitment is to be the leading global provider of smart home accessories with innovative designs and high-quality service.”

Established in 2011 with a single factory in China, RMT has grown to become a major global manufacturer of reclining mechanisms. Today, RMT makes more than 1 million sets of reclining mechanisms and more than 500,000 motors per month.

RMT expanded in 2018 with the opening of two factories in Vietnam. Located in Bau Bang Binh Doung and Xinpeng Town, Binh Dong, these plants are strategically located for export and domestic Vietnam manufacturing. The expanded Vietnam factories have more than 400,000 square feet of manufacturing and employs more than 800 workers.

RMT has committed a major investment in new equipment, training, embracing lean manufacturing and, creating manufacturing efficiencies. The Vietnam factories today make motors, mechanisms, smart home devices, storage bases, sleeper mechanisms and adjustable beds.

The company also has incorporated testing rooms and product laboratories in each of its factories. All testing meets and exceeds country standards in North America, Europe, and Asia.

The post RMT establishes stateside operating division appeared first on Furniture Today.

Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest

NEWARK, N.J. – High-end mattress manufacturer Shifman Mattresses has named bedding 20-year bedding industry veteran John Lowrance to manage the Northwest region as the company continues to expand its national footprint.

In the newly created position of Northwest territory manager, Lowrance will develop and grow retail partnerships to increase awareness of Shifman’s brand in the new region for the company. Lowrance reports to Lisa Frey, Shifman’s national sales director.

“John’s depth of experience and valued industry relationships in the Northwest will contribute tremendously to the success of our national strategy to bring our luxury brand to the upscale customer seeking the finest handmade mattresses,” said Bill Hammer, president of Shifman.

Lowrance has more than 20 years in the industry, most recently as senior territory manager in the Portland, Ore., area for Serta Simmons Bedding. Prior to that, he was an independent sales representative Ashley Furniture, Pure Talalay Bliss and Glideaway. Lowrance began his career at Sealy and Rev Sleep.

The post Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest appeared first on Furniture Today.

PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations

ENFIELD, Conn. — Planned Furniture Promotions Inc. has promoted Ed Hendon to senior vice president of operations.

In his new role, Hendon will continue to work directly with the company’s event coordinators and office teams, improving training programs, merchandising, marketing and logistics.

“As a 15-year senior event coordinator and a four-year director of operations for PFP, Ed has proven his ability to professionally oversee and maximize an event for our clients,” said PFP President Rob Rosenberg.

A third-generation retailer, Hendon began his furniture career in a family owned furniture store in Kentucky. As owner and operator of a 51-year-old business, Thurman’s Furniture, Hendon made the decision to close his business and chose PFP to liquidate his store. After the event, Hendon joined PFP as an assistant manager and quickly worked his way into a position as an event coordinator.

The executive team at PFP now includes Rosenberg and Roy Hester, Tom Liddell and Ed Hendon, all serving as senior vice presidents and managing directors. Hendon will report to Rosenberg.

The post PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations appeared first on Furniture Today.

RMT establishes stateside operating division

HO CHI MINH CITY – Major recliner mechanism manufacturer Remacro Machinery & Technology has launched a U.S. division to serve and speed product to furniture manufacturers in the United States.

Based in Tupelo, Miss., Remacro Machinery & Technology USA Holdings Inc. is supported with a more than 75,000-square-foot warehouse and office. The location has a full staff of engineers, managers and assemblers, as well as finance and warehouse personnel.

The facility will inventory hardware and accessories including seating mechanisms, motors, headrests, seat boxes, controls and sleeper mechanisms. This inventory will support a quick-ship replenishment commitment. RMT USA’s Tupelo location enables “speed-to-market” service to a critical mass of nearby upholstery manufacturers as well as the East Coast.

“Supporting the need for an effective supply chain provider, RMT is making this major investment in capacity and support,” said Jerry Wang, USA sales director for RMT, in a release. “Our commitment is to be the leading global provider of smart home accessories with innovative designs and high-quality service.”

Established in 2011 with a single factory in China, RMT has grown to become a major global manufacturer of reclining mechanisms. Today, RMT makes more than 1 million sets of reclining mechanisms and more than 500,000 motors per month.

RMT expanded in 2018 with the opening of two factories in Vietnam. Located in Bau Bang Binh Doung and Xinpeng Town, Binh Dong, these plants are strategically located for export and domestic Vietnam manufacturing. The expanded Vietnam factories have more than 400,000 square feet of manufacturing and employs more than 800 workers.

RMT has committed a major investment in new equipment, training, embracing lean manufacturing and, creating manufacturing efficiencies. The Vietnam factories today make motors, mechanisms, smart home devices, storage bases, sleeper mechanisms and adjustable beds.

The company also has incorporated testing rooms and product laboratories in each of its factories. All testing meets and exceeds country standards in North America, Europe, and Asia.

The post RMT establishes stateside operating division appeared first on Furniture Today.

Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest

NEWARK, N.J. – High-end mattress manufacturer Shifman Mattresses has named bedding 20-year bedding industry veteran John Lowrance to manage the Northwest region as the company continues to expand its national footprint.

In the newly created position of Northwest territory manager, Lowrance will develop and grow retail partnerships to increase awareness of Shifman’s brand in the new region for the company. Lowrance reports to Lisa Frey, Shifman’s national sales director.

“John’s depth of experience and valued industry relationships in the Northwest will contribute tremendously to the success of our national strategy to bring our luxury brand to the upscale customer seeking the finest handmade mattresses,” said Bill Hammer, president of Shifman.

Lowrance has more than 20 years in the industry, most recently as senior territory manager in the Portland, Ore., area for Serta Simmons Bedding. Prior to that, he was an independent sales representative Ashley Furniture, Pure Talalay Bliss and Glideaway. Lowrance began his career at Sealy and Rev Sleep.

The post Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest appeared first on Furniture Today.

PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations

ENFIELD, Conn. — Planned Furniture Promotions Inc. has promoted Ed Hendon to senior vice president of operations.

In his new role, Hendon will continue to work directly with the company’s event coordinators and office teams, improving training programs, merchandising, marketing and logistics.

“As a 15-year senior event coordinator and a four-year director of operations for PFP, Ed has proven his ability to professionally oversee and maximize an event for our clients,” said PFP President Rob Rosenberg.

A third-generation retailer, Hendon began his furniture career in a family owned furniture store in Kentucky. As owner and operator of a 51-year-old business, Thurman’s Furniture, Hendon made the decision to close his business and chose PFP to liquidate his store. After the event, Hendon joined PFP as an assistant manager and quickly worked his way into a position as an event coordinator.

The executive team at PFP now includes Rosenberg and Roy Hester, Tom Liddell and Ed Hendon, all serving as senior vice presidents and managing directors. Hendon will report to Rosenberg.

The post PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations appeared first on Furniture Today.

RMT establishes stateside operating division

HO CHI MINH CITY – Major recliner mechanism manufacturer Remacro Machinery & Technology has launched a U.S. division to serve and speed product to furniture manufacturers in the United States.

Based in Tupelo, Miss., Remacro Machinery & Technology USA Holdings Inc. is supported with a more than 75,000-square-foot warehouse and office. The location has a full staff of engineers, managers and assemblers, as well as finance and warehouse personnel.

The facility will inventory hardware and accessories including seating mechanisms, motors, headrests, seat boxes, controls and sleeper mechanisms. This inventory will support a quick-ship replenishment commitment. RMT USA’s Tupelo location enables “speed-to-market” service to a critical mass of nearby upholstery manufacturers as well as the East Coast.

“Supporting the need for an effective supply chain provider, RMT is making this major investment in capacity and support,” said Jerry Wang, USA sales director for RMT, in a release. “Our commitment is to be the leading global provider of smart home accessories with innovative designs and high-quality service.”

Established in 2011 with a single factory in China, RMT has grown to become a major global manufacturer of reclining mechanisms. Today, RMT makes more than 1 million sets of reclining mechanisms and more than 500,000 motors per month.

RMT expanded in 2018 with the opening of two factories in Vietnam. Located in Bau Bang Binh Doung and Xinpeng Town, Binh Dong, these plants are strategically located for export and domestic Vietnam manufacturing. The expanded Vietnam factories have more than 400,000 square feet of manufacturing and employs more than 800 workers.

RMT has committed a major investment in new equipment, training, embracing lean manufacturing and, creating manufacturing efficiencies. The Vietnam factories today make motors, mechanisms, smart home devices, storage bases, sleeper mechanisms and adjustable beds.

The company also has incorporated testing rooms and product laboratories in each of its factories. All testing meets and exceeds country standards in North America, Europe, and Asia.

The post RMT establishes stateside operating division appeared first on Furniture Today.

Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest

NEWARK, N.J. – High-end mattress manufacturer Shifman Mattresses has named bedding 20-year bedding industry veteran John Lowrance to manage the Northwest region as the company continues to expand its national footprint.

In the newly created position of Northwest territory manager, Lowrance will develop and grow retail partnerships to increase awareness of Shifman’s brand in the new region for the company. Lowrance reports to Lisa Frey, Shifman’s national sales director.

“John’s depth of experience and valued industry relationships in the Northwest will contribute tremendously to the success of our national strategy to bring our luxury brand to the upscale customer seeking the finest handmade mattresses,” said Bill Hammer, president of Shifman.

Lowrance has more than 20 years in the industry, most recently as senior territory manager in the Portland, Ore., area for Serta Simmons Bedding. Prior to that, he was an independent sales representative Ashley Furniture, Pure Talalay Bliss and Glideaway. Lowrance began his career at Sealy and Rev Sleep.

The post Shifman Mattress names industry veteran to lead push in Northwest appeared first on Furniture Today.

PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations

ENFIELD, Conn. — Planned Furniture Promotions Inc. has promoted Ed Hendon to senior vice president of operations.

In his new role, Hendon will continue to work directly with the company’s event coordinators and office teams, improving training programs, merchandising, marketing and logistics.

“As a 15-year senior event coordinator and a four-year director of operations for PFP, Ed has proven his ability to professionally oversee and maximize an event for our clients,” said PFP President Rob Rosenberg.

A third-generation retailer, Hendon began his furniture career in a family owned furniture store in Kentucky. As owner and operator of a 51-year-old business, Thurman’s Furniture, Hendon made the decision to close his business and chose PFP to liquidate his store. After the event, Hendon joined PFP as an assistant manager and quickly worked his way into a position as an event coordinator.

The executive team at PFP now includes Rosenberg and Roy Hester, Tom Liddell and Ed Hendon, all serving as senior vice presidents and managing directors. Hendon will report to Rosenberg.

The post PFP promotes Hendon to SVP, operations appeared first on Furniture Today.

Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow

There is a scourge spreading across the industry that threatens to blunt the momentum of renewed consumer interest in all things home. Its effects are not mitigated by vaccination or subject to state and local decisions to close businesses or keep them open. Unlike the pandemic, its impact will not vary from state to state or market to market.

This affliction is not new; it challenged the industry as recently as just two short years ago.

I’m speaking, of course, about rising costs and price increases. One of the most impactful right now is freight, with container rates in the $1,300 to $1,500 range to California and nearly double that to New York ports. At a time when manufacturers are looking to ramp up production overseas and speed that production to eager U.S. consumers, the impact of these steadily rising costs has made their efforts more costly and difficult.

In the context of other rising costs, it is increasingly likely, if not already underway, that retailers will be seeing price increases passed along in the coming weeks and months. It seems equally inevitable that consumers will be confronted with similarly increased prices.

This is not a bad thing.

For too long, the furniture industry has been victim of reverse inflation. No other industry still sells its products at the same price today as when the Dodge Aries was America’s hot vehicle choice. For those too young to get the reference … it was the early 1980s.

Don’t get me wrong. No one wants to raise prices: not suppliers, not manufacturers, not retailers. But if there was ever an environment in which the impact of raised prices could be minimized, this is it. Time and again I’ve heard from retailers in recent months that it’s less about what’s hot than what’s available.

With demand being what it is, with many younger consumers coming into the market for the first time, and with others coming back for the first time in some years, price sensitivity is likely to be less an issue now that at any time in recent years.

These are not issues that are going away anytime soon. They will certainly define the first half and will likely play a key role in shaping the year’s performance overall. For some, they will represent an existential challenge, for others a major opportunity.

Our staff is currently engaged with the industry to uncover the strategies companies are employing to deal with issues related both to rising costs and to enhancing capacity and eliminating backlogs. As these issues continue to challenge furniture retailers, we are reaching out for those strategies as well.

We welcome those who are willing to share their stories and challenges and those who believe they are positioned to maximize the emerging opportunities. We also welcome opinions on all sides of these key issues. If you would like to share your story or your opinion, please reach out.

The post Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow appeared first on Furniture Today.

Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers

 

wendy youds - cropped

Wendy Youds

Wendy Youds, vice president of product and merchandising, Article

As we continue to scale and the pandemic-induced demand continues to surge into 2021, we’re doubling down on supply chain efficiencies.

We’ve diversified the number of manufacturing partners we work with to take more control of the design process and introduce more original equipment manufacturer (OEM) designs. We’re also developing exclusive raw materials for our products, including upholstery fabric and leather.

These efforts ensure our products are readily available to consumers and improve manufacturing lead times while maintaining our quality standards across our catalog with competitive pricing, which ultimately makes the furniture-buying experience easier for our customers.

Todd Wanek - cropped - 2020

Todd Wanek

Todd Wanek, CEO, Ashley Furniture Inds.

The biggest focus for us and everyone in manufacturing and retail is figuring out the supply chain and get back to executing at a higher level in 2021. We need to gauge consumer demand and put together a plan that meets that demand. 2020 was a year of learning for everyone because the entire system was stressed. It showed us and everyone else the flaws.

We’re expanding our physical infrastructure with more warehousing, more new trucks and more capacity. We’re re-inventing the flow of information, from manufacturers to retailers, from retailers to consumers, all the touch points.

2021 is a year of challenging everything that was constrained in 2020, from manufacturing to distribution to supply chain. We’re identifying everything that went right in 2020 — and there was a lot — and everything that went wrong, and (we’re) refocusing to improve execution and flow of information.

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone, CEO, Chaddock

We made some big moves in 2020 that have set a solid foundation for a great 2021. We’ve set new standards for quality and turnaround time. We’ve innovated easy custom programs inspired by our design accounts, and we’ve made the process of bringing custom-crafted furniture to life easier than ever.

We plan to do even more of that in 2021. Chaddock remains committed to being on-demand for our customers. Whether that’s by expanding our quick-ship program to offer more designs that maintain industry leading lead times or continuing to inspire personalization or develop new tools to create greater efficiencies, we want to  allow our customers to focus on what they do best, creating and selling design.

Calcagne _Roy _19

Roy Calcagne

Roy Calcagne, CEO, Craftmaster Furniture

The opportunity in my mind is reducing our lead times. … Everyone has 12-week, 14-, 16-, 22-week delivery right now, and (manufacturers) are all in the same boat. The first guys to come back to normal lead times are going to be the winners.

If we can be one of the first to reduce our lead times back to normal, we can pick up slots and permanently lock in these great gains in business we’ve had this past year. When the economy opens up and people start traveling and dining out again, a lot of this disposable income will dry up, and where once we had, say, five slots on a floor, we want to have 10.

The biggest way to achieve that is expanding capacity. … We believe our Lenoir plant that opened in September will give us an additional 25% capacity, and we’re adding a line in each of our three plants in Alexander County, so we’re talking about a total of 40% expansion in capacity this year.

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO, Ethan Allen

Our focus for 2021 revolves around strengthening the ways that we combine technology with personal service.

These are our main priorities: employee safety, continued investment in digital design and interactive communication technologies, growing our business and continuing to generate cash, refining our product offerings to reach a large client base, and leveraging our vertical integration, including continuing to make 75% of our products in our North American workshops.

Dittmer,Jerry 2021

Jerry Dittmer

Jerry Dittmer, president and CEO, Flexsteel Inds.

Flexsteel plans to accelerate growth investments focused on building a differentiated and highly compelling customer experience, rapidly expanding our supply chain capacity and agility, and integrating our omnichannel and digital experience with all our customers.

Dave Swers

Dave Swers

Dave Swers, president, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics

With more time at home, many consumers are investing in and around their homes to create an environment they can enjoy. This has created additional demand for Sunbrella fabrics in every category, including both indoor and outdoor upholstery, among others. For example, the outdoor season is now extended with the patio becoming a new focal point for leisure and family time.

With these shifts come new opportunities, as the desire and demand grows for comfortable textiles that perform throughout every season.

We recently announced a $65 million investment to expand our production capabilities at our U.S. and global plants to support our manufacturing and retail partners. This significant investment will support even greater future demand for Sunbrella, Dickson and other Glen Raven fabrics so we can continue serving our customers with success.

In addition, the way consumers shop is changing, and we are increasing our marketing investments on new channels while working with our partners on new ways to connect with and inspire consumers.

Naboicheck,

Bob Naboicheck

Bob Naboicheck, president and CEO, Gold Bond

The industry is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been very fortunate to be able to get materials that we need to keep up with the increased demand that we are seeing.

We anticipate the growth will continue in 2021 as customers dramatically expand their program with us. We remain committed to maintaining the quality of our products by using the construction we have always used instead of despec-ing product with inferior components. Our deliveries have held, and our team is delivering product quickly because of our ability to receive the materials we need from our partners.

Mark Jones

Mark Jones

Mark Jones, president and CEO, HSM

One of the most immediate opportunities in the home furnishings segment is supporting our manufacturing customers as they ride the “nesting phenomenon.” Likely to persist well into the new year, consumers want to upgrade their homes with new furniture, mattresses and home accessories. As a key supplier of components for these products, our 2021 strategy is built upon solidifying our position as a trusted and reliable domestic supplier for the home furnishings industry.

From a process perspective, as orders climb well above everyone’s expectations — the most we’ve seen in more than a decade — we will be making further investments in automation equipment across our enterprise to drive manufacturing efficiencies to benefit our customers.

In terms of our products, we are seeing increased consumer preferences for products and brands that promote wellness and are sustainable. As such, we will continue our R&D emphasis on products such as our Flexecore sustainably designed mattress component system, which is designed to eliminate the glue that is typically used to bond coil springs and mattress layers together.

Of course, none of the changes in our processes or products can come to fruition without the support of our people. We will continue to leverage the resiliency and resolve demonstrated by our team in 2020 to continually reimagine how we operate our business in 2021 and beyond.

Lee Boone

Lee Boone

Lee Boone, president, Home Meridian International

Given the extreme challenges our industry is experiencing in global logistics today, we have shifted much of our attention to product availability and shipping. The vast majority of our retailers are focused on our ability to deliver existing orders on existing products. While this may not represent “new” opportunity, delivering products to our customers has never been more important or more difficult.

Regarding new opportunity, we are launching our new Scott Brothers licensed product lines in the spring of this year, and we are already seeing strong levels of anticipation and demand for the brand. Beyond that, improving our service levels across all of our business units, product categories and channels of distribution is of vital importance this year.

Jeremy Hoff

Jeremy Hoff, president, Hooker Legacy Brands

In 2021, we will continue our focus on reducing product development lead times. Last year, we made tremendous strides in this area, and we’ll continue that effort this year. Creating more speed in product development keeps our assortment more on-trend and provides incremental growth opportunities with our partners.

Additionally, reducing our lead times from order to shipping on existing products will be a major emphasis for us in 2021. Focusing on continuous improvements in our supply chain and logistics will allow us to better align ourselves with the increasing demands of today’s consumer.

Lastly, we will also concentrate on rationalizing our portfolio of products to ensure that our overall capacity supports our efforts to be in stock and ship quickly.

Hooker Casegoods, Hooker Upholstery, Bradington Young, and Sam Moore will be ready in March for High Point Premarket in April and the rescheduled spring market in June. This will allow us to expedite all our marketing efforts to present our customers our new product assortment in person or virtually.

Jill Johns Interior Define

Jill Johns

Jill John, chief customer officer, Interior Define

Interior Define saw an increase in demand during the holidays, and really post COVID-19 hitting in the early spring. The company is taking the following actions to meet the increase in demand: Expanding our manufacturing facilities to meet increased demand; leveraging our shipping providers to offer expedited options when available; and growing our customer service team to better assist with a high volume of requests.

Terry McNew Headshot

Terry McNew

Terry McNew, CEO, Klaussner Home Furnishings

My main goal is to continue to evaluate the business in terms of processes, both in supply chain and internally. We have a number of changes underway that we’ll continue in 2021, and they’ve only been accelerated by COVID-19, which has impacted the supply chain all over the world the same way it impacted us with things like absenteeism and quarantines. We’ve been working on ways to eliminate waste, and we’ve been able to increase our through-put by nearly 70% per employee in the past 10 months, but we’ll still be working on that.

First, we’re reducing transportation waste within the production process. When you cut wood in one location, ship it to another to turn it into frames, and walk those frames 50 yards to another place for assembly, that’s not a lean process. We’ve reorganized to put all the processes beside each other. We’re about 80% of the way there. Since we have 2.5 million square feet of production space in five main campuses with multiple plants on each campus, it takes a while to fully implement.

We’re also on a march to rationalize our product line, and we’ve already begun reducing the number of non-productive SKUs. We’ve discontinued slow-moving pieces; people forget how to build them if it’s only a few times a year, and you end up with excess supply of materials due to minimum order quantities. That’s increased our through-put, and our SKU count is down 30%, but we still have a long way to go.

A big key in the year ahead is President-elect Biden’s tax policies: Mr. Biden tends toward higher taxes, and that reduces economic activity. … If one party controls Congress and the administration, higher taxes are more likely. To me, that’s the last piece of the puzzle for forecasting 2021.

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow, chairman, president and CEO, La-Z-Boy

Obviously technology is going to play a larger role going forward in putting control of the purchase process and buying experience in our consumers’ hands. Today our customers not only shop and do research online, but can schedule and track their own delivery from our distribution centers.
Another technology area is personalization. In the past, we’d run ads and always the same message to every customer, but now we are able to get targeted messages to targeted customers utilizing all the data we have on what they’ve bought and what they’re looking for. That will become the norm rather than the exception.

Everybody with a large retail footprint is trying to catch up with e-commerce or omnichannel, and the e-commerce businesses are trying to establish a retail footprint. Our core customer wants white-glove delivery and won’t accept drop shipping to the door. Technology is the key again, and we’re doing a lot of work on the technology and communication side.

From the distribution center, we are working toward a system where we’ll send a picture of the delivery team to the consumer in advance. And our system allows the customer to schedule their own delivery times and, once it leaves the distribution center, track the timing to her home so she isn’t waiting for a call. The more information you put in the customers’ hands, the more control you give them, and that’s where we’re making significant progress.

A second issue is supply chain, and given the increases in volume, everyone’s supply chain is stressed, and everyone’s re-thinking it. With the industry’s experience with tariffs and the pandemic, a number of questions are being asked: How many different partners do you need, how do you strategically spread your country risk? How can you remain agile and have flexibility when volume goes up or down?

A major retailer told me recently they used to shop only for “value” — the best price you can get — but they got over-weighted with one or two countries. He mentioned he does not want to make a single bet on a single geography, and he is thinking about what that looks like in the future so we’re not beholden to the winds of change in one part of the world.

A third consideration is our employees. What do they need coming out of the pandemic to continue to feel safe in our plants and in our stores, and what can we do to help them enhance their performance with things like technology, processes and workflow in both our factories and stores.

I think the pandemic “hangover” is going to last a while, and the expectations for your customers, your supply chain and your employees are going to be a little different.

Campbell_Mike_LeatherItalia_2019

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell, CEO, Leather Italia

First is a continued focus on our forecasting and making sure the flow or our product and our production schedules are consistent and true to demand. It is critical that our company look at product needs and make sure we are supporting those needs for the retailers.

To that end, we’ll increase pre-purchases of raw material, in particular leather, which has become very polarized with this growth and demand we experienced in 2020. In order to be consistent and perform at an extremely high level, keeping more material on hand is a very clear need, and it’s become a very high-action item we’ll be concentrating on.

Also, at our main motion facility in China, Shae Motion, we’ve added four more production lines to support more growth in 2021 and to ensure consistency of flow with respect to our current and future product obligations. 

Phil Haney

Phil Haney

Phil Haney, president and CEO, Lexington Home Brands

For Lexington Home Brands it is not so much a change, but rather a continuation of our commitment to service our business with our retail dealers and designers. When the pandemic hit, we did not cancel any purchase orders with our suppliers, we did not delay any shipments or slow down any production in process. During the “shut-down,” we continued to receive inbound product at our service centers and as retail business rebounded strongly for our retail partners, we had inventory to service their needs.

As business continued strong through the balance of the year, we have continued to place large orders for product and remain committed to providing excellent service for our dealers and the design community. However, we are not immune to the various logistic issues challenging our industry; container and ocean freight availability; and fabric, foam and metal delays.

The biggest change is just the amount of inventory on hand to support the business. 

Jack Krause

Jack Krause

Jack Krause, president and COO, Lovesac

The biggest changes we will make are in how we define our go to market strategy and how we guide our customer through the purchase journey. We have learned a great deal this year about customer needs and how they cross between the digital and physical world almost seamlessly, from showrooms to the live chat experience, or making online appointments, etc. We have a strong test-and-learn agenda to help us continue to design our organization, and our customer experience around this new reality with an aim to create the most efficient and enjoyable customer journey.

Curtright

Billy Curtright

Billy Curtright, national sales manager, Magniflex

Our 2021 strategy is focused on helping our brick-and-mortar dealers sell our products online. By combining our social media marketing campaign and our drop-shipping capabilities, we want our dealers to be able to compete in the new marketplace.

And we will give them all of web tools required to do that ranging from dynamic video and engaging copy for their websites to generating consumer leads in their trading area. We will do whatever it takes to help them combine their in-store experience with the latest in online marketing to close the sale. 

MLILY_Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen, president, MLily USA

We will be adopting a two-pronged strategy in 2021 to take advantage of the opportunities we anticipate. First, as our business continues to grow at a brisk pace, we are expanding our domestic manufacturing footprint with two additional plants in the United States. That will bring us to a total of four to handle all our production needs domestically.

Second, we will continue to expand our product line, with a special emphasis on innovative and unique products that truly differentiate us in the market. Prime examples of this strategy include the upcoming launch of our JAMA collection — our first entry into the juvenile bedding segment — which will include two mattresses and a pillow. We see opportunities for significant growth in the juvenile sleep products category, and JAMA will fill a niche by offering retailers bright, fun mattresses from an already trusted vendor partner.

In addition, we’ll be expanding our innovative fan-cooled PowerCool sleep system with a new model designed with a higher-density foam to deliver a firmer comfort feel. With this addition, the PowerCool line will be available in plush and firm, providing consumers a choice of comfort options on one of our best-selling designs that features industry-leading technology.

Hill,Scott2020, new classic

Scott Hill

Scott Hill, president of sales, New Classic Furniture

Our owner and I are really bullish on 2021. There are so many good signs: the housing market, interest rates, the stimulus package that just passed, a vaccine. We all want to put 2020 behind us, but we need to keep in mind what we learned and how to take advantage moving forward.

The biggest thing we’re focusing on is that it’s all about speed to market. What a year the industry could have had if we’d been able to get more product to market faster.

We’re increasing our footprint in domestic warehousing by double digits so we can have more product waiting for our customers. We’re also increasing our overseas warehousing to allow customers ordering containers to get the goods faster.

We’re adding more personnel and investing in our online platform, which skyrocketed in 2020. We see that growing again substantially in 2021, at least by double digits.

Finally, we’re taking the guesswork out of product development. We won’t be waiting on markets anymore and are making product decisions every month. We’re getting input from key customers across the U.S. before it’s exhibited as well as our own gut feeling. If we can make those fast product decisions with key retailers, we’ll be able to increase turns at least one time per year, which will be huge for our growth.

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson, CEO, Overstock

Overstock will continue to leverage new and improving technology to help our target customers find the products they love and deliver those products to them quickly. We are focused on the online retail blocking and tackling to continue our sustainable, profitable market share growth.

Shuford_Alex_7-2019

Alex Shuford III

Alex Shuford III, CEO, RHF Companies

The spike in demand that we and the industry have enjoyed over the last two quarters is likely to continue through the early part of 2021, and so capacity expansion is top of mind. However, we don’t “trust” the durability of this demand surge, as we believe it is, as least in part, being fueled by short-term shifts in consumer spending that will subside once travel and entertainment industries recover in the second half of 2021.

With that in mind, our capacity expansion plans have to be flexible enough to move up and down with volatilty in the coming year. We certainly need people and are hiring, but we are also looking at capital spending (equipment) projects and efficiency programs to help get more out of the workforce we already have.
We do however believe that part of the demand equation has changed more structurally. We believe the pandemic has jump-started household creation among the Millennials and helped to shift their focus from urban living based on “convenient access to personal entertainment” to suburban living and starting or enhancing their family structures. This coupled with low interest rates and “work from home” flexibility has the potential to increase the total amount of residential square footage that needs to be furnished over the next five years.

These new customers shop differently and have unique service expectations. Speed, convenience and trust are critical. Smaller boutique retail experiences that are authentic should thrive.

Brad Cates

Brad Cates

Brad Cates, CEO, Sarreid

Our plan and associated strategy for 2021 started in April 2020. … Along with the major improvements we made to our website and printed catalog, we ramped up our social media presence and built a 3,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art studio for photo, video and Zoom calls, enabling us to entirely rethink our reliance on the traditional, market-driven product introduction cycle.

While we have always been focused on a continuous offering of fresh product, we pushed product development into an entirely new gear, working with an individual I consider to be one of the best case goods designers in the business. Concurrently, we doubled, then doubled again, our purchase orders for in-line product and best sellers and kept the containers flowing, putting us in an enviable in-stock position at a time when we all know available inventory is the name of the game. The result is that Sarreid is now faster to market than at any time in our 54-year-history. …

While the pandemic was certainly a catalyst for these moves, the success we have enjoyed means we don’t ever foresee returning to the way we used to approach the business. As we move into the new year, we continue to be in heavy product development and to dramatically increase our ordering in order to have the right product at the right time for our customers. 

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker, president, Skyline Furniture

We expect to see online sales continue to grow into 2021. Given that we specialize in e-commerce, we plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.

We will be keeping our manufacturing process nimble and investing heavily in our 3D capabilities. We firmly believe these components will be key to a successful sales strategy into the new year.

Nick Bates

Nick Bates

Nick Bates, president, Spring Air

We are not making big changes in 2021. Instead, we plan stay the course in helping fill the orders of our retailers. This is not the year to change our business model.

We have taken on took on a lot of new business, and our focus on expanding our manufacturing capabilities to remain current with our delivery. During 2020, we were successful in securing new business, and our sole focus will be in beefing up our production to hit maximum output.

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine, president and CEO, Therapedic

The biggest thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increase in online shopping: the consumers’ ability to interface online to meet their purchasing needs, creating a significant amount of Internet purchasing power. Consumers have become much more savvy and adept at buying online.

As a result, we have been retooling our websites. We’ve made them more accessible for sight and hearing impaired and overall easier to navigate. Therapedic.com is undergoing an entire retrofit to make it more accessible and optimized to be more mobile friendly. All of the enhancements will be completed within the first quarter.

bassett, wyatt 2020

Wyatt Bassett

Wyatt Bassett, CEO, Vaughan-Bassett

Our biggest change in 2021 will be to focus on the return of retailers looking for new, fresh and different looks and new product, particularly goods that can reach retail floors before the middle of the year. It will have been more than a year and a half (October 2019) since most retailers have focused on shopping for new product vs. trying to source what was available.

We have been fortunate in the past nine months that we manufacture domestically and have a supply chain that is very local. We have maintained very good delivery (exceptional delivery relative to the overall market) and currently ship more than 80% of our line, including all best sellers, within two weeks. That will only improve on our current line in the next 60 days; and we will carry stock from day one on all new introductions.

I believe given the current strength in home furnishings, we can stock and deliver fresh, new step-up looks at attractive, saleable price points and continue to service them throughout the year on, or close to, an on-demand, in stock basis.

Matt Davis COO Walker Edison

Matt Davis

Matt Davis, COO, Walker Edison

As we look forward into 2021, one of our priorities will be to continue focusing on improving the overall end consumer experience. We are making large investments into our supply chain network that will improve shipping speeds and get Walker Edison products into the hands of consumers faster than ever.

Not only will customers receive their items quicker, but these investments will also lower damage rates and create business efficiencies that will ultimately lead to a happier end consumer.

Image of Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak, chief merchandising officer, Wayfair

We know our customers have had a hard year, and if anything, have an even deeper connection to their home and community. They are going to be much more inclined to shop online to renovate, decorate and create their own unique home space than before.

The acceleration to online isn’t necessarily changing our plan as much as we’re fast adjusting to heightened expectations around quality of merchandising, financial and in-home services, inventory availability, speed to customer and of course price to value in this economic environment. So, the biggest change here for us is we’re moving even faster on our ambitious plan to deliver the best home experience for our customer anytime, anywhere.

Another big change is for our supplier partners. One of our top priorities is to be the best home platform for our suppliers. We want our supplier interface, Partner Home, to be as good as the consumer experience we have for our customers. Our suppliers should expect significant upgrades this year on the ease and quality of the tools and analytics we provide them to optimize their business with us.

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga, CEO, Zuo Modern

Every year there is a new challenge, and this year we think it will be in the logistics and manufacturing side. Thankfully, we have a great team overseas and our leader in production, Steve Poon, has many years of experience to minimize the overpaying on freight, delays on manufacture and QA, thus giving us a strong advantage to keep supplying products to our partners with an aggressive price and a prompt delivery.

Our focus for the first two quarters of the year will continue to be on the residential side with drop-ship as a priority as we see end consumers continuing to shop from home. We also see a possible fast recovery on the hospitality and event side by the end of the third and fourth quarters, with demand for hospitality items because of the reopening of new restaurants, bars and hotels.

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Mental health matters: NRF panel tackles retail stress, offers digital mental health tools

HIGH POINT — In the face of a year’s worth of pandemic stress, national political unrest and more, the rate of mental health issues, stress and burnout in the U.S. has skyrocketed, and according to a session during the National Retail Federation’s annual retail conference NRF 2021, its impact is becoming more apparent in retail spaces.

According to a study from workforce management company Quinyx, 54% of retail employees said their job has negatively impacted their mental health during the pandemic, and 70% of employees say this period has been the most stressful of their career.

As a result, work effectiveness is being impacted.

In its 2021 State of Stress survey, employee health and wellbeing engagement company Grokker found that 50% of employees have reported increasing their unhealthy eating habits, 42% have reported getting less physical activity, and 25% have increased their use of alcohol and/or controlled substances. Right now, hourly employees without benefits are the most stressed, with 80% of workers reporting feeling overwhelmed, though stress is widespread in about 76% of employees.

“Stress is very, very real … and what is really kind of staggering is when you look at retail employees in particular,” said Lorna Borenstein, CEO of Grokker. “But how do you support employees with such a widespread problem?”

According to Borenstein, she has seen three things really make a difference:

  • Recognizing that stress does not just affect mental health, but it also impacts sleep, nutrition, energy, work and more. It is a whole person issue.
  • Utilizing digital solutions such as apps and videos to support employees as they are less expensive and more private than most in-person solutions, especially with coronavirus social distancing concerns and for employees without benefits.
  • Partnering and working with credentialed professionals so that your employees can connect with true experts and build community.

At online meditation and wellness platform Headspace, Stuart Poole, senior director of business development, said that COVID-19 has not only accelerated stress, but it also has increased the acceptance of digital health platforms, as medical offices and more have turned to online appointments and video calls in the wake of the pandemic. This has made digital mental health solutions more needed and popular for employees, especially as rates of mental health issues and stress surge.

“We ran a study of more than 2,500 U.S. and U.K. based employees in retail, hospitality and travel, and a few other industries and we found that 42% of workers have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety,” noted Poole. “There’s just not enough therapists in the world to meet the surging demand of these mental health issues, and it’s important to have an approachable and scalable offer.”

Even though the solutions offered by companies like Headspace and Grokker may look different from traditionally therapy and mental health programming  — such as celebrity-guided motivational sessions, meditations, exercise programming and more — studies show they work for employees. With Headspace, users see focus improve 22% after just one sessions, burnout decreases by 14% after four sessions, and stress decrease on average 32% after 20 days of usage. After two months, 46% of users see depressive symptoms decrease.

But how can managers and companies encourage their employees to take advantage of mental health assistance and programs — digital or otherwise — once a company begins offering them?

It starts with destigmatizing mental health care and issues, and that often involves getting managers and executives more involved in talking about mental health, openly incentivizing participation and making information and goals shared through the programs private.

At a large Seattle-based retail coffee maker, Headspace put together a fireside chat-style video that featured the company co-founder and CEO when it rolled out a new program with the company, creating a space for the CEO to discuss candidly his mental health journey. Ultimately, that honesty and openness sparked “unprecedented” and continued engagement rates with that retailer’s employees.

In Borenstein’s view, offering varyied content and options is also a key component to getting employees involved and invested in wellness. Just like employees and their stressors, solutions are not one size fits all, and neither are employee wellness goals.

Since stress and mental health issues impact the whole body, Grokker offers everything from guided private and group exercise classes to counseling and expert mental health sessions. It is also quick to develop new offerings when it observes new wellness trends or increased interest in particular programs.

“What we’re really in the business of is trust,” said Borenstein. “How do we help the employer develop a better trusted relationship with its worker, and the way we do that is make sure we are an incredibly trusted provider and brand to the employees. …

“You have to provide a sense of ‘you’re not alone’ and ‘we’re going to be here for you no matter what you’re suffering from and no matter what your achievements are. We’ll support you through that, too.’”

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Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund

In 2020 there was a 70% increase in returns to general merchandise e-commerce sites. In the last two months alone, returns exceeded $70 billion dollars for these e-commerce retailers that mention constantly, “easy returns.” Yes, we know they want us to believe they just pass the returns to the vendors, but that isn’t always the case. Ever heard of smoke and mirrors?

During the pandemic of 2020, more people than ever were using the Internet for a broad range of purchases, much broader because of the new circumstances. On top of that, many fewer people want to do in-store returns. Can you blame them? So the returns are a larger problem than ever.

In an article in Payments.com, Jan. 11, it was disclosed that Amazon, Walmart and more recently Target are using their ultra-complicated diagnostics and algorithms to study this process and are now telling more people “yes, you will get your refund, but in addition, you may keep the purchased item. Please consider contributing it to a charity or passing it along to someone needy, or just use it yourself.” They did not say, to my surprise, “We don’t give a hoot!”

All of us in the furniture and mattress industries are too aware of the costs of returns and complying with the regulations on selling used furnishings. Many returns erase the profits on several sales, not just that one being returned.

Now these massive e-commerce retailers are using their technology to evaluate each return, according to the Payments.com article. They look at how often you return things, the likelihood the item will be damaged or dirty, how much money they recover on each return of that item and if it can possibly be put back in the store. That is a lot to consider, but they are finding that more often, they lose more money on the return than they can ever recoup on a resale.

We as an industry need to seriously need to examine this same issue.

More times than we want to admit, you might be ahead of the game telling your customer that they will get a refund and can keep the item, use it as they will. Yes, it will cut back on the selection in your scratch-and-dent department, but that isn’t all bad. Deep in the corners of that department are things you would rather forget anyway.

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Restonic Mattress names Tokarz president

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­BUFFALO, N.Y. – Restonic Mattress Corp. has tapped Laurie Tokarz as its new president, succeeding Ron Passaglia.

Tokarz brings 25 years of experience in the home furnishings and bedding industry to her new position. Most recently, she was the chief sales officer for Visionary Sleep, Restonic’s largest licensee.

Tokarz began her bedding career at Sibley’s department store as a buyer and was later named divisional merchandise manager for the home furnishings division. From there, she joined Bauhaus Upholstery, and in 1996 joined Serta as a sales representative.

In 2000, Tokarz joined Alliance Sleep Products, a Restonic licensee, and worked alongside the late Tom Comer, eventually serving as president. In 2017, Bob Sherman acquired Alliance Sleep, and Tokarz was named chief sales officer for the newly formed Visionary Sleep. Tokarz also currently serves on the International Sleep Products Assn. board of trustees.

Tokarz succeeds Passaglia, former president and CEO, who retired and transitioned into a consulting position Jan. 1.

“Laurie has a unique understanding of the dynamic changes happening within our industry from the consumer, retailer and the licensee viewpoints,” Passaglia said. “Her experience and successful history of applying these assets for today’s dynamic marketplace will be well-received by our retailers and all of our domestic and international licenses. Her loyal brand stewardship to Restonic has positioned her as the ideal candidate for this position.”

In her role as president, Tokarz will work with domestic and international licensees as well as retailers. She’ll oversee brand strategy and alignment for Restonic’s family of brands, which includes Biltmore and Scott Living. Tokarz will work with Julia Rosien, Restonic’s vice president of brand and digital marketing, to support an adoption of digital transformation in marketing and communication.

“I am delighted to take on this role, which allows me to continue my 20-plus year goal of driving the Restonic brand,” Tokarz said. “With the retail environment evolving at warp speed, Restonic is poised to help retailers garner consumers’ attention with turnkey digital marketing programs and the strength of our licensed brands, Scott Living and Biltmore.”

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Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow

There is a scourge spreading across the industry that threatens to blunt the momentum of renewed consumer interest in all things home. Its effects are not mitigated by vaccination or subject to state and local decisions to close businesses or keep them open. Unlike the pandemic, its impact will not vary from state to state or market to market.

This affliction is not new; it challenged the industry as recently as just two short years ago.

I’m speaking, of course, about rising costs and price increases. One of the most impactful right now is freight, with container rates in the $1,300 to $1,500 range to California and nearly double that to New York ports. At a time when manufacturers are looking to ramp up production overseas and speed that production to eager U.S. consumers, the impact of these steadily rising costs has made their efforts more costly and difficult.

In the context of other rising costs, it is increasingly likely, if not already underway, that retailers will be seeing price increases passed along in the coming weeks and months. It seems equally inevitable that consumers will be confronted with similarly increased prices.

This is not a bad thing.

For too long, the furniture industry has been victim of reverse inflation. No other industry still sells its products at the same price today as when the Dodge Aries was America’s hot vehicle choice. For those too young to get the reference … it was the early 1980s.

Don’t get me wrong. No one wants to raise prices: not suppliers, not manufacturers, not retailers. But if there was ever an environment in which the impact of raised prices could be minimized, this is it. Time and again I’ve heard from retailers in recent months that it’s less about what’s hot than what’s available.

With demand being what it is, with many younger consumers coming into the market for the first time, and with others coming back for the first time in some years, price sensitivity is likely to be less an issue now that at any time in recent years.

These are not issues that are going away anytime soon. They will certainly define the first half and will likely play a key role in shaping the year’s performance overall. For some, they will represent an existential challenge, for others a major opportunity.

Our staff is currently engaged with the industry to uncover the strategies companies are employing to deal with issues related both to rising costs and to enhancing capacity and eliminating backlogs. As these issues continue to challenge furniture retailers, we are reaching out for those strategies as well.

We welcome those who are willing to share their stories and challenges and those who believe they are positioned to maximize the emerging opportunities. We also welcome opinions on all sides of these key issues. If you would like to share your story or your opinion, please reach out.

The post Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow appeared first on Furniture Today.

Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers

 

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Wendy Youds

Wendy Youds, vice president of product and merchandising, Article

As we continue to scale and the pandemic-induced demand continues to surge into 2021, we’re doubling down on supply chain efficiencies.

We’ve diversified the number of manufacturing partners we work with to take more control of the design process and introduce more original equipment manufacturer (OEM) designs. We’re also developing exclusive raw materials for our products, including upholstery fabric and leather.

These efforts ensure our products are readily available to consumers and improve manufacturing lead times while maintaining our quality standards across our catalog with competitive pricing, which ultimately makes the furniture-buying experience easier for our customers.

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Todd Wanek

Todd Wanek, CEO, Ashley Furniture Inds.

The biggest focus for us and everyone in manufacturing and retail is figuring out the supply chain and get back to executing at a higher level in 2021. We need to gauge consumer demand and put together a plan that meets that demand. 2020 was a year of learning for everyone because the entire system was stressed. It showed us and everyone else the flaws.

We’re expanding our physical infrastructure with more warehousing, more new trucks and more capacity. We’re re-inventing the flow of information, from manufacturers to retailers, from retailers to consumers, all the touch points.

2021 is a year of challenging everything that was constrained in 2020, from manufacturing to distribution to supply chain. We’re identifying everything that went right in 2020 — and there was a lot — and everything that went wrong, and (we’re) refocusing to improve execution and flow of information.

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone, CEO, Chaddock

We made some big moves in 2020 that have set a solid foundation for a great 2021. We’ve set new standards for quality and turnaround time. We’ve innovated easy custom programs inspired by our design accounts, and we’ve made the process of bringing custom-crafted furniture to life easier than ever.

We plan to do even more of that in 2021. Chaddock remains committed to being on-demand for our customers. Whether that’s by expanding our quick-ship program to offer more designs that maintain industry leading lead times or continuing to inspire personalization or develop new tools to create greater efficiencies, we want to  allow our customers to focus on what they do best, creating and selling design.

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Roy Calcagne

Roy Calcagne, CEO, Craftmaster Furniture

The opportunity in my mind is reducing our lead times. … Everyone has 12-week, 14-, 16-, 22-week delivery right now, and (manufacturers) are all in the same boat. The first guys to come back to normal lead times are going to be the winners.

If we can be one of the first to reduce our lead times back to normal, we can pick up slots and permanently lock in these great gains in business we’ve had this past year. When the economy opens up and people start traveling and dining out again, a lot of this disposable income will dry up, and where once we had, say, five slots on a floor, we want to have 10.

The biggest way to achieve that is expanding capacity. … We believe our Lenoir plant that opened in September will give us an additional 25% capacity, and we’re adding a line in each of our three plants in Alexander County, so we’re talking about a total of 40% expansion in capacity this year.

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO, Ethan Allen

Our focus for 2021 revolves around strengthening the ways that we combine technology with personal service.

These are our main priorities: employee safety, continued investment in digital design and interactive communication technologies, growing our business and continuing to generate cash, refining our product offerings to reach a large client base, and leveraging our vertical integration, including continuing to make 75% of our products in our North American workshops.

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Jerry Dittmer

Jerry Dittmer, president and CEO, Flexsteel Inds.

Flexsteel plans to accelerate growth investments focused on building a differentiated and highly compelling customer experience, rapidly expanding our supply chain capacity and agility, and integrating our omnichannel and digital experience with all our customers.

Dave Swers

Dave Swers

Dave Swers, president, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics

With more time at home, many consumers are investing in and around their homes to create an environment they can enjoy. This has created additional demand for Sunbrella fabrics in every category, including both indoor and outdoor upholstery, among others. For example, the outdoor season is now extended with the patio becoming a new focal point for leisure and family time.

With these shifts come new opportunities, as the desire and demand grows for comfortable textiles that perform throughout every season.

We recently announced a $65 million investment to expand our production capabilities at our U.S. and global plants to support our manufacturing and retail partners. This significant investment will support even greater future demand for Sunbrella, Dickson and other Glen Raven fabrics so we can continue serving our customers with success.

In addition, the way consumers shop is changing, and we are increasing our marketing investments on new channels while working with our partners on new ways to connect with and inspire consumers.

Naboicheck,

Bob Naboicheck

Bob Naboicheck, president and CEO, Gold Bond

The industry is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been very fortunate to be able to get materials that we need to keep up with the increased demand that we are seeing.

We anticipate the growth will continue in 2021 as customers dramatically expand their program with us. We remain committed to maintaining the quality of our products by using the construction we have always used instead of despec-ing product with inferior components. Our deliveries have held, and our team is delivering product quickly because of our ability to receive the materials we need from our partners.

Mark Jones

Mark Jones

Mark Jones, president and CEO, HSM

One of the most immediate opportunities in the home furnishings segment is supporting our manufacturing customers as they ride the “nesting phenomenon.” Likely to persist well into the new year, consumers want to upgrade their homes with new furniture, mattresses and home accessories. As a key supplier of components for these products, our 2021 strategy is built upon solidifying our position as a trusted and reliable domestic supplier for the home furnishings industry.

From a process perspective, as orders climb well above everyone’s expectations — the most we’ve seen in more than a decade — we will be making further investments in automation equipment across our enterprise to drive manufacturing efficiencies to benefit our customers.

In terms of our products, we are seeing increased consumer preferences for products and brands that promote wellness and are sustainable. As such, we will continue our R&D emphasis on products such as our Flexecore sustainably designed mattress component system, which is designed to eliminate the glue that is typically used to bond coil springs and mattress layers together.

Of course, none of the changes in our processes or products can come to fruition without the support of our people. We will continue to leverage the resiliency and resolve demonstrated by our team in 2020 to continually reimagine how we operate our business in 2021 and beyond.

Lee Boone

Lee Boone

Lee Boone, president, Home Meridian International

Given the extreme challenges our industry is experiencing in global logistics today, we have shifted much of our attention to product availability and shipping. The vast majority of our retailers are focused on our ability to deliver existing orders on existing products. While this may not represent “new” opportunity, delivering products to our customers has never been more important or more difficult.

Regarding new opportunity, we are launching our new Scott Brothers licensed product lines in the spring of this year, and we are already seeing strong levels of anticipation and demand for the brand. Beyond that, improving our service levels across all of our business units, product categories and channels of distribution is of vital importance this year.

Jeremy Hoff

Jeremy Hoff, president, Hooker Legacy Brands

In 2021, we will continue our focus on reducing product development lead times. Last year, we made tremendous strides in this area, and we’ll continue that effort this year. Creating more speed in product development keeps our assortment more on-trend and provides incremental growth opportunities with our partners.

Additionally, reducing our lead times from order to shipping on existing products will be a major emphasis for us in 2021. Focusing on continuous improvements in our supply chain and logistics will allow us to better align ourselves with the increasing demands of today’s consumer.

Lastly, we will also concentrate on rationalizing our portfolio of products to ensure that our overall capacity supports our efforts to be in stock and ship quickly.

Hooker Casegoods, Hooker Upholstery, Bradington Young, and Sam Moore will be ready in March for High Point Premarket in April and the rescheduled spring market in June. This will allow us to expedite all our marketing efforts to present our customers our new product assortment in person or virtually.

Jill Johns Interior Define

Jill Johns

Jill John, chief customer officer, Interior Define

Interior Define saw an increase in demand during the holidays, and really post COVID-19 hitting in the early spring. The company is taking the following actions to meet the increase in demand: Expanding our manufacturing facilities to meet increased demand; leveraging our shipping providers to offer expedited options when available; and growing our customer service team to better assist with a high volume of requests.

Terry McNew Headshot

Terry McNew

Terry McNew, CEO, Klaussner Home Furnishings

My main goal is to continue to evaluate the business in terms of processes, both in supply chain and internally. We have a number of changes underway that we’ll continue in 2021, and they’ve only been accelerated by COVID-19, which has impacted the supply chain all over the world the same way it impacted us with things like absenteeism and quarantines. We’ve been working on ways to eliminate waste, and we’ve been able to increase our through-put by nearly 70% per employee in the past 10 months, but we’ll still be working on that.

First, we’re reducing transportation waste within the production process. When you cut wood in one location, ship it to another to turn it into frames, and walk those frames 50 yards to another place for assembly, that’s not a lean process. We’ve reorganized to put all the processes beside each other. We’re about 80% of the way there. Since we have 2.5 million square feet of production space in five main campuses with multiple plants on each campus, it takes a while to fully implement.

We’re also on a march to rationalize our product line, and we’ve already begun reducing the number of non-productive SKUs. We’ve discontinued slow-moving pieces; people forget how to build them if it’s only a few times a year, and you end up with excess supply of materials due to minimum order quantities. That’s increased our through-put, and our SKU count is down 30%, but we still have a long way to go.

A big key in the year ahead is President-elect Biden’s tax policies: Mr. Biden tends toward higher taxes, and that reduces economic activity. … If one party controls Congress and the administration, higher taxes are more likely. To me, that’s the last piece of the puzzle for forecasting 2021.

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow, chairman, president and CEO, La-Z-Boy

Obviously technology is going to play a larger role going forward in putting control of the purchase process and buying experience in our consumers’ hands. Today our customers not only shop and do research online, but can schedule and track their own delivery from our distribution centers.
Another technology area is personalization. In the past, we’d run ads and always the same message to every customer, but now we are able to get targeted messages to targeted customers utilizing all the data we have on what they’ve bought and what they’re looking for. That will become the norm rather than the exception.

Everybody with a large retail footprint is trying to catch up with e-commerce or omnichannel, and the e-commerce businesses are trying to establish a retail footprint. Our core customer wants white-glove delivery and won’t accept drop shipping to the door. Technology is the key again, and we’re doing a lot of work on the technology and communication side.

From the distribution center, we are working toward a system where we’ll send a picture of the delivery team to the consumer in advance. And our system allows the customer to schedule their own delivery times and, once it leaves the distribution center, track the timing to her home so she isn’t waiting for a call. The more information you put in the customers’ hands, the more control you give them, and that’s where we’re making significant progress.

A second issue is supply chain, and given the increases in volume, everyone’s supply chain is stressed, and everyone’s re-thinking it. With the industry’s experience with tariffs and the pandemic, a number of questions are being asked: How many different partners do you need, how do you strategically spread your country risk? How can you remain agile and have flexibility when volume goes up or down?

A major retailer told me recently they used to shop only for “value” — the best price you can get — but they got over-weighted with one or two countries. He mentioned he does not want to make a single bet on a single geography, and he is thinking about what that looks like in the future so we’re not beholden to the winds of change in one part of the world.

A third consideration is our employees. What do they need coming out of the pandemic to continue to feel safe in our plants and in our stores, and what can we do to help them enhance their performance with things like technology, processes and workflow in both our factories and stores.

I think the pandemic “hangover” is going to last a while, and the expectations for your customers, your supply chain and your employees are going to be a little different.

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Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell, CEO, Leather Italia

First is a continued focus on our forecasting and making sure the flow or our product and our production schedules are consistent and true to demand. It is critical that our company look at product needs and make sure we are supporting those needs for the retailers.

To that end, we’ll increase pre-purchases of raw material, in particular leather, which has become very polarized with this growth and demand we experienced in 2020. In order to be consistent and perform at an extremely high level, keeping more material on hand is a very clear need, and it’s become a very high-action item we’ll be concentrating on.

Also, at our main motion facility in China, Shae Motion, we’ve added four more production lines to support more growth in 2021 and to ensure consistency of flow with respect to our current and future product obligations. 

Phil Haney

Phil Haney

Phil Haney, president and CEO, Lexington Home Brands

For Lexington Home Brands it is not so much a change, but rather a continuation of our commitment to service our business with our retail dealers and designers. When the pandemic hit, we did not cancel any purchase orders with our suppliers, we did not delay any shipments or slow down any production in process. During the “shut-down,” we continued to receive inbound product at our service centers and as retail business rebounded strongly for our retail partners, we had inventory to service their needs.

As business continued strong through the balance of the year, we have continued to place large orders for product and remain committed to providing excellent service for our dealers and the design community. However, we are not immune to the various logistic issues challenging our industry; container and ocean freight availability; and fabric, foam and metal delays.

The biggest change is just the amount of inventory on hand to support the business. 

Jack Krause

Jack Krause

Jack Krause, president and COO, Lovesac

The biggest changes we will make are in how we define our go to market strategy and how we guide our customer through the purchase journey. We have learned a great deal this year about customer needs and how they cross between the digital and physical world almost seamlessly, from showrooms to the live chat experience, or making online appointments, etc. We have a strong test-and-learn agenda to help us continue to design our organization, and our customer experience around this new reality with an aim to create the most efficient and enjoyable customer journey.

Curtright

Billy Curtright

Billy Curtright, national sales manager, Magniflex

Our 2021 strategy is focused on helping our brick-and-mortar dealers sell our products online. By combining our social media marketing campaign and our drop-shipping capabilities, we want our dealers to be able to compete in the new marketplace.

And we will give them all of web tools required to do that ranging from dynamic video and engaging copy for their websites to generating consumer leads in their trading area. We will do whatever it takes to help them combine their in-store experience with the latest in online marketing to close the sale. 

MLILY_Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen, president, MLily USA

We will be adopting a two-pronged strategy in 2021 to take advantage of the opportunities we anticipate. First, as our business continues to grow at a brisk pace, we are expanding our domestic manufacturing footprint with two additional plants in the United States. That will bring us to a total of four to handle all our production needs domestically.

Second, we will continue to expand our product line, with a special emphasis on innovative and unique products that truly differentiate us in the market. Prime examples of this strategy include the upcoming launch of our JAMA collection — our first entry into the juvenile bedding segment — which will include two mattresses and a pillow. We see opportunities for significant growth in the juvenile sleep products category, and JAMA will fill a niche by offering retailers bright, fun mattresses from an already trusted vendor partner.

In addition, we’ll be expanding our innovative fan-cooled PowerCool sleep system with a new model designed with a higher-density foam to deliver a firmer comfort feel. With this addition, the PowerCool line will be available in plush and firm, providing consumers a choice of comfort options on one of our best-selling designs that features industry-leading technology.

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Scott Hill

Scott Hill, president of sales, New Classic Furniture

Our owner and I are really bullish on 2021. There are so many good signs: the housing market, interest rates, the stimulus package that just passed, a vaccine. We all want to put 2020 behind us, but we need to keep in mind what we learned and how to take advantage moving forward.

The biggest thing we’re focusing on is that it’s all about speed to market. What a year the industry could have had if we’d been able to get more product to market faster.

We’re increasing our footprint in domestic warehousing by double digits so we can have more product waiting for our customers. We’re also increasing our overseas warehousing to allow customers ordering containers to get the goods faster.

We’re adding more personnel and investing in our online platform, which skyrocketed in 2020. We see that growing again substantially in 2021, at least by double digits.

Finally, we’re taking the guesswork out of product development. We won’t be waiting on markets anymore and are making product decisions every month. We’re getting input from key customers across the U.S. before it’s exhibited as well as our own gut feeling. If we can make those fast product decisions with key retailers, we’ll be able to increase turns at least one time per year, which will be huge for our growth.

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson, CEO, Overstock

Overstock will continue to leverage new and improving technology to help our target customers find the products they love and deliver those products to them quickly. We are focused on the online retail blocking and tackling to continue our sustainable, profitable market share growth.

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Alex Shuford III

Alex Shuford III, CEO, RHF Companies

The spike in demand that we and the industry have enjoyed over the last two quarters is likely to continue through the early part of 2021, and so capacity expansion is top of mind. However, we don’t “trust” the durability of this demand surge, as we believe it is, as least in part, being fueled by short-term shifts in consumer spending that will subside once travel and entertainment industries recover in the second half of 2021.

With that in mind, our capacity expansion plans have to be flexible enough to move up and down with volatilty in the coming year. We certainly need people and are hiring, but we are also looking at capital spending (equipment) projects and efficiency programs to help get more out of the workforce we already have.
We do however believe that part of the demand equation has changed more structurally. We believe the pandemic has jump-started household creation among the Millennials and helped to shift their focus from urban living based on “convenient access to personal entertainment” to suburban living and starting or enhancing their family structures. This coupled with low interest rates and “work from home” flexibility has the potential to increase the total amount of residential square footage that needs to be furnished over the next five years.

These new customers shop differently and have unique service expectations. Speed, convenience and trust are critical. Smaller boutique retail experiences that are authentic should thrive.

Brad Cates

Brad Cates

Brad Cates, CEO, Sarreid

Our plan and associated strategy for 2021 started in April 2020. … Along with the major improvements we made to our website and printed catalog, we ramped up our social media presence and built a 3,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art studio for photo, video and Zoom calls, enabling us to entirely rethink our reliance on the traditional, market-driven product introduction cycle.

While we have always been focused on a continuous offering of fresh product, we pushed product development into an entirely new gear, working with an individual I consider to be one of the best case goods designers in the business. Concurrently, we doubled, then doubled again, our purchase orders for in-line product and best sellers and kept the containers flowing, putting us in an enviable in-stock position at a time when we all know available inventory is the name of the game. The result is that Sarreid is now faster to market than at any time in our 54-year-history. …

While the pandemic was certainly a catalyst for these moves, the success we have enjoyed means we don’t ever foresee returning to the way we used to approach the business. As we move into the new year, we continue to be in heavy product development and to dramatically increase our ordering in order to have the right product at the right time for our customers. 

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker, president, Skyline Furniture

We expect to see online sales continue to grow into 2021. Given that we specialize in e-commerce, we plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.

We will be keeping our manufacturing process nimble and investing heavily in our 3D capabilities. We firmly believe these components will be key to a successful sales strategy into the new year.

Nick Bates

Nick Bates

Nick Bates, president, Spring Air

We are not making big changes in 2021. Instead, we plan stay the course in helping fill the orders of our retailers. This is not the year to change our business model.

We have taken on took on a lot of new business, and our focus on expanding our manufacturing capabilities to remain current with our delivery. During 2020, we were successful in securing new business, and our sole focus will be in beefing up our production to hit maximum output.

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine, president and CEO, Therapedic

The biggest thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increase in online shopping: the consumers’ ability to interface online to meet their purchasing needs, creating a significant amount of Internet purchasing power. Consumers have become much more savvy and adept at buying online.

As a result, we have been retooling our websites. We’ve made them more accessible for sight and hearing impaired and overall easier to navigate. Therapedic.com is undergoing an entire retrofit to make it more accessible and optimized to be more mobile friendly. All of the enhancements will be completed within the first quarter.

bassett, wyatt 2020

Wyatt Bassett

Wyatt Bassett, CEO, Vaughan-Bassett

Our biggest change in 2021 will be to focus on the return of retailers looking for new, fresh and different looks and new product, particularly goods that can reach retail floors before the middle of the year. It will have been more than a year and a half (October 2019) since most retailers have focused on shopping for new product vs. trying to source what was available.

We have been fortunate in the past nine months that we manufacture domestically and have a supply chain that is very local. We have maintained very good delivery (exceptional delivery relative to the overall market) and currently ship more than 80% of our line, including all best sellers, within two weeks. That will only improve on our current line in the next 60 days; and we will carry stock from day one on all new introductions.

I believe given the current strength in home furnishings, we can stock and deliver fresh, new step-up looks at attractive, saleable price points and continue to service them throughout the year on, or close to, an on-demand, in stock basis.

Matt Davis COO Walker Edison

Matt Davis

Matt Davis, COO, Walker Edison

As we look forward into 2021, one of our priorities will be to continue focusing on improving the overall end consumer experience. We are making large investments into our supply chain network that will improve shipping speeds and get Walker Edison products into the hands of consumers faster than ever.

Not only will customers receive their items quicker, but these investments will also lower damage rates and create business efficiencies that will ultimately lead to a happier end consumer.

Image of Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak, chief merchandising officer, Wayfair

We know our customers have had a hard year, and if anything, have an even deeper connection to their home and community. They are going to be much more inclined to shop online to renovate, decorate and create their own unique home space than before.

The acceleration to online isn’t necessarily changing our plan as much as we’re fast adjusting to heightened expectations around quality of merchandising, financial and in-home services, inventory availability, speed to customer and of course price to value in this economic environment. So, the biggest change here for us is we’re moving even faster on our ambitious plan to deliver the best home experience for our customer anytime, anywhere.

Another big change is for our supplier partners. One of our top priorities is to be the best home platform for our suppliers. We want our supplier interface, Partner Home, to be as good as the consumer experience we have for our customers. Our suppliers should expect significant upgrades this year on the ease and quality of the tools and analytics we provide them to optimize their business with us.

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga, CEO, Zuo Modern

Every year there is a new challenge, and this year we think it will be in the logistics and manufacturing side. Thankfully, we have a great team overseas and our leader in production, Steve Poon, has many years of experience to minimize the overpaying on freight, delays on manufacture and QA, thus giving us a strong advantage to keep supplying products to our partners with an aggressive price and a prompt delivery.

Our focus for the first two quarters of the year will continue to be on the residential side with drop-ship as a priority as we see end consumers continuing to shop from home. We also see a possible fast recovery on the hospitality and event side by the end of the third and fourth quarters, with demand for hospitality items because of the reopening of new restaurants, bars and hotels.

The post Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers appeared first on Furniture Today.

Mental health matters: NRF panel tackles retail stress, offers digital mental health tools

HIGH POINT — In the face of a year’s worth of pandemic stress, national political unrest and more, the rate of mental health issues, stress and burnout in the U.S. has skyrocketed, and according to a session during the National Retail Federation’s annual retail conference NRF 2021, its impact is becoming more apparent in retail spaces.

According to a study from workforce management company Quinyx, 54% of retail employees said their job has negatively impacted their mental health during the pandemic, and 70% of employees say this period has been the most stressful of their career.

As a result, work effectiveness is being impacted.

In its 2021 State of Stress survey, employee health and wellbeing engagement company Grokker found that 50% of employees have reported increasing their unhealthy eating habits, 42% have reported getting less physical activity, and 25% have increased their use of alcohol and/or controlled substances. Right now, hourly employees without benefits are the most stressed, with 80% of workers reporting feeling overwhelmed, though stress is widespread in about 76% of employees.

“Stress is very, very real … and what is really kind of staggering is when you look at retail employees in particular,” said Lorna Borenstein, CEO of Grokker. “But how do you support employees with such a widespread problem?”

According to Borenstein, she has seen three things really make a difference:

  • Recognizing that stress does not just affect mental health, but it also impacts sleep, nutrition, energy, work and more. It is a whole person issue.
  • Utilizing digital solutions such as apps and videos to support employees as they are less expensive and more private than most in-person solutions, especially with coronavirus social distancing concerns and for employees without benefits.
  • Partnering and working with credentialed professionals so that your employees can connect with true experts and build community.

At online meditation and wellness platform Headspace, Stuart Poole, senior director of business development, said that COVID-19 has not only accelerated stress, but it also has increased the acceptance of digital health platforms, as medical offices and more have turned to online appointments and video calls in the wake of the pandemic. This has made digital mental health solutions more needed and popular for employees, especially as rates of mental health issues and stress surge.

“We ran a study of more than 2,500 U.S. and U.K. based employees in retail, hospitality and travel, and a few other industries and we found that 42% of workers have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety,” noted Poole. “There’s just not enough therapists in the world to meet the surging demand of these mental health issues, and it’s important to have an approachable and scalable offer.”

Even though the solutions offered by companies like Headspace and Grokker may look different from traditionally therapy and mental health programming  — such as celebrity-guided motivational sessions, meditations, exercise programming and more — studies show they work for employees. With Headspace, users see focus improve 22% after just one sessions, burnout decreases by 14% after four sessions, and stress decrease on average 32% after 20 days of usage. After two months, 46% of users see depressive symptoms decrease.

But how can managers and companies encourage their employees to take advantage of mental health assistance and programs — digital or otherwise — once a company begins offering them?

It starts with destigmatizing mental health care and issues, and that often involves getting managers and executives more involved in talking about mental health, openly incentivizing participation and making information and goals shared through the programs private.

At a large Seattle-based retail coffee maker, Headspace put together a fireside chat-style video that featured the company co-founder and CEO when it rolled out a new program with the company, creating a space for the CEO to discuss candidly his mental health journey. Ultimately, that honesty and openness sparked “unprecedented” and continued engagement rates with that retailer’s employees.

In Borenstein’s view, offering varyied content and options is also a key component to getting employees involved and invested in wellness. Just like employees and their stressors, solutions are not one size fits all, and neither are employee wellness goals.

Since stress and mental health issues impact the whole body, Grokker offers everything from guided private and group exercise classes to counseling and expert mental health sessions. It is also quick to develop new offerings when it observes new wellness trends or increased interest in particular programs.

“What we’re really in the business of is trust,” said Borenstein. “How do we help the employer develop a better trusted relationship with its worker, and the way we do that is make sure we are an incredibly trusted provider and brand to the employees. …

“You have to provide a sense of ‘you’re not alone’ and ‘we’re going to be here for you no matter what you’re suffering from and no matter what your achievements are. We’ll support you through that, too.’”

The post Mental health matters: NRF panel tackles retail stress, offers digital mental health tools appeared first on Furniture Today.

Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund

In 2020 there was a 70% increase in returns to general merchandise e-commerce sites. In the last two months alone, returns exceeded $70 billion dollars for these e-commerce retailers that mention constantly, “easy returns.” Yes, we know they want us to believe they just pass the returns to the vendors, but that isn’t always the case. Ever heard of smoke and mirrors?

During the pandemic of 2020, more people than ever were using the Internet for a broad range of purchases, much broader because of the new circumstances. On top of that, many fewer people want to do in-store returns. Can you blame them? So the returns are a larger problem than ever.

In an article in Payments.com, Jan. 11, it was disclosed that Amazon, Walmart and more recently Target are using their ultra-complicated diagnostics and algorithms to study this process and are now telling more people “yes, you will get your refund, but in addition, you may keep the purchased item. Please consider contributing it to a charity or passing it along to someone needy, or just use it yourself.” They did not say, to my surprise, “We don’t give a hoot!”

All of us in the furniture and mattress industries are too aware of the costs of returns and complying with the regulations on selling used furnishings. Many returns erase the profits on several sales, not just that one being returned.

Now these massive e-commerce retailers are using their technology to evaluate each return, according to the Payments.com article. They look at how often you return things, the likelihood the item will be damaged or dirty, how much money they recover on each return of that item and if it can possibly be put back in the store. That is a lot to consider, but they are finding that more often, they lose more money on the return than they can ever recoup on a resale.

We as an industry need to seriously need to examine this same issue.

More times than we want to admit, you might be ahead of the game telling your customer that they will get a refund and can keep the item, use it as they will. Yes, it will cut back on the selection in your scratch-and-dent department, but that isn’t all bad. Deep in the corners of that department are things you would rather forget anyway.

The post Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund appeared first on Furniture Today.

Restonic Mattress names Tokarz president

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­BUFFALO, N.Y. – Restonic Mattress Corp. has tapped Laurie Tokarz as its new president, succeeding Ron Passaglia.

Tokarz brings 25 years of experience in the home furnishings and bedding industry to her new position. Most recently, she was the chief sales officer for Visionary Sleep, Restonic’s largest licensee.

Tokarz began her bedding career at Sibley’s department store as a buyer and was later named divisional merchandise manager for the home furnishings division. From there, she joined Bauhaus Upholstery, and in 1996 joined Serta as a sales representative.

In 2000, Tokarz joined Alliance Sleep Products, a Restonic licensee, and worked alongside the late Tom Comer, eventually serving as president. In 2017, Bob Sherman acquired Alliance Sleep, and Tokarz was named chief sales officer for the newly formed Visionary Sleep. Tokarz also currently serves on the International Sleep Products Assn. board of trustees.

Tokarz succeeds Passaglia, former president and CEO, who retired and transitioned into a consulting position Jan. 1.

“Laurie has a unique understanding of the dynamic changes happening within our industry from the consumer, retailer and the licensee viewpoints,” Passaglia said. “Her experience and successful history of applying these assets for today’s dynamic marketplace will be well-received by our retailers and all of our domestic and international licenses. Her loyal brand stewardship to Restonic has positioned her as the ideal candidate for this position.”

In her role as president, Tokarz will work with domestic and international licensees as well as retailers. She’ll oversee brand strategy and alignment for Restonic’s family of brands, which includes Biltmore and Scott Living. Tokarz will work with Julia Rosien, Restonic’s vice president of brand and digital marketing, to support an adoption of digital transformation in marketing and communication.

“I am delighted to take on this role, which allows me to continue my 20-plus year goal of driving the Restonic brand,” Tokarz said. “With the retail environment evolving at warp speed, Restonic is poised to help retailers garner consumers’ attention with turnkey digital marketing programs and the strength of our licensed brands, Scott Living and Biltmore.”

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Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow

There is a scourge spreading across the industry that threatens to blunt the momentum of renewed consumer interest in all things home. Its effects are not mitigated by vaccination or subject to state and local decisions to close businesses or keep them open. Unlike the pandemic, its impact will not vary from state to state or market to market.

This affliction is not new; it challenged the industry as recently as just two short years ago.

I’m speaking, of course, about rising costs and price increases. One of the most impactful right now is freight, with container rates in the $1,300 to $1,500 range to California and nearly double that to New York ports. At a time when manufacturers are looking to ramp up production overseas and speed that production to eager U.S. consumers, the impact of these steadily rising costs has made their efforts more costly and difficult.

In the context of other rising costs, it is increasingly likely, if not already underway, that retailers will be seeing price increases passed along in the coming weeks and months. It seems equally inevitable that consumers will be confronted with similarly increased prices.

This is not a bad thing.

For too long, the furniture industry has been victim of reverse inflation. No other industry still sells its products at the same price today as when the Dodge Aries was America’s hot vehicle choice. For those too young to get the reference … it was the early 1980s.

Don’t get me wrong. No one wants to raise prices: not suppliers, not manufacturers, not retailers. But if there was ever an environment in which the impact of raised prices could be minimized, this is it. Time and again I’ve heard from retailers in recent months that it’s less about what’s hot than what’s available.

With demand being what it is, with many younger consumers coming into the market for the first time, and with others coming back for the first time in some years, price sensitivity is likely to be less an issue now that at any time in recent years.

These are not issues that are going away anytime soon. They will certainly define the first half and will likely play a key role in shaping the year’s performance overall. For some, they will represent an existential challenge, for others a major opportunity.

Our staff is currently engaged with the industry to uncover the strategies companies are employing to deal with issues related both to rising costs and to enhancing capacity and eliminating backlogs. As these issues continue to challenge furniture retailers, we are reaching out for those strategies as well.

We welcome those who are willing to share their stories and challenges and those who believe they are positioned to maximize the emerging opportunities. We also welcome opinions on all sides of these key issues. If you would like to share your story or your opinion, please reach out.

The post Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow appeared first on Furniture Today.

Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers

 

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Wendy Youds

Wendy Youds, vice president of product and merchandising, Article

As we continue to scale and the pandemic-induced demand continues to surge into 2021, we’re doubling down on supply chain efficiencies.

We’ve diversified the number of manufacturing partners we work with to take more control of the design process and introduce more original equipment manufacturer (OEM) designs. We’re also developing exclusive raw materials for our products, including upholstery fabric and leather.

These efforts ensure our products are readily available to consumers and improve manufacturing lead times while maintaining our quality standards across our catalog with competitive pricing, which ultimately makes the furniture-buying experience easier for our customers.

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Todd Wanek

Todd Wanek, CEO, Ashley Furniture Inds.

The biggest focus for us and everyone in manufacturing and retail is figuring out the supply chain and get back to executing at a higher level in 2021. We need to gauge consumer demand and put together a plan that meets that demand. 2020 was a year of learning for everyone because the entire system was stressed. It showed us and everyone else the flaws.

We’re expanding our physical infrastructure with more warehousing, more new trucks and more capacity. We’re re-inventing the flow of information, from manufacturers to retailers, from retailers to consumers, all the touch points.

2021 is a year of challenging everything that was constrained in 2020, from manufacturing to distribution to supply chain. We’re identifying everything that went right in 2020 — and there was a lot — and everything that went wrong, and (we’re) refocusing to improve execution and flow of information.

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone, CEO, Chaddock

We made some big moves in 2020 that have set a solid foundation for a great 2021. We’ve set new standards for quality and turnaround time. We’ve innovated easy custom programs inspired by our design accounts, and we’ve made the process of bringing custom-crafted furniture to life easier than ever.

We plan to do even more of that in 2021. Chaddock remains committed to being on-demand for our customers. Whether that’s by expanding our quick-ship program to offer more designs that maintain industry leading lead times or continuing to inspire personalization or develop new tools to create greater efficiencies, we want to  allow our customers to focus on what they do best, creating and selling design.

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Roy Calcagne

Roy Calcagne, CEO, Craftmaster Furniture

The opportunity in my mind is reducing our lead times. … Everyone has 12-week, 14-, 16-, 22-week delivery right now, and (manufacturers) are all in the same boat. The first guys to come back to normal lead times are going to be the winners.

If we can be one of the first to reduce our lead times back to normal, we can pick up slots and permanently lock in these great gains in business we’ve had this past year. When the economy opens up and people start traveling and dining out again, a lot of this disposable income will dry up, and where once we had, say, five slots on a floor, we want to have 10.

The biggest way to achieve that is expanding capacity. … We believe our Lenoir plant that opened in September will give us an additional 25% capacity, and we’re adding a line in each of our three plants in Alexander County, so we’re talking about a total of 40% expansion in capacity this year.

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO, Ethan Allen

Our focus for 2021 revolves around strengthening the ways that we combine technology with personal service.

These are our main priorities: employee safety, continued investment in digital design and interactive communication technologies, growing our business and continuing to generate cash, refining our product offerings to reach a large client base, and leveraging our vertical integration, including continuing to make 75% of our products in our North American workshops.

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Jerry Dittmer

Jerry Dittmer, president and CEO, Flexsteel Inds.

Flexsteel plans to accelerate growth investments focused on building a differentiated and highly compelling customer experience, rapidly expanding our supply chain capacity and agility, and integrating our omnichannel and digital experience with all our customers.

Dave Swers

Dave Swers

Dave Swers, president, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics

With more time at home, many consumers are investing in and around their homes to create an environment they can enjoy. This has created additional demand for Sunbrella fabrics in every category, including both indoor and outdoor upholstery, among others. For example, the outdoor season is now extended with the patio becoming a new focal point for leisure and family time.

With these shifts come new opportunities, as the desire and demand grows for comfortable textiles that perform throughout every season.

We recently announced a $65 million investment to expand our production capabilities at our U.S. and global plants to support our manufacturing and retail partners. This significant investment will support even greater future demand for Sunbrella, Dickson and other Glen Raven fabrics so we can continue serving our customers with success.

In addition, the way consumers shop is changing, and we are increasing our marketing investments on new channels while working with our partners on new ways to connect with and inspire consumers.

Naboicheck,

Bob Naboicheck

Bob Naboicheck, president and CEO, Gold Bond

The industry is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been very fortunate to be able to get materials that we need to keep up with the increased demand that we are seeing.

We anticipate the growth will continue in 2021 as customers dramatically expand their program with us. We remain committed to maintaining the quality of our products by using the construction we have always used instead of despec-ing product with inferior components. Our deliveries have held, and our team is delivering product quickly because of our ability to receive the materials we need from our partners.

Mark Jones

Mark Jones

Mark Jones, president and CEO, HSM

One of the most immediate opportunities in the home furnishings segment is supporting our manufacturing customers as they ride the “nesting phenomenon.” Likely to persist well into the new year, consumers want to upgrade their homes with new furniture, mattresses and home accessories. As a key supplier of components for these products, our 2021 strategy is built upon solidifying our position as a trusted and reliable domestic supplier for the home furnishings industry.

From a process perspective, as orders climb well above everyone’s expectations — the most we’ve seen in more than a decade — we will be making further investments in automation equipment across our enterprise to drive manufacturing efficiencies to benefit our customers.

In terms of our products, we are seeing increased consumer preferences for products and brands that promote wellness and are sustainable. As such, we will continue our R&D emphasis on products such as our Flexecore sustainably designed mattress component system, which is designed to eliminate the glue that is typically used to bond coil springs and mattress layers together.

Of course, none of the changes in our processes or products can come to fruition without the support of our people. We will continue to leverage the resiliency and resolve demonstrated by our team in 2020 to continually reimagine how we operate our business in 2021 and beyond.

Lee Boone

Lee Boone

Lee Boone, president, Home Meridian International

Given the extreme challenges our industry is experiencing in global logistics today, we have shifted much of our attention to product availability and shipping. The vast majority of our retailers are focused on our ability to deliver existing orders on existing products. While this may not represent “new” opportunity, delivering products to our customers has never been more important or more difficult.

Regarding new opportunity, we are launching our new Scott Brothers licensed product lines in the spring of this year, and we are already seeing strong levels of anticipation and demand for the brand. Beyond that, improving our service levels across all of our business units, product categories and channels of distribution is of vital importance this year.

Jeremy Hoff

Jeremy Hoff, president, Hooker Legacy Brands

In 2021, we will continue our focus on reducing product development lead times. Last year, we made tremendous strides in this area, and we’ll continue that effort this year. Creating more speed in product development keeps our assortment more on-trend and provides incremental growth opportunities with our partners.

Additionally, reducing our lead times from order to shipping on existing products will be a major emphasis for us in 2021. Focusing on continuous improvements in our supply chain and logistics will allow us to better align ourselves with the increasing demands of today’s consumer.

Lastly, we will also concentrate on rationalizing our portfolio of products to ensure that our overall capacity supports our efforts to be in stock and ship quickly.

Hooker Casegoods, Hooker Upholstery, Bradington Young, and Sam Moore will be ready in March for High Point Premarket in April and the rescheduled spring market in June. This will allow us to expedite all our marketing efforts to present our customers our new product assortment in person or virtually.

Jill Johns Interior Define

Jill Johns

Jill John, chief customer officer, Interior Define

Interior Define saw an increase in demand during the holidays, and really post COVID-19 hitting in the early spring. The company is taking the following actions to meet the increase in demand: Expanding our manufacturing facilities to meet increased demand; leveraging our shipping providers to offer expedited options when available; and growing our customer service team to better assist with a high volume of requests.

Terry McNew Headshot

Terry McNew

Terry McNew, CEO, Klaussner Home Furnishings

My main goal is to continue to evaluate the business in terms of processes, both in supply chain and internally. We have a number of changes underway that we’ll continue in 2021, and they’ve only been accelerated by COVID-19, which has impacted the supply chain all over the world the same way it impacted us with things like absenteeism and quarantines. We’ve been working on ways to eliminate waste, and we’ve been able to increase our through-put by nearly 70% per employee in the past 10 months, but we’ll still be working on that.

First, we’re reducing transportation waste within the production process. When you cut wood in one location, ship it to another to turn it into frames, and walk those frames 50 yards to another place for assembly, that’s not a lean process. We’ve reorganized to put all the processes beside each other. We’re about 80% of the way there. Since we have 2.5 million square feet of production space in five main campuses with multiple plants on each campus, it takes a while to fully implement.

We’re also on a march to rationalize our product line, and we’ve already begun reducing the number of non-productive SKUs. We’ve discontinued slow-moving pieces; people forget how to build them if it’s only a few times a year, and you end up with excess supply of materials due to minimum order quantities. That’s increased our through-put, and our SKU count is down 30%, but we still have a long way to go.

A big key in the year ahead is President-elect Biden’s tax policies: Mr. Biden tends toward higher taxes, and that reduces economic activity. … If one party controls Congress and the administration, higher taxes are more likely. To me, that’s the last piece of the puzzle for forecasting 2021.

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow, chairman, president and CEO, La-Z-Boy

Obviously technology is going to play a larger role going forward in putting control of the purchase process and buying experience in our consumers’ hands. Today our customers not only shop and do research online, but can schedule and track their own delivery from our distribution centers.
Another technology area is personalization. In the past, we’d run ads and always the same message to every customer, but now we are able to get targeted messages to targeted customers utilizing all the data we have on what they’ve bought and what they’re looking for. That will become the norm rather than the exception.

Everybody with a large retail footprint is trying to catch up with e-commerce or omnichannel, and the e-commerce businesses are trying to establish a retail footprint. Our core customer wants white-glove delivery and won’t accept drop shipping to the door. Technology is the key again, and we’re doing a lot of work on the technology and communication side.

From the distribution center, we are working toward a system where we’ll send a picture of the delivery team to the consumer in advance. And our system allows the customer to schedule their own delivery times and, once it leaves the distribution center, track the timing to her home so she isn’t waiting for a call. The more information you put in the customers’ hands, the more control you give them, and that’s where we’re making significant progress.

A second issue is supply chain, and given the increases in volume, everyone’s supply chain is stressed, and everyone’s re-thinking it. With the industry’s experience with tariffs and the pandemic, a number of questions are being asked: How many different partners do you need, how do you strategically spread your country risk? How can you remain agile and have flexibility when volume goes up or down?

A major retailer told me recently they used to shop only for “value” — the best price you can get — but they got over-weighted with one or two countries. He mentioned he does not want to make a single bet on a single geography, and he is thinking about what that looks like in the future so we’re not beholden to the winds of change in one part of the world.

A third consideration is our employees. What do they need coming out of the pandemic to continue to feel safe in our plants and in our stores, and what can we do to help them enhance their performance with things like technology, processes and workflow in both our factories and stores.

I think the pandemic “hangover” is going to last a while, and the expectations for your customers, your supply chain and your employees are going to be a little different.

Campbell_Mike_LeatherItalia_2019

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell, CEO, Leather Italia

First is a continued focus on our forecasting and making sure the flow or our product and our production schedules are consistent and true to demand. It is critical that our company look at product needs and make sure we are supporting those needs for the retailers.

To that end, we’ll increase pre-purchases of raw material, in particular leather, which has become very polarized with this growth and demand we experienced in 2020. In order to be consistent and perform at an extremely high level, keeping more material on hand is a very clear need, and it’s become a very high-action item we’ll be concentrating on.

Also, at our main motion facility in China, Shae Motion, we’ve added four more production lines to support more growth in 2021 and to ensure consistency of flow with respect to our current and future product obligations. 

Phil Haney

Phil Haney

Phil Haney, president and CEO, Lexington Home Brands

For Lexington Home Brands it is not so much a change, but rather a continuation of our commitment to service our business with our retail dealers and designers. When the pandemic hit, we did not cancel any purchase orders with our suppliers, we did not delay any shipments or slow down any production in process. During the “shut-down,” we continued to receive inbound product at our service centers and as retail business rebounded strongly for our retail partners, we had inventory to service their needs.

As business continued strong through the balance of the year, we have continued to place large orders for product and remain committed to providing excellent service for our dealers and the design community. However, we are not immune to the various logistic issues challenging our industry; container and ocean freight availability; and fabric, foam and metal delays.

The biggest change is just the amount of inventory on hand to support the business. 

Jack Krause

Jack Krause

Jack Krause, president and COO, Lovesac

The biggest changes we will make are in how we define our go to market strategy and how we guide our customer through the purchase journey. We have learned a great deal this year about customer needs and how they cross between the digital and physical world almost seamlessly, from showrooms to the live chat experience, or making online appointments, etc. We have a strong test-and-learn agenda to help us continue to design our organization, and our customer experience around this new reality with an aim to create the most efficient and enjoyable customer journey.

Curtright

Billy Curtright

Billy Curtright, national sales manager, Magniflex

Our 2021 strategy is focused on helping our brick-and-mortar dealers sell our products online. By combining our social media marketing campaign and our drop-shipping capabilities, we want our dealers to be able to compete in the new marketplace.

And we will give them all of web tools required to do that ranging from dynamic video and engaging copy for their websites to generating consumer leads in their trading area. We will do whatever it takes to help them combine their in-store experience with the latest in online marketing to close the sale. 

MLILY_Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen, president, MLily USA

We will be adopting a two-pronged strategy in 2021 to take advantage of the opportunities we anticipate. First, as our business continues to grow at a brisk pace, we are expanding our domestic manufacturing footprint with two additional plants in the United States. That will bring us to a total of four to handle all our production needs domestically.

Second, we will continue to expand our product line, with a special emphasis on innovative and unique products that truly differentiate us in the market. Prime examples of this strategy include the upcoming launch of our JAMA collection — our first entry into the juvenile bedding segment — which will include two mattresses and a pillow. We see opportunities for significant growth in the juvenile sleep products category, and JAMA will fill a niche by offering retailers bright, fun mattresses from an already trusted vendor partner.

In addition, we’ll be expanding our innovative fan-cooled PowerCool sleep system with a new model designed with a higher-density foam to deliver a firmer comfort feel. With this addition, the PowerCool line will be available in plush and firm, providing consumers a choice of comfort options on one of our best-selling designs that features industry-leading technology.

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Scott Hill

Scott Hill, president of sales, New Classic Furniture

Our owner and I are really bullish on 2021. There are so many good signs: the housing market, interest rates, the stimulus package that just passed, a vaccine. We all want to put 2020 behind us, but we need to keep in mind what we learned and how to take advantage moving forward.

The biggest thing we’re focusing on is that it’s all about speed to market. What a year the industry could have had if we’d been able to get more product to market faster.

We’re increasing our footprint in domestic warehousing by double digits so we can have more product waiting for our customers. We’re also increasing our overseas warehousing to allow customers ordering containers to get the goods faster.

We’re adding more personnel and investing in our online platform, which skyrocketed in 2020. We see that growing again substantially in 2021, at least by double digits.

Finally, we’re taking the guesswork out of product development. We won’t be waiting on markets anymore and are making product decisions every month. We’re getting input from key customers across the U.S. before it’s exhibited as well as our own gut feeling. If we can make those fast product decisions with key retailers, we’ll be able to increase turns at least one time per year, which will be huge for our growth.

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson, CEO, Overstock

Overstock will continue to leverage new and improving technology to help our target customers find the products they love and deliver those products to them quickly. We are focused on the online retail blocking and tackling to continue our sustainable, profitable market share growth.

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Alex Shuford III

Alex Shuford III, CEO, RHF Companies

The spike in demand that we and the industry have enjoyed over the last two quarters is likely to continue through the early part of 2021, and so capacity expansion is top of mind. However, we don’t “trust” the durability of this demand surge, as we believe it is, as least in part, being fueled by short-term shifts in consumer spending that will subside once travel and entertainment industries recover in the second half of 2021.

With that in mind, our capacity expansion plans have to be flexible enough to move up and down with volatilty in the coming year. We certainly need people and are hiring, but we are also looking at capital spending (equipment) projects and efficiency programs to help get more out of the workforce we already have.
We do however believe that part of the demand equation has changed more structurally. We believe the pandemic has jump-started household creation among the Millennials and helped to shift their focus from urban living based on “convenient access to personal entertainment” to suburban living and starting or enhancing their family structures. This coupled with low interest rates and “work from home” flexibility has the potential to increase the total amount of residential square footage that needs to be furnished over the next five years.

These new customers shop differently and have unique service expectations. Speed, convenience and trust are critical. Smaller boutique retail experiences that are authentic should thrive.

Brad Cates

Brad Cates

Brad Cates, CEO, Sarreid

Our plan and associated strategy for 2021 started in April 2020. … Along with the major improvements we made to our website and printed catalog, we ramped up our social media presence and built a 3,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art studio for photo, video and Zoom calls, enabling us to entirely rethink our reliance on the traditional, market-driven product introduction cycle.

While we have always been focused on a continuous offering of fresh product, we pushed product development into an entirely new gear, working with an individual I consider to be one of the best case goods designers in the business. Concurrently, we doubled, then doubled again, our purchase orders for in-line product and best sellers and kept the containers flowing, putting us in an enviable in-stock position at a time when we all know available inventory is the name of the game. The result is that Sarreid is now faster to market than at any time in our 54-year-history. …

While the pandemic was certainly a catalyst for these moves, the success we have enjoyed means we don’t ever foresee returning to the way we used to approach the business. As we move into the new year, we continue to be in heavy product development and to dramatically increase our ordering in order to have the right product at the right time for our customers. 

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker, president, Skyline Furniture

We expect to see online sales continue to grow into 2021. Given that we specialize in e-commerce, we plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.

We will be keeping our manufacturing process nimble and investing heavily in our 3D capabilities. We firmly believe these components will be key to a successful sales strategy into the new year.

Nick Bates

Nick Bates

Nick Bates, president, Spring Air

We are not making big changes in 2021. Instead, we plan stay the course in helping fill the orders of our retailers. This is not the year to change our business model.

We have taken on took on a lot of new business, and our focus on expanding our manufacturing capabilities to remain current with our delivery. During 2020, we were successful in securing new business, and our sole focus will be in beefing up our production to hit maximum output.

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine, president and CEO, Therapedic

The biggest thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increase in online shopping: the consumers’ ability to interface online to meet their purchasing needs, creating a significant amount of Internet purchasing power. Consumers have become much more savvy and adept at buying online.

As a result, we have been retooling our websites. We’ve made them more accessible for sight and hearing impaired and overall easier to navigate. Therapedic.com is undergoing an entire retrofit to make it more accessible and optimized to be more mobile friendly. All of the enhancements will be completed within the first quarter.

bassett, wyatt 2020

Wyatt Bassett

Wyatt Bassett, CEO, Vaughan-Bassett

Our biggest change in 2021 will be to focus on the return of retailers looking for new, fresh and different looks and new product, particularly goods that can reach retail floors before the middle of the year. It will have been more than a year and a half (October 2019) since most retailers have focused on shopping for new product vs. trying to source what was available.

We have been fortunate in the past nine months that we manufacture domestically and have a supply chain that is very local. We have maintained very good delivery (exceptional delivery relative to the overall market) and currently ship more than 80% of our line, including all best sellers, within two weeks. That will only improve on our current line in the next 60 days; and we will carry stock from day one on all new introductions.

I believe given the current strength in home furnishings, we can stock and deliver fresh, new step-up looks at attractive, saleable price points and continue to service them throughout the year on, or close to, an on-demand, in stock basis.

Matt Davis COO Walker Edison

Matt Davis

Matt Davis, COO, Walker Edison

As we look forward into 2021, one of our priorities will be to continue focusing on improving the overall end consumer experience. We are making large investments into our supply chain network that will improve shipping speeds and get Walker Edison products into the hands of consumers faster than ever.

Not only will customers receive their items quicker, but these investments will also lower damage rates and create business efficiencies that will ultimately lead to a happier end consumer.

Image of Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak, chief merchandising officer, Wayfair

We know our customers have had a hard year, and if anything, have an even deeper connection to their home and community. They are going to be much more inclined to shop online to renovate, decorate and create their own unique home space than before.

The acceleration to online isn’t necessarily changing our plan as much as we’re fast adjusting to heightened expectations around quality of merchandising, financial and in-home services, inventory availability, speed to customer and of course price to value in this economic environment. So, the biggest change here for us is we’re moving even faster on our ambitious plan to deliver the best home experience for our customer anytime, anywhere.

Another big change is for our supplier partners. One of our top priorities is to be the best home platform for our suppliers. We want our supplier interface, Partner Home, to be as good as the consumer experience we have for our customers. Our suppliers should expect significant upgrades this year on the ease and quality of the tools and analytics we provide them to optimize their business with us.

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga, CEO, Zuo Modern

Every year there is a new challenge, and this year we think it will be in the logistics and manufacturing side. Thankfully, we have a great team overseas and our leader in production, Steve Poon, has many years of experience to minimize the overpaying on freight, delays on manufacture and QA, thus giving us a strong advantage to keep supplying products to our partners with an aggressive price and a prompt delivery.

Our focus for the first two quarters of the year will continue to be on the residential side with drop-ship as a priority as we see end consumers continuing to shop from home. We also see a possible fast recovery on the hospitality and event side by the end of the third and fourth quarters, with demand for hospitality items because of the reopening of new restaurants, bars and hotels.

The post Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers appeared first on Furniture Today.

Mental health matters: NRF panel tackles retail stress, offers digital mental health tools

HIGH POINT — In the face of a year’s worth of pandemic stress, national political unrest and more, the rate of mental health issues, stress and burnout in the U.S. has skyrocketed, and according to a session during the National Retail Federation’s annual retail conference NRF 2021, its impact is becoming more apparent in retail spaces.

According to a study from workforce management company Quinyx, 54% of retail employees said their job has negatively impacted their mental health during the pandemic, and 70% of employees say this period has been the most stressful of their career.

As a result, work effectiveness is being impacted.

In its 2021 State of Stress survey, employee health and wellbeing engagement company Grokker found that 50% of employees have reported increasing their unhealthy eating habits, 42% have reported getting less physical activity, and 25% have increased their use of alcohol and/or controlled substances. Right now, hourly employees without benefits are the most stressed, with 80% of workers reporting feeling overwhelmed, though stress is widespread in about 76% of employees.

“Stress is very, very real … and what is really kind of staggering is when you look at retail employees in particular,” said Lorna Borenstein, CEO of Grokker. “But how do you support employees with such a widespread problem?”

According to Borenstein, she has seen three things really make a difference:

  • Recognizing that stress does not just affect mental health, but it also impacts sleep, nutrition, energy, work and more. It is a whole person issue.
  • Utilizing digital solutions such as apps and videos to support employees as they are less expensive and more private than most in-person solutions, especially with coronavirus social distancing concerns and for employees without benefits.
  • Partnering and working with credentialed professionals so that your employees can connect with true experts and build community.

At online meditation and wellness platform Headspace, Stuart Poole, senior director of business development, said that COVID-19 has not only accelerated stress, but it also has increased the acceptance of digital health platforms, as medical offices and more have turned to online appointments and video calls in the wake of the pandemic. This has made digital mental health solutions more needed and popular for employees, especially as rates of mental health issues and stress surge.

“We ran a study of more than 2,500 U.S. and U.K. based employees in retail, hospitality and travel, and a few other industries and we found that 42% of workers have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety,” noted Poole. “There’s just not enough therapists in the world to meet the surging demand of these mental health issues, and it’s important to have an approachable and scalable offer.”

Even though the solutions offered by companies like Headspace and Grokker may look different from traditionally therapy and mental health programming  — such as celebrity-guided motivational sessions, meditations, exercise programming and more — studies show they work for employees. With Headspace, users see focus improve 22% after just one sessions, burnout decreases by 14% after four sessions, and stress decrease on average 32% after 20 days of usage. After two months, 46% of users see depressive symptoms decrease.

But how can managers and companies encourage their employees to take advantage of mental health assistance and programs — digital or otherwise — once a company begins offering them?

It starts with destigmatizing mental health care and issues, and that often involves getting managers and executives more involved in talking about mental health, openly incentivizing participation and making information and goals shared through the programs private.

At a large Seattle-based retail coffee maker, Headspace put together a fireside chat-style video that featured the company co-founder and CEO when it rolled out a new program with the company, creating a space for the CEO to discuss candidly his mental health journey. Ultimately, that honesty and openness sparked “unprecedented” and continued engagement rates with that retailer’s employees.

In Borenstein’s view, offering varyied content and options is also a key component to getting employees involved and invested in wellness. Just like employees and their stressors, solutions are not one size fits all, and neither are employee wellness goals.

Since stress and mental health issues impact the whole body, Grokker offers everything from guided private and group exercise classes to counseling and expert mental health sessions. It is also quick to develop new offerings when it observes new wellness trends or increased interest in particular programs.

“What we’re really in the business of is trust,” said Borenstein. “How do we help the employer develop a better trusted relationship with its worker, and the way we do that is make sure we are an incredibly trusted provider and brand to the employees. …

“You have to provide a sense of ‘you’re not alone’ and ‘we’re going to be here for you no matter what you’re suffering from and no matter what your achievements are. We’ll support you through that, too.’”

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Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund

In 2020 there was a 70% increase in returns to general merchandise e-commerce sites. In the last two months alone, returns exceeded $70 billion dollars for these e-commerce retailers that mention constantly, “easy returns.” Yes, we know they want us to believe they just pass the returns to the vendors, but that isn’t always the case. Ever heard of smoke and mirrors?

During the pandemic of 2020, more people than ever were using the Internet for a broad range of purchases, much broader because of the new circumstances. On top of that, many fewer people want to do in-store returns. Can you blame them? So the returns are a larger problem than ever.

In an article in Payments.com, Jan. 11, it was disclosed that Amazon, Walmart and more recently Target are using their ultra-complicated diagnostics and algorithms to study this process and are now telling more people “yes, you will get your refund, but in addition, you may keep the purchased item. Please consider contributing it to a charity or passing it along to someone needy, or just use it yourself.” They did not say, to my surprise, “We don’t give a hoot!”

All of us in the furniture and mattress industries are too aware of the costs of returns and complying with the regulations on selling used furnishings. Many returns erase the profits on several sales, not just that one being returned.

Now these massive e-commerce retailers are using their technology to evaluate each return, according to the Payments.com article. They look at how often you return things, the likelihood the item will be damaged or dirty, how much money they recover on each return of that item and if it can possibly be put back in the store. That is a lot to consider, but they are finding that more often, they lose more money on the return than they can ever recoup on a resale.

We as an industry need to seriously need to examine this same issue.

More times than we want to admit, you might be ahead of the game telling your customer that they will get a refund and can keep the item, use it as they will. Yes, it will cut back on the selection in your scratch-and-dent department, but that isn’t all bad. Deep in the corners of that department are things you would rather forget anyway.

The post Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund appeared first on Furniture Today.

Restonic Mattress names Tokarz president

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­BUFFALO, N.Y. – Restonic Mattress Corp. has tapped Laurie Tokarz as its new president, succeeding Ron Passaglia.

Tokarz brings 25 years of experience in the home furnishings and bedding industry to her new position. Most recently, she was the chief sales officer for Visionary Sleep, Restonic’s largest licensee.

Tokarz began her bedding career at Sibley’s department store as a buyer and was later named divisional merchandise manager for the home furnishings division. From there, she joined Bauhaus Upholstery, and in 1996 joined Serta as a sales representative.

In 2000, Tokarz joined Alliance Sleep Products, a Restonic licensee, and worked alongside the late Tom Comer, eventually serving as president. In 2017, Bob Sherman acquired Alliance Sleep, and Tokarz was named chief sales officer for the newly formed Visionary Sleep. Tokarz also currently serves on the International Sleep Products Assn. board of trustees.

Tokarz succeeds Passaglia, former president and CEO, who retired and transitioned into a consulting position Jan. 1.

“Laurie has a unique understanding of the dynamic changes happening within our industry from the consumer, retailer and the licensee viewpoints,” Passaglia said. “Her experience and successful history of applying these assets for today’s dynamic marketplace will be well-received by our retailers and all of our domestic and international licenses. Her loyal brand stewardship to Restonic has positioned her as the ideal candidate for this position.”

In her role as president, Tokarz will work with domestic and international licensees as well as retailers. She’ll oversee brand strategy and alignment for Restonic’s family of brands, which includes Biltmore and Scott Living. Tokarz will work with Julia Rosien, Restonic’s vice president of brand and digital marketing, to support an adoption of digital transformation in marketing and communication.

“I am delighted to take on this role, which allows me to continue my 20-plus year goal of driving the Restonic brand,” Tokarz said. “With the retail environment evolving at warp speed, Restonic is poised to help retailers garner consumers’ attention with turnkey digital marketing programs and the strength of our licensed brands, Scott Living and Biltmore.”

The post Restonic Mattress names Tokarz president appeared first on Furniture Today.

Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow

There is a scourge spreading across the industry that threatens to blunt the momentum of renewed consumer interest in all things home. Its effects are not mitigated by vaccination or subject to state and local decisions to close businesses or keep them open. Unlike the pandemic, its impact will not vary from state to state or market to market.

This affliction is not new; it challenged the industry as recently as just two short years ago.

I’m speaking, of course, about rising costs and price increases. One of the most impactful right now is freight, with container rates in the $1,300 to $1,500 range to California and nearly double that to New York ports. At a time when manufacturers are looking to ramp up production overseas and speed that production to eager U.S. consumers, the impact of these steadily rising costs has made their efforts more costly and difficult.

In the context of other rising costs, it is increasingly likely, if not already underway, that retailers will be seeing price increases passed along in the coming weeks and months. It seems equally inevitable that consumers will be confronted with similarly increased prices.

This is not a bad thing.

For too long, the furniture industry has been victim of reverse inflation. No other industry still sells its products at the same price today as when the Dodge Aries was America’s hot vehicle choice. For those too young to get the reference … it was the early 1980s.

Don’t get me wrong. No one wants to raise prices: not suppliers, not manufacturers, not retailers. But if there was ever an environment in which the impact of raised prices could be minimized, this is it. Time and again I’ve heard from retailers in recent months that it’s less about what’s hot than what’s available.

With demand being what it is, with many younger consumers coming into the market for the first time, and with others coming back for the first time in some years, price sensitivity is likely to be less an issue now that at any time in recent years.

These are not issues that are going away anytime soon. They will certainly define the first half and will likely play a key role in shaping the year’s performance overall. For some, they will represent an existential challenge, for others a major opportunity.

Our staff is currently engaged with the industry to uncover the strategies companies are employing to deal with issues related both to rising costs and to enhancing capacity and eliminating backlogs. As these issues continue to challenge furniture retailers, we are reaching out for those strategies as well.

We welcome those who are willing to share their stories and challenges and those who believe they are positioned to maximize the emerging opportunities. We also welcome opinions on all sides of these key issues. If you would like to share your story or your opinion, please reach out.

The post Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow appeared first on Furniture Today.

Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers

 

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Wendy Youds

Wendy Youds, vice president of product and merchandising, Article

As we continue to scale and the pandemic-induced demand continues to surge into 2021, we’re doubling down on supply chain efficiencies.

We’ve diversified the number of manufacturing partners we work with to take more control of the design process and introduce more original equipment manufacturer (OEM) designs. We’re also developing exclusive raw materials for our products, including upholstery fabric and leather.

These efforts ensure our products are readily available to consumers and improve manufacturing lead times while maintaining our quality standards across our catalog with competitive pricing, which ultimately makes the furniture-buying experience easier for our customers.

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Todd Wanek

Todd Wanek, CEO, Ashley Furniture Inds.

The biggest focus for us and everyone in manufacturing and retail is figuring out the supply chain and get back to executing at a higher level in 2021. We need to gauge consumer demand and put together a plan that meets that demand. 2020 was a year of learning for everyone because the entire system was stressed. It showed us and everyone else the flaws.

We’re expanding our physical infrastructure with more warehousing, more new trucks and more capacity. We’re re-inventing the flow of information, from manufacturers to retailers, from retailers to consumers, all the touch points.

2021 is a year of challenging everything that was constrained in 2020, from manufacturing to distribution to supply chain. We’re identifying everything that went right in 2020 — and there was a lot — and everything that went wrong, and (we’re) refocusing to improve execution and flow of information.

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone, CEO, Chaddock

We made some big moves in 2020 that have set a solid foundation for a great 2021. We’ve set new standards for quality and turnaround time. We’ve innovated easy custom programs inspired by our design accounts, and we’ve made the process of bringing custom-crafted furniture to life easier than ever.

We plan to do even more of that in 2021. Chaddock remains committed to being on-demand for our customers. Whether that’s by expanding our quick-ship program to offer more designs that maintain industry leading lead times or continuing to inspire personalization or develop new tools to create greater efficiencies, we want to  allow our customers to focus on what they do best, creating and selling design.

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Roy Calcagne

Roy Calcagne, CEO, Craftmaster Furniture

The opportunity in my mind is reducing our lead times. … Everyone has 12-week, 14-, 16-, 22-week delivery right now, and (manufacturers) are all in the same boat. The first guys to come back to normal lead times are going to be the winners.

If we can be one of the first to reduce our lead times back to normal, we can pick up slots and permanently lock in these great gains in business we’ve had this past year. When the economy opens up and people start traveling and dining out again, a lot of this disposable income will dry up, and where once we had, say, five slots on a floor, we want to have 10.

The biggest way to achieve that is expanding capacity. … We believe our Lenoir plant that opened in September will give us an additional 25% capacity, and we’re adding a line in each of our three plants in Alexander County, so we’re talking about a total of 40% expansion in capacity this year.

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO, Ethan Allen

Our focus for 2021 revolves around strengthening the ways that we combine technology with personal service.

These are our main priorities: employee safety, continued investment in digital design and interactive communication technologies, growing our business and continuing to generate cash, refining our product offerings to reach a large client base, and leveraging our vertical integration, including continuing to make 75% of our products in our North American workshops.

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Jerry Dittmer

Jerry Dittmer, president and CEO, Flexsteel Inds.

Flexsteel plans to accelerate growth investments focused on building a differentiated and highly compelling customer experience, rapidly expanding our supply chain capacity and agility, and integrating our omnichannel and digital experience with all our customers.

Dave Swers

Dave Swers

Dave Swers, president, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics

With more time at home, many consumers are investing in and around their homes to create an environment they can enjoy. This has created additional demand for Sunbrella fabrics in every category, including both indoor and outdoor upholstery, among others. For example, the outdoor season is now extended with the patio becoming a new focal point for leisure and family time.

With these shifts come new opportunities, as the desire and demand grows for comfortable textiles that perform throughout every season.

We recently announced a $65 million investment to expand our production capabilities at our U.S. and global plants to support our manufacturing and retail partners. This significant investment will support even greater future demand for Sunbrella, Dickson and other Glen Raven fabrics so we can continue serving our customers with success.

In addition, the way consumers shop is changing, and we are increasing our marketing investments on new channels while working with our partners on new ways to connect with and inspire consumers.

Naboicheck,

Bob Naboicheck

Bob Naboicheck, president and CEO, Gold Bond

The industry is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been very fortunate to be able to get materials that we need to keep up with the increased demand that we are seeing.

We anticipate the growth will continue in 2021 as customers dramatically expand their program with us. We remain committed to maintaining the quality of our products by using the construction we have always used instead of despec-ing product with inferior components. Our deliveries have held, and our team is delivering product quickly because of our ability to receive the materials we need from our partners.

Mark Jones

Mark Jones

Mark Jones, president and CEO, HSM

One of the most immediate opportunities in the home furnishings segment is supporting our manufacturing customers as they ride the “nesting phenomenon.” Likely to persist well into the new year, consumers want to upgrade their homes with new furniture, mattresses and home accessories. As a key supplier of components for these products, our 2021 strategy is built upon solidifying our position as a trusted and reliable domestic supplier for the home furnishings industry.

From a process perspective, as orders climb well above everyone’s expectations — the most we’ve seen in more than a decade — we will be making further investments in automation equipment across our enterprise to drive manufacturing efficiencies to benefit our customers.

In terms of our products, we are seeing increased consumer preferences for products and brands that promote wellness and are sustainable. As such, we will continue our R&D emphasis on products such as our Flexecore sustainably designed mattress component system, which is designed to eliminate the glue that is typically used to bond coil springs and mattress layers together.

Of course, none of the changes in our processes or products can come to fruition without the support of our people. We will continue to leverage the resiliency and resolve demonstrated by our team in 2020 to continually reimagine how we operate our business in 2021 and beyond.

Lee Boone

Lee Boone

Lee Boone, president, Home Meridian International

Given the extreme challenges our industry is experiencing in global logistics today, we have shifted much of our attention to product availability and shipping. The vast majority of our retailers are focused on our ability to deliver existing orders on existing products. While this may not represent “new” opportunity, delivering products to our customers has never been more important or more difficult.

Regarding new opportunity, we are launching our new Scott Brothers licensed product lines in the spring of this year, and we are already seeing strong levels of anticipation and demand for the brand. Beyond that, improving our service levels across all of our business units, product categories and channels of distribution is of vital importance this year.

Jeremy Hoff

Jeremy Hoff, president, Hooker Legacy Brands

In 2021, we will continue our focus on reducing product development lead times. Last year, we made tremendous strides in this area, and we’ll continue that effort this year. Creating more speed in product development keeps our assortment more on-trend and provides incremental growth opportunities with our partners.

Additionally, reducing our lead times from order to shipping on existing products will be a major emphasis for us in 2021. Focusing on continuous improvements in our supply chain and logistics will allow us to better align ourselves with the increasing demands of today’s consumer.

Lastly, we will also concentrate on rationalizing our portfolio of products to ensure that our overall capacity supports our efforts to be in stock and ship quickly.

Hooker Casegoods, Hooker Upholstery, Bradington Young, and Sam Moore will be ready in March for High Point Premarket in April and the rescheduled spring market in June. This will allow us to expedite all our marketing efforts to present our customers our new product assortment in person or virtually.

Jill Johns Interior Define

Jill Johns

Jill John, chief customer officer, Interior Define

Interior Define saw an increase in demand during the holidays, and really post COVID-19 hitting in the early spring. The company is taking the following actions to meet the increase in demand: Expanding our manufacturing facilities to meet increased demand; leveraging our shipping providers to offer expedited options when available; and growing our customer service team to better assist with a high volume of requests.

Terry McNew Headshot

Terry McNew

Terry McNew, CEO, Klaussner Home Furnishings

My main goal is to continue to evaluate the business in terms of processes, both in supply chain and internally. We have a number of changes underway that we’ll continue in 2021, and they’ve only been accelerated by COVID-19, which has impacted the supply chain all over the world the same way it impacted us with things like absenteeism and quarantines. We’ve been working on ways to eliminate waste, and we’ve been able to increase our through-put by nearly 70% per employee in the past 10 months, but we’ll still be working on that.

First, we’re reducing transportation waste within the production process. When you cut wood in one location, ship it to another to turn it into frames, and walk those frames 50 yards to another place for assembly, that’s not a lean process. We’ve reorganized to put all the processes beside each other. We’re about 80% of the way there. Since we have 2.5 million square feet of production space in five main campuses with multiple plants on each campus, it takes a while to fully implement.

We’re also on a march to rationalize our product line, and we’ve already begun reducing the number of non-productive SKUs. We’ve discontinued slow-moving pieces; people forget how to build them if it’s only a few times a year, and you end up with excess supply of materials due to minimum order quantities. That’s increased our through-put, and our SKU count is down 30%, but we still have a long way to go.

A big key in the year ahead is President-elect Biden’s tax policies: Mr. Biden tends toward higher taxes, and that reduces economic activity. … If one party controls Congress and the administration, higher taxes are more likely. To me, that’s the last piece of the puzzle for forecasting 2021.

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow, chairman, president and CEO, La-Z-Boy

Obviously technology is going to play a larger role going forward in putting control of the purchase process and buying experience in our consumers’ hands. Today our customers not only shop and do research online, but can schedule and track their own delivery from our distribution centers.
Another technology area is personalization. In the past, we’d run ads and always the same message to every customer, but now we are able to get targeted messages to targeted customers utilizing all the data we have on what they’ve bought and what they’re looking for. That will become the norm rather than the exception.

Everybody with a large retail footprint is trying to catch up with e-commerce or omnichannel, and the e-commerce businesses are trying to establish a retail footprint. Our core customer wants white-glove delivery and won’t accept drop shipping to the door. Technology is the key again, and we’re doing a lot of work on the technology and communication side.

From the distribution center, we are working toward a system where we’ll send a picture of the delivery team to the consumer in advance. And our system allows the customer to schedule their own delivery times and, once it leaves the distribution center, track the timing to her home so she isn’t waiting for a call. The more information you put in the customers’ hands, the more control you give them, and that’s where we’re making significant progress.

A second issue is supply chain, and given the increases in volume, everyone’s supply chain is stressed, and everyone’s re-thinking it. With the industry’s experience with tariffs and the pandemic, a number of questions are being asked: How many different partners do you need, how do you strategically spread your country risk? How can you remain agile and have flexibility when volume goes up or down?

A major retailer told me recently they used to shop only for “value” — the best price you can get — but they got over-weighted with one or two countries. He mentioned he does not want to make a single bet on a single geography, and he is thinking about what that looks like in the future so we’re not beholden to the winds of change in one part of the world.

A third consideration is our employees. What do they need coming out of the pandemic to continue to feel safe in our plants and in our stores, and what can we do to help them enhance their performance with things like technology, processes and workflow in both our factories and stores.

I think the pandemic “hangover” is going to last a while, and the expectations for your customers, your supply chain and your employees are going to be a little different.

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Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell, CEO, Leather Italia

First is a continued focus on our forecasting and making sure the flow or our product and our production schedules are consistent and true to demand. It is critical that our company look at product needs and make sure we are supporting those needs for the retailers.

To that end, we’ll increase pre-purchases of raw material, in particular leather, which has become very polarized with this growth and demand we experienced in 2020. In order to be consistent and perform at an extremely high level, keeping more material on hand is a very clear need, and it’s become a very high-action item we’ll be concentrating on.

Also, at our main motion facility in China, Shae Motion, we’ve added four more production lines to support more growth in 2021 and to ensure consistency of flow with respect to our current and future product obligations. 

Phil Haney

Phil Haney

Phil Haney, president and CEO, Lexington Home Brands

For Lexington Home Brands it is not so much a change, but rather a continuation of our commitment to service our business with our retail dealers and designers. When the pandemic hit, we did not cancel any purchase orders with our suppliers, we did not delay any shipments or slow down any production in process. During the “shut-down,” we continued to receive inbound product at our service centers and as retail business rebounded strongly for our retail partners, we had inventory to service their needs.

As business continued strong through the balance of the year, we have continued to place large orders for product and remain committed to providing excellent service for our dealers and the design community. However, we are not immune to the various logistic issues challenging our industry; container and ocean freight availability; and fabric, foam and metal delays.

The biggest change is just the amount of inventory on hand to support the business. 

Jack Krause

Jack Krause

Jack Krause, president and COO, Lovesac

The biggest changes we will make are in how we define our go to market strategy and how we guide our customer through the purchase journey. We have learned a great deal this year about customer needs and how they cross between the digital and physical world almost seamlessly, from showrooms to the live chat experience, or making online appointments, etc. We have a strong test-and-learn agenda to help us continue to design our organization, and our customer experience around this new reality with an aim to create the most efficient and enjoyable customer journey.

Curtright

Billy Curtright

Billy Curtright, national sales manager, Magniflex

Our 2021 strategy is focused on helping our brick-and-mortar dealers sell our products online. By combining our social media marketing campaign and our drop-shipping capabilities, we want our dealers to be able to compete in the new marketplace.

And we will give them all of web tools required to do that ranging from dynamic video and engaging copy for their websites to generating consumer leads in their trading area. We will do whatever it takes to help them combine their in-store experience with the latest in online marketing to close the sale. 

MLILY_Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen, president, MLily USA

We will be adopting a two-pronged strategy in 2021 to take advantage of the opportunities we anticipate. First, as our business continues to grow at a brisk pace, we are expanding our domestic manufacturing footprint with two additional plants in the United States. That will bring us to a total of four to handle all our production needs domestically.

Second, we will continue to expand our product line, with a special emphasis on innovative and unique products that truly differentiate us in the market. Prime examples of this strategy include the upcoming launch of our JAMA collection — our first entry into the juvenile bedding segment — which will include two mattresses and a pillow. We see opportunities for significant growth in the juvenile sleep products category, and JAMA will fill a niche by offering retailers bright, fun mattresses from an already trusted vendor partner.

In addition, we’ll be expanding our innovative fan-cooled PowerCool sleep system with a new model designed with a higher-density foam to deliver a firmer comfort feel. With this addition, the PowerCool line will be available in plush and firm, providing consumers a choice of comfort options on one of our best-selling designs that features industry-leading technology.

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Scott Hill

Scott Hill, president of sales, New Classic Furniture

Our owner and I are really bullish on 2021. There are so many good signs: the housing market, interest rates, the stimulus package that just passed, a vaccine. We all want to put 2020 behind us, but we need to keep in mind what we learned and how to take advantage moving forward.

The biggest thing we’re focusing on is that it’s all about speed to market. What a year the industry could have had if we’d been able to get more product to market faster.

We’re increasing our footprint in domestic warehousing by double digits so we can have more product waiting for our customers. We’re also increasing our overseas warehousing to allow customers ordering containers to get the goods faster.

We’re adding more personnel and investing in our online platform, which skyrocketed in 2020. We see that growing again substantially in 2021, at least by double digits.

Finally, we’re taking the guesswork out of product development. We won’t be waiting on markets anymore and are making product decisions every month. We’re getting input from key customers across the U.S. before it’s exhibited as well as our own gut feeling. If we can make those fast product decisions with key retailers, we’ll be able to increase turns at least one time per year, which will be huge for our growth.

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson, CEO, Overstock

Overstock will continue to leverage new and improving technology to help our target customers find the products they love and deliver those products to them quickly. We are focused on the online retail blocking and tackling to continue our sustainable, profitable market share growth.

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Alex Shuford III

Alex Shuford III, CEO, RHF Companies

The spike in demand that we and the industry have enjoyed over the last two quarters is likely to continue through the early part of 2021, and so capacity expansion is top of mind. However, we don’t “trust” the durability of this demand surge, as we believe it is, as least in part, being fueled by short-term shifts in consumer spending that will subside once travel and entertainment industries recover in the second half of 2021.

With that in mind, our capacity expansion plans have to be flexible enough to move up and down with volatilty in the coming year. We certainly need people and are hiring, but we are also looking at capital spending (equipment) projects and efficiency programs to help get more out of the workforce we already have.
We do however believe that part of the demand equation has changed more structurally. We believe the pandemic has jump-started household creation among the Millennials and helped to shift their focus from urban living based on “convenient access to personal entertainment” to suburban living and starting or enhancing their family structures. This coupled with low interest rates and “work from home” flexibility has the potential to increase the total amount of residential square footage that needs to be furnished over the next five years.

These new customers shop differently and have unique service expectations. Speed, convenience and trust are critical. Smaller boutique retail experiences that are authentic should thrive.

Brad Cates

Brad Cates

Brad Cates, CEO, Sarreid

Our plan and associated strategy for 2021 started in April 2020. … Along with the major improvements we made to our website and printed catalog, we ramped up our social media presence and built a 3,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art studio for photo, video and Zoom calls, enabling us to entirely rethink our reliance on the traditional, market-driven product introduction cycle.

While we have always been focused on a continuous offering of fresh product, we pushed product development into an entirely new gear, working with an individual I consider to be one of the best case goods designers in the business. Concurrently, we doubled, then doubled again, our purchase orders for in-line product and best sellers and kept the containers flowing, putting us in an enviable in-stock position at a time when we all know available inventory is the name of the game. The result is that Sarreid is now faster to market than at any time in our 54-year-history. …

While the pandemic was certainly a catalyst for these moves, the success we have enjoyed means we don’t ever foresee returning to the way we used to approach the business. As we move into the new year, we continue to be in heavy product development and to dramatically increase our ordering in order to have the right product at the right time for our customers. 

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker, president, Skyline Furniture

We expect to see online sales continue to grow into 2021. Given that we specialize in e-commerce, we plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.

We will be keeping our manufacturing process nimble and investing heavily in our 3D capabilities. We firmly believe these components will be key to a successful sales strategy into the new year.

Nick Bates

Nick Bates

Nick Bates, president, Spring Air

We are not making big changes in 2021. Instead, we plan stay the course in helping fill the orders of our retailers. This is not the year to change our business model.

We have taken on took on a lot of new business, and our focus on expanding our manufacturing capabilities to remain current with our delivery. During 2020, we were successful in securing new business, and our sole focus will be in beefing up our production to hit maximum output.

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine, president and CEO, Therapedic

The biggest thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increase in online shopping: the consumers’ ability to interface online to meet their purchasing needs, creating a significant amount of Internet purchasing power. Consumers have become much more savvy and adept at buying online.

As a result, we have been retooling our websites. We’ve made them more accessible for sight and hearing impaired and overall easier to navigate. Therapedic.com is undergoing an entire retrofit to make it more accessible and optimized to be more mobile friendly. All of the enhancements will be completed within the first quarter.

bassett, wyatt 2020

Wyatt Bassett

Wyatt Bassett, CEO, Vaughan-Bassett

Our biggest change in 2021 will be to focus on the return of retailers looking for new, fresh and different looks and new product, particularly goods that can reach retail floors before the middle of the year. It will have been more than a year and a half (October 2019) since most retailers have focused on shopping for new product vs. trying to source what was available.

We have been fortunate in the past nine months that we manufacture domestically and have a supply chain that is very local. We have maintained very good delivery (exceptional delivery relative to the overall market) and currently ship more than 80% of our line, including all best sellers, within two weeks. That will only improve on our current line in the next 60 days; and we will carry stock from day one on all new introductions.

I believe given the current strength in home furnishings, we can stock and deliver fresh, new step-up looks at attractive, saleable price points and continue to service them throughout the year on, or close to, an on-demand, in stock basis.

Matt Davis COO Walker Edison

Matt Davis

Matt Davis, COO, Walker Edison

As we look forward into 2021, one of our priorities will be to continue focusing on improving the overall end consumer experience. We are making large investments into our supply chain network that will improve shipping speeds and get Walker Edison products into the hands of consumers faster than ever.

Not only will customers receive their items quicker, but these investments will also lower damage rates and create business efficiencies that will ultimately lead to a happier end consumer.

Image of Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak, chief merchandising officer, Wayfair

We know our customers have had a hard year, and if anything, have an even deeper connection to their home and community. They are going to be much more inclined to shop online to renovate, decorate and create their own unique home space than before.

The acceleration to online isn’t necessarily changing our plan as much as we’re fast adjusting to heightened expectations around quality of merchandising, financial and in-home services, inventory availability, speed to customer and of course price to value in this economic environment. So, the biggest change here for us is we’re moving even faster on our ambitious plan to deliver the best home experience for our customer anytime, anywhere.

Another big change is for our supplier partners. One of our top priorities is to be the best home platform for our suppliers. We want our supplier interface, Partner Home, to be as good as the consumer experience we have for our customers. Our suppliers should expect significant upgrades this year on the ease and quality of the tools and analytics we provide them to optimize their business with us.

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga, CEO, Zuo Modern

Every year there is a new challenge, and this year we think it will be in the logistics and manufacturing side. Thankfully, we have a great team overseas and our leader in production, Steve Poon, has many years of experience to minimize the overpaying on freight, delays on manufacture and QA, thus giving us a strong advantage to keep supplying products to our partners with an aggressive price and a prompt delivery.

Our focus for the first two quarters of the year will continue to be on the residential side with drop-ship as a priority as we see end consumers continuing to shop from home. We also see a possible fast recovery on the hospitality and event side by the end of the third and fourth quarters, with demand for hospitality items because of the reopening of new restaurants, bars and hotels.

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Mental health matters: NRF panel tackles retail stress, offers digital mental health tools

HIGH POINT — In the face of a year’s worth of pandemic stress, national political unrest and more, the rate of mental health issues, stress and burnout in the U.S. has skyrocketed, and according to a session during the National Retail Federation’s annual retail conference NRF 2021, its impact is becoming more apparent in retail spaces.

According to a study from workforce management company Quinyx, 54% of retail employees said their job has negatively impacted their mental health during the pandemic, and 70% of employees say this period has been the most stressful of their career.

As a result, work effectiveness is being impacted.

In its 2021 State of Stress survey, employee health and wellbeing engagement company Grokker found that 50% of employees have reported increasing their unhealthy eating habits, 42% have reported getting less physical activity, and 25% have increased their use of alcohol and/or controlled substances. Right now, hourly employees without benefits are the most stressed, with 80% of workers reporting feeling overwhelmed, though stress is widespread in about 76% of employees.

“Stress is very, very real … and what is really kind of staggering is when you look at retail employees in particular,” said Lorna Borenstein, CEO of Grokker. “But how do you support employees with such a widespread problem?”

According to Borenstein, she has seen three things really make a difference:

  • Recognizing that stress does not just affect mental health, but it also impacts sleep, nutrition, energy, work and more. It is a whole person issue.
  • Utilizing digital solutions such as apps and videos to support employees as they are less expensive and more private than most in-person solutions, especially with coronavirus social distancing concerns and for employees without benefits.
  • Partnering and working with credentialed professionals so that your employees can connect with true experts and build community.

At online meditation and wellness platform Headspace, Stuart Poole, senior director of business development, said that COVID-19 has not only accelerated stress, but it also has increased the acceptance of digital health platforms, as medical offices and more have turned to online appointments and video calls in the wake of the pandemic. This has made digital mental health solutions more needed and popular for employees, especially as rates of mental health issues and stress surge.

“We ran a study of more than 2,500 U.S. and U.K. based employees in retail, hospitality and travel, and a few other industries and we found that 42% of workers have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety,” noted Poole. “There’s just not enough therapists in the world to meet the surging demand of these mental health issues, and it’s important to have an approachable and scalable offer.”

Even though the solutions offered by companies like Headspace and Grokker may look different from traditionally therapy and mental health programming  — such as celebrity-guided motivational sessions, meditations, exercise programming and more — studies show they work for employees. With Headspace, users see focus improve 22% after just one sessions, burnout decreases by 14% after four sessions, and stress decrease on average 32% after 20 days of usage. After two months, 46% of users see depressive symptoms decrease.

But how can managers and companies encourage their employees to take advantage of mental health assistance and programs — digital or otherwise — once a company begins offering them?

It starts with destigmatizing mental health care and issues, and that often involves getting managers and executives more involved in talking about mental health, openly incentivizing participation and making information and goals shared through the programs private.

At a large Seattle-based retail coffee maker, Headspace put together a fireside chat-style video that featured the company co-founder and CEO when it rolled out a new program with the company, creating a space for the CEO to discuss candidly his mental health journey. Ultimately, that honesty and openness sparked “unprecedented” and continued engagement rates with that retailer’s employees.

In Borenstein’s view, offering varyied content and options is also a key component to getting employees involved and invested in wellness. Just like employees and their stressors, solutions are not one size fits all, and neither are employee wellness goals.

Since stress and mental health issues impact the whole body, Grokker offers everything from guided private and group exercise classes to counseling and expert mental health sessions. It is also quick to develop new offerings when it observes new wellness trends or increased interest in particular programs.

“What we’re really in the business of is trust,” said Borenstein. “How do we help the employer develop a better trusted relationship with its worker, and the way we do that is make sure we are an incredibly trusted provider and brand to the employees. …

“You have to provide a sense of ‘you’re not alone’ and ‘we’re going to be here for you no matter what you’re suffering from and no matter what your achievements are. We’ll support you through that, too.’”

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Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund

In 2020 there was a 70% increase in returns to general merchandise e-commerce sites. In the last two months alone, returns exceeded $70 billion dollars for these e-commerce retailers that mention constantly, “easy returns.” Yes, we know they want us to believe they just pass the returns to the vendors, but that isn’t always the case. Ever heard of smoke and mirrors?

During the pandemic of 2020, more people than ever were using the Internet for a broad range of purchases, much broader because of the new circumstances. On top of that, many fewer people want to do in-store returns. Can you blame them? So the returns are a larger problem than ever.

In an article in Payments.com, Jan. 11, it was disclosed that Amazon, Walmart and more recently Target are using their ultra-complicated diagnostics and algorithms to study this process and are now telling more people “yes, you will get your refund, but in addition, you may keep the purchased item. Please consider contributing it to a charity or passing it along to someone needy, or just use it yourself.” They did not say, to my surprise, “We don’t give a hoot!”

All of us in the furniture and mattress industries are too aware of the costs of returns and complying with the regulations on selling used furnishings. Many returns erase the profits on several sales, not just that one being returned.

Now these massive e-commerce retailers are using their technology to evaluate each return, according to the Payments.com article. They look at how often you return things, the likelihood the item will be damaged or dirty, how much money they recover on each return of that item and if it can possibly be put back in the store. That is a lot to consider, but they are finding that more often, they lose more money on the return than they can ever recoup on a resale.

We as an industry need to seriously need to examine this same issue.

More times than we want to admit, you might be ahead of the game telling your customer that they will get a refund and can keep the item, use it as they will. Yes, it will cut back on the selection in your scratch-and-dent department, but that isn’t all bad. Deep in the corners of that department are things you would rather forget anyway.

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Restonic Mattress names Tokarz president

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­BUFFALO, N.Y. – Restonic Mattress Corp. has tapped Laurie Tokarz as its new president, succeeding Ron Passaglia.

Tokarz brings 25 years of experience in the home furnishings and bedding industry to her new position. Most recently, she was the chief sales officer for Visionary Sleep, Restonic’s largest licensee.

Tokarz began her bedding career at Sibley’s department store as a buyer and was later named divisional merchandise manager for the home furnishings division. From there, she joined Bauhaus Upholstery, and in 1996 joined Serta as a sales representative.

In 2000, Tokarz joined Alliance Sleep Products, a Restonic licensee, and worked alongside the late Tom Comer, eventually serving as president. In 2017, Bob Sherman acquired Alliance Sleep, and Tokarz was named chief sales officer for the newly formed Visionary Sleep. Tokarz also currently serves on the International Sleep Products Assn. board of trustees.

Tokarz succeeds Passaglia, former president and CEO, who retired and transitioned into a consulting position Jan. 1.

“Laurie has a unique understanding of the dynamic changes happening within our industry from the consumer, retailer and the licensee viewpoints,” Passaglia said. “Her experience and successful history of applying these assets for today’s dynamic marketplace will be well-received by our retailers and all of our domestic and international licenses. Her loyal brand stewardship to Restonic has positioned her as the ideal candidate for this position.”

In her role as president, Tokarz will work with domestic and international licensees as well as retailers. She’ll oversee brand strategy and alignment for Restonic’s family of brands, which includes Biltmore and Scott Living. Tokarz will work with Julia Rosien, Restonic’s vice president of brand and digital marketing, to support an adoption of digital transformation in marketing and communication.

“I am delighted to take on this role, which allows me to continue my 20-plus year goal of driving the Restonic brand,” Tokarz said. “With the retail environment evolving at warp speed, Restonic is poised to help retailers garner consumers’ attention with turnkey digital marketing programs and the strength of our licensed brands, Scott Living and Biltmore.”

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Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow

There is a scourge spreading across the industry that threatens to blunt the momentum of renewed consumer interest in all things home. Its effects are not mitigated by vaccination or subject to state and local decisions to close businesses or keep them open. Unlike the pandemic, its impact will not vary from state to state or market to market.

This affliction is not new; it challenged the industry as recently as just two short years ago.

I’m speaking, of course, about rising costs and price increases. One of the most impactful right now is freight, with container rates in the $1,300 to $1,500 range to California and nearly double that to New York ports. At a time when manufacturers are looking to ramp up production overseas and speed that production to eager U.S. consumers, the impact of these steadily rising costs has made their efforts more costly and difficult.

In the context of other rising costs, it is increasingly likely, if not already underway, that retailers will be seeing price increases passed along in the coming weeks and months. It seems equally inevitable that consumers will be confronted with similarly increased prices.

This is not a bad thing.

For too long, the furniture industry has been victim of reverse inflation. No other industry still sells its products at the same price today as when the Dodge Aries was America’s hot vehicle choice. For those too young to get the reference … it was the early 1980s.

Don’t get me wrong. No one wants to raise prices: not suppliers, not manufacturers, not retailers. But if there was ever an environment in which the impact of raised prices could be minimized, this is it. Time and again I’ve heard from retailers in recent months that it’s less about what’s hot than what’s available.

With demand being what it is, with many younger consumers coming into the market for the first time, and with others coming back for the first time in some years, price sensitivity is likely to be less an issue now that at any time in recent years.

These are not issues that are going away anytime soon. They will certainly define the first half and will likely play a key role in shaping the year’s performance overall. For some, they will represent an existential challenge, for others a major opportunity.

Our staff is currently engaged with the industry to uncover the strategies companies are employing to deal with issues related both to rising costs and to enhancing capacity and eliminating backlogs. As these issues continue to challenge furniture retailers, we are reaching out for those strategies as well.

We welcome those who are willing to share their stories and challenges and those who believe they are positioned to maximize the emerging opportunities. We also welcome opinions on all sides of these key issues. If you would like to share your story or your opinion, please reach out.

The post Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow appeared first on Furniture Today.

Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers

 

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Wendy Youds

Wendy Youds, vice president of product and merchandising, Article

As we continue to scale and the pandemic-induced demand continues to surge into 2021, we’re doubling down on supply chain efficiencies.

We’ve diversified the number of manufacturing partners we work with to take more control of the design process and introduce more original equipment manufacturer (OEM) designs. We’re also developing exclusive raw materials for our products, including upholstery fabric and leather.

These efforts ensure our products are readily available to consumers and improve manufacturing lead times while maintaining our quality standards across our catalog with competitive pricing, which ultimately makes the furniture-buying experience easier for our customers.

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Todd Wanek

Todd Wanek, CEO, Ashley Furniture Inds.

The biggest focus for us and everyone in manufacturing and retail is figuring out the supply chain and get back to executing at a higher level in 2021. We need to gauge consumer demand and put together a plan that meets that demand. 2020 was a year of learning for everyone because the entire system was stressed. It showed us and everyone else the flaws.

We’re expanding our physical infrastructure with more warehousing, more new trucks and more capacity. We’re re-inventing the flow of information, from manufacturers to retailers, from retailers to consumers, all the touch points.

2021 is a year of challenging everything that was constrained in 2020, from manufacturing to distribution to supply chain. We’re identifying everything that went right in 2020 — and there was a lot — and everything that went wrong, and (we’re) refocusing to improve execution and flow of information.

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone, CEO, Chaddock

We made some big moves in 2020 that have set a solid foundation for a great 2021. We’ve set new standards for quality and turnaround time. We’ve innovated easy custom programs inspired by our design accounts, and we’ve made the process of bringing custom-crafted furniture to life easier than ever.

We plan to do even more of that in 2021. Chaddock remains committed to being on-demand for our customers. Whether that’s by expanding our quick-ship program to offer more designs that maintain industry leading lead times or continuing to inspire personalization or develop new tools to create greater efficiencies, we want to  allow our customers to focus on what they do best, creating and selling design.

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Roy Calcagne

Roy Calcagne, CEO, Craftmaster Furniture

The opportunity in my mind is reducing our lead times. … Everyone has 12-week, 14-, 16-, 22-week delivery right now, and (manufacturers) are all in the same boat. The first guys to come back to normal lead times are going to be the winners.

If we can be one of the first to reduce our lead times back to normal, we can pick up slots and permanently lock in these great gains in business we’ve had this past year. When the economy opens up and people start traveling and dining out again, a lot of this disposable income will dry up, and where once we had, say, five slots on a floor, we want to have 10.

The biggest way to achieve that is expanding capacity. … We believe our Lenoir plant that opened in September will give us an additional 25% capacity, and we’re adding a line in each of our three plants in Alexander County, so we’re talking about a total of 40% expansion in capacity this year.

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO, Ethan Allen

Our focus for 2021 revolves around strengthening the ways that we combine technology with personal service.

These are our main priorities: employee safety, continued investment in digital design and interactive communication technologies, growing our business and continuing to generate cash, refining our product offerings to reach a large client base, and leveraging our vertical integration, including continuing to make 75% of our products in our North American workshops.

Dittmer,Jerry 2021

Jerry Dittmer

Jerry Dittmer, president and CEO, Flexsteel Inds.

Flexsteel plans to accelerate growth investments focused on building a differentiated and highly compelling customer experience, rapidly expanding our supply chain capacity and agility, and integrating our omnichannel and digital experience with all our customers.

Dave Swers

Dave Swers

Dave Swers, president, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics

With more time at home, many consumers are investing in and around their homes to create an environment they can enjoy. This has created additional demand for Sunbrella fabrics in every category, including both indoor and outdoor upholstery, among others. For example, the outdoor season is now extended with the patio becoming a new focal point for leisure and family time.

With these shifts come new opportunities, as the desire and demand grows for comfortable textiles that perform throughout every season.

We recently announced a $65 million investment to expand our production capabilities at our U.S. and global plants to support our manufacturing and retail partners. This significant investment will support even greater future demand for Sunbrella, Dickson and other Glen Raven fabrics so we can continue serving our customers with success.

In addition, the way consumers shop is changing, and we are increasing our marketing investments on new channels while working with our partners on new ways to connect with and inspire consumers.

Naboicheck,

Bob Naboicheck

Bob Naboicheck, president and CEO, Gold Bond

The industry is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been very fortunate to be able to get materials that we need to keep up with the increased demand that we are seeing.

We anticipate the growth will continue in 2021 as customers dramatically expand their program with us. We remain committed to maintaining the quality of our products by using the construction we have always used instead of despec-ing product with inferior components. Our deliveries have held, and our team is delivering product quickly because of our ability to receive the materials we need from our partners.

Mark Jones

Mark Jones

Mark Jones, president and CEO, HSM

One of the most immediate opportunities in the home furnishings segment is supporting our manufacturing customers as they ride the “nesting phenomenon.” Likely to persist well into the new year, consumers want to upgrade their homes with new furniture, mattresses and home accessories. As a key supplier of components for these products, our 2021 strategy is built upon solidifying our position as a trusted and reliable domestic supplier for the home furnishings industry.

From a process perspective, as orders climb well above everyone’s expectations — the most we’ve seen in more than a decade — we will be making further investments in automation equipment across our enterprise to drive manufacturing efficiencies to benefit our customers.

In terms of our products, we are seeing increased consumer preferences for products and brands that promote wellness and are sustainable. As such, we will continue our R&D emphasis on products such as our Flexecore sustainably designed mattress component system, which is designed to eliminate the glue that is typically used to bond coil springs and mattress layers together.

Of course, none of the changes in our processes or products can come to fruition without the support of our people. We will continue to leverage the resiliency and resolve demonstrated by our team in 2020 to continually reimagine how we operate our business in 2021 and beyond.

Lee Boone

Lee Boone

Lee Boone, president, Home Meridian International

Given the extreme challenges our industry is experiencing in global logistics today, we have shifted much of our attention to product availability and shipping. The vast majority of our retailers are focused on our ability to deliver existing orders on existing products. While this may not represent “new” opportunity, delivering products to our customers has never been more important or more difficult.

Regarding new opportunity, we are launching our new Scott Brothers licensed product lines in the spring of this year, and we are already seeing strong levels of anticipation and demand for the brand. Beyond that, improving our service levels across all of our business units, product categories and channels of distribution is of vital importance this year.

Jeremy Hoff

Jeremy Hoff, president, Hooker Legacy Brands

In 2021, we will continue our focus on reducing product development lead times. Last year, we made tremendous strides in this area, and we’ll continue that effort this year. Creating more speed in product development keeps our assortment more on-trend and provides incremental growth opportunities with our partners.

Additionally, reducing our lead times from order to shipping on existing products will be a major emphasis for us in 2021. Focusing on continuous improvements in our supply chain and logistics will allow us to better align ourselves with the increasing demands of today’s consumer.

Lastly, we will also concentrate on rationalizing our portfolio of products to ensure that our overall capacity supports our efforts to be in stock and ship quickly.

Hooker Casegoods, Hooker Upholstery, Bradington Young, and Sam Moore will be ready in March for High Point Premarket in April and the rescheduled spring market in June. This will allow us to expedite all our marketing efforts to present our customers our new product assortment in person or virtually.

Jill Johns Interior Define

Jill Johns

Jill John, chief customer officer, Interior Define

Interior Define saw an increase in demand during the holidays, and really post COVID-19 hitting in the early spring. The company is taking the following actions to meet the increase in demand: Expanding our manufacturing facilities to meet increased demand; leveraging our shipping providers to offer expedited options when available; and growing our customer service team to better assist with a high volume of requests.

Terry McNew Headshot

Terry McNew

Terry McNew, CEO, Klaussner Home Furnishings

My main goal is to continue to evaluate the business in terms of processes, both in supply chain and internally. We have a number of changes underway that we’ll continue in 2021, and they’ve only been accelerated by COVID-19, which has impacted the supply chain all over the world the same way it impacted us with things like absenteeism and quarantines. We’ve been working on ways to eliminate waste, and we’ve been able to increase our through-put by nearly 70% per employee in the past 10 months, but we’ll still be working on that.

First, we’re reducing transportation waste within the production process. When you cut wood in one location, ship it to another to turn it into frames, and walk those frames 50 yards to another place for assembly, that’s not a lean process. We’ve reorganized to put all the processes beside each other. We’re about 80% of the way there. Since we have 2.5 million square feet of production space in five main campuses with multiple plants on each campus, it takes a while to fully implement.

We’re also on a march to rationalize our product line, and we’ve already begun reducing the number of non-productive SKUs. We’ve discontinued slow-moving pieces; people forget how to build them if it’s only a few times a year, and you end up with excess supply of materials due to minimum order quantities. That’s increased our through-put, and our SKU count is down 30%, but we still have a long way to go.

A big key in the year ahead is President-elect Biden’s tax policies: Mr. Biden tends toward higher taxes, and that reduces economic activity. … If one party controls Congress and the administration, higher taxes are more likely. To me, that’s the last piece of the puzzle for forecasting 2021.

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow, chairman, president and CEO, La-Z-Boy

Obviously technology is going to play a larger role going forward in putting control of the purchase process and buying experience in our consumers’ hands. Today our customers not only shop and do research online, but can schedule and track their own delivery from our distribution centers.
Another technology area is personalization. In the past, we’d run ads and always the same message to every customer, but now we are able to get targeted messages to targeted customers utilizing all the data we have on what they’ve bought and what they’re looking for. That will become the norm rather than the exception.

Everybody with a large retail footprint is trying to catch up with e-commerce or omnichannel, and the e-commerce businesses are trying to establish a retail footprint. Our core customer wants white-glove delivery and won’t accept drop shipping to the door. Technology is the key again, and we’re doing a lot of work on the technology and communication side.

From the distribution center, we are working toward a system where we’ll send a picture of the delivery team to the consumer in advance. And our system allows the customer to schedule their own delivery times and, once it leaves the distribution center, track the timing to her home so she isn’t waiting for a call. The more information you put in the customers’ hands, the more control you give them, and that’s where we’re making significant progress.

A second issue is supply chain, and given the increases in volume, everyone’s supply chain is stressed, and everyone’s re-thinking it. With the industry’s experience with tariffs and the pandemic, a number of questions are being asked: How many different partners do you need, how do you strategically spread your country risk? How can you remain agile and have flexibility when volume goes up or down?

A major retailer told me recently they used to shop only for “value” — the best price you can get — but they got over-weighted with one or two countries. He mentioned he does not want to make a single bet on a single geography, and he is thinking about what that looks like in the future so we’re not beholden to the winds of change in one part of the world.

A third consideration is our employees. What do they need coming out of the pandemic to continue to feel safe in our plants and in our stores, and what can we do to help them enhance their performance with things like technology, processes and workflow in both our factories and stores.

I think the pandemic “hangover” is going to last a while, and the expectations for your customers, your supply chain and your employees are going to be a little different.

Campbell_Mike_LeatherItalia_2019

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell, CEO, Leather Italia

First is a continued focus on our forecasting and making sure the flow or our product and our production schedules are consistent and true to demand. It is critical that our company look at product needs and make sure we are supporting those needs for the retailers.

To that end, we’ll increase pre-purchases of raw material, in particular leather, which has become very polarized with this growth and demand we experienced in 2020. In order to be consistent and perform at an extremely high level, keeping more material on hand is a very clear need, and it’s become a very high-action item we’ll be concentrating on.

Also, at our main motion facility in China, Shae Motion, we’ve added four more production lines to support more growth in 2021 and to ensure consistency of flow with respect to our current and future product obligations. 

Phil Haney

Phil Haney

Phil Haney, president and CEO, Lexington Home Brands

For Lexington Home Brands it is not so much a change, but rather a continuation of our commitment to service our business with our retail dealers and designers. When the pandemic hit, we did not cancel any purchase orders with our suppliers, we did not delay any shipments or slow down any production in process. During the “shut-down,” we continued to receive inbound product at our service centers and as retail business rebounded strongly for our retail partners, we had inventory to service their needs.

As business continued strong through the balance of the year, we have continued to place large orders for product and remain committed to providing excellent service for our dealers and the design community. However, we are not immune to the various logistic issues challenging our industry; container and ocean freight availability; and fabric, foam and metal delays.

The biggest change is just the amount of inventory on hand to support the business. 

Jack Krause

Jack Krause

Jack Krause, president and COO, Lovesac

The biggest changes we will make are in how we define our go to market strategy and how we guide our customer through the purchase journey. We have learned a great deal this year about customer needs and how they cross between the digital and physical world almost seamlessly, from showrooms to the live chat experience, or making online appointments, etc. We have a strong test-and-learn agenda to help us continue to design our organization, and our customer experience around this new reality with an aim to create the most efficient and enjoyable customer journey.

Curtright

Billy Curtright

Billy Curtright, national sales manager, Magniflex

Our 2021 strategy is focused on helping our brick-and-mortar dealers sell our products online. By combining our social media marketing campaign and our drop-shipping capabilities, we want our dealers to be able to compete in the new marketplace.

And we will give them all of web tools required to do that ranging from dynamic video and engaging copy for their websites to generating consumer leads in their trading area. We will do whatever it takes to help them combine their in-store experience with the latest in online marketing to close the sale. 

MLILY_Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen, president, MLily USA

We will be adopting a two-pronged strategy in 2021 to take advantage of the opportunities we anticipate. First, as our business continues to grow at a brisk pace, we are expanding our domestic manufacturing footprint with two additional plants in the United States. That will bring us to a total of four to handle all our production needs domestically.

Second, we will continue to expand our product line, with a special emphasis on innovative and unique products that truly differentiate us in the market. Prime examples of this strategy include the upcoming launch of our JAMA collection — our first entry into the juvenile bedding segment — which will include two mattresses and a pillow. We see opportunities for significant growth in the juvenile sleep products category, and JAMA will fill a niche by offering retailers bright, fun mattresses from an already trusted vendor partner.

In addition, we’ll be expanding our innovative fan-cooled PowerCool sleep system with a new model designed with a higher-density foam to deliver a firmer comfort feel. With this addition, the PowerCool line will be available in plush and firm, providing consumers a choice of comfort options on one of our best-selling designs that features industry-leading technology.

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Scott Hill

Scott Hill, president of sales, New Classic Furniture

Our owner and I are really bullish on 2021. There are so many good signs: the housing market, interest rates, the stimulus package that just passed, a vaccine. We all want to put 2020 behind us, but we need to keep in mind what we learned and how to take advantage moving forward.

The biggest thing we’re focusing on is that it’s all about speed to market. What a year the industry could have had if we’d been able to get more product to market faster.

We’re increasing our footprint in domestic warehousing by double digits so we can have more product waiting for our customers. We’re also increasing our overseas warehousing to allow customers ordering containers to get the goods faster.

We’re adding more personnel and investing in our online platform, which skyrocketed in 2020. We see that growing again substantially in 2021, at least by double digits.

Finally, we’re taking the guesswork out of product development. We won’t be waiting on markets anymore and are making product decisions every month. We’re getting input from key customers across the U.S. before it’s exhibited as well as our own gut feeling. If we can make those fast product decisions with key retailers, we’ll be able to increase turns at least one time per year, which will be huge for our growth.

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson, CEO, Overstock

Overstock will continue to leverage new and improving technology to help our target customers find the products they love and deliver those products to them quickly. We are focused on the online retail blocking and tackling to continue our sustainable, profitable market share growth.

Shuford_Alex_7-2019

Alex Shuford III

Alex Shuford III, CEO, RHF Companies

The spike in demand that we and the industry have enjoyed over the last two quarters is likely to continue through the early part of 2021, and so capacity expansion is top of mind. However, we don’t “trust” the durability of this demand surge, as we believe it is, as least in part, being fueled by short-term shifts in consumer spending that will subside once travel and entertainment industries recover in the second half of 2021.

With that in mind, our capacity expansion plans have to be flexible enough to move up and down with volatilty in the coming year. We certainly need people and are hiring, but we are also looking at capital spending (equipment) projects and efficiency programs to help get more out of the workforce we already have.
We do however believe that part of the demand equation has changed more structurally. We believe the pandemic has jump-started household creation among the Millennials and helped to shift their focus from urban living based on “convenient access to personal entertainment” to suburban living and starting or enhancing their family structures. This coupled with low interest rates and “work from home” flexibility has the potential to increase the total amount of residential square footage that needs to be furnished over the next five years.

These new customers shop differently and have unique service expectations. Speed, convenience and trust are critical. Smaller boutique retail experiences that are authentic should thrive.

Brad Cates

Brad Cates

Brad Cates, CEO, Sarreid

Our plan and associated strategy for 2021 started in April 2020. … Along with the major improvements we made to our website and printed catalog, we ramped up our social media presence and built a 3,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art studio for photo, video and Zoom calls, enabling us to entirely rethink our reliance on the traditional, market-driven product introduction cycle.

While we have always been focused on a continuous offering of fresh product, we pushed product development into an entirely new gear, working with an individual I consider to be one of the best case goods designers in the business. Concurrently, we doubled, then doubled again, our purchase orders for in-line product and best sellers and kept the containers flowing, putting us in an enviable in-stock position at a time when we all know available inventory is the name of the game. The result is that Sarreid is now faster to market than at any time in our 54-year-history. …

While the pandemic was certainly a catalyst for these moves, the success we have enjoyed means we don’t ever foresee returning to the way we used to approach the business. As we move into the new year, we continue to be in heavy product development and to dramatically increase our ordering in order to have the right product at the right time for our customers. 

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker, president, Skyline Furniture

We expect to see online sales continue to grow into 2021. Given that we specialize in e-commerce, we plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.

We will be keeping our manufacturing process nimble and investing heavily in our 3D capabilities. We firmly believe these components will be key to a successful sales strategy into the new year.

Nick Bates

Nick Bates

Nick Bates, president, Spring Air

We are not making big changes in 2021. Instead, we plan stay the course in helping fill the orders of our retailers. This is not the year to change our business model.

We have taken on took on a lot of new business, and our focus on expanding our manufacturing capabilities to remain current with our delivery. During 2020, we were successful in securing new business, and our sole focus will be in beefing up our production to hit maximum output.

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine, president and CEO, Therapedic

The biggest thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increase in online shopping: the consumers’ ability to interface online to meet their purchasing needs, creating a significant amount of Internet purchasing power. Consumers have become much more savvy and adept at buying online.

As a result, we have been retooling our websites. We’ve made them more accessible for sight and hearing impaired and overall easier to navigate. Therapedic.com is undergoing an entire retrofit to make it more accessible and optimized to be more mobile friendly. All of the enhancements will be completed within the first quarter.

bassett, wyatt 2020

Wyatt Bassett

Wyatt Bassett, CEO, Vaughan-Bassett

Our biggest change in 2021 will be to focus on the return of retailers looking for new, fresh and different looks and new product, particularly goods that can reach retail floors before the middle of the year. It will have been more than a year and a half (October 2019) since most retailers have focused on shopping for new product vs. trying to source what was available.

We have been fortunate in the past nine months that we manufacture domestically and have a supply chain that is very local. We have maintained very good delivery (exceptional delivery relative to the overall market) and currently ship more than 80% of our line, including all best sellers, within two weeks. That will only improve on our current line in the next 60 days; and we will carry stock from day one on all new introductions.

I believe given the current strength in home furnishings, we can stock and deliver fresh, new step-up looks at attractive, saleable price points and continue to service them throughout the year on, or close to, an on-demand, in stock basis.

Matt Davis COO Walker Edison

Matt Davis

Matt Davis, COO, Walker Edison

As we look forward into 2021, one of our priorities will be to continue focusing on improving the overall end consumer experience. We are making large investments into our supply chain network that will improve shipping speeds and get Walker Edison products into the hands of consumers faster than ever.

Not only will customers receive their items quicker, but these investments will also lower damage rates and create business efficiencies that will ultimately lead to a happier end consumer.

Image of Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak, chief merchandising officer, Wayfair

We know our customers have had a hard year, and if anything, have an even deeper connection to their home and community. They are going to be much more inclined to shop online to renovate, decorate and create their own unique home space than before.

The acceleration to online isn’t necessarily changing our plan as much as we’re fast adjusting to heightened expectations around quality of merchandising, financial and in-home services, inventory availability, speed to customer and of course price to value in this economic environment. So, the biggest change here for us is we’re moving even faster on our ambitious plan to deliver the best home experience for our customer anytime, anywhere.

Another big change is for our supplier partners. One of our top priorities is to be the best home platform for our suppliers. We want our supplier interface, Partner Home, to be as good as the consumer experience we have for our customers. Our suppliers should expect significant upgrades this year on the ease and quality of the tools and analytics we provide them to optimize their business with us.

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga, CEO, Zuo Modern

Every year there is a new challenge, and this year we think it will be in the logistics and manufacturing side. Thankfully, we have a great team overseas and our leader in production, Steve Poon, has many years of experience to minimize the overpaying on freight, delays on manufacture and QA, thus giving us a strong advantage to keep supplying products to our partners with an aggressive price and a prompt delivery.

Our focus for the first two quarters of the year will continue to be on the residential side with drop-ship as a priority as we see end consumers continuing to shop from home. We also see a possible fast recovery on the hospitality and event side by the end of the third and fourth quarters, with demand for hospitality items because of the reopening of new restaurants, bars and hotels.

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Mental health matters: NRF panel tackles retail stress, offers digital mental health tools

HIGH POINT — In the face of a year’s worth of pandemic stress, national political unrest and more, the rate of mental health issues, stress and burnout in the U.S. has skyrocketed, and according to a session during the National Retail Federation’s annual retail conference NRF 2021, its impact is becoming more apparent in retail spaces.

According to a study from workforce management company Quinyx, 54% of retail employees said their job has negatively impacted their mental health during the pandemic, and 70% of employees say this period has been the most stressful of their career.

As a result, work effectiveness is being impacted.

In its 2021 State of Stress survey, employee health and wellbeing engagement company Grokker found that 50% of employees have reported increasing their unhealthy eating habits, 42% have reported getting less physical activity, and 25% have increased their use of alcohol and/or controlled substances. Right now, hourly employees without benefits are the most stressed, with 80% of workers reporting feeling overwhelmed, though stress is widespread in about 76% of employees.

“Stress is very, very real … and what is really kind of staggering is when you look at retail employees in particular,” said Lorna Borenstein, CEO of Grokker. “But how do you support employees with such a widespread problem?”

According to Borenstein, she has seen three things really make a difference:

  • Recognizing that stress does not just affect mental health, but it also impacts sleep, nutrition, energy, work and more. It is a whole person issue.
  • Utilizing digital solutions such as apps and videos to support employees as they are less expensive and more private than most in-person solutions, especially with coronavirus social distancing concerns and for employees without benefits.
  • Partnering and working with credentialed professionals so that your employees can connect with true experts and build community.

At online meditation and wellness platform Headspace, Stuart Poole, senior director of business development, said that COVID-19 has not only accelerated stress, but it also has increased the acceptance of digital health platforms, as medical offices and more have turned to online appointments and video calls in the wake of the pandemic. This has made digital mental health solutions more needed and popular for employees, especially as rates of mental health issues and stress surge.

“We ran a study of more than 2,500 U.S. and U.K. based employees in retail, hospitality and travel, and a few other industries and we found that 42% of workers have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety,” noted Poole. “There’s just not enough therapists in the world to meet the surging demand of these mental health issues, and it’s important to have an approachable and scalable offer.”

Even though the solutions offered by companies like Headspace and Grokker may look different from traditionally therapy and mental health programming  — such as celebrity-guided motivational sessions, meditations, exercise programming and more — studies show they work for employees. With Headspace, users see focus improve 22% after just one sessions, burnout decreases by 14% after four sessions, and stress decrease on average 32% after 20 days of usage. After two months, 46% of users see depressive symptoms decrease.

But how can managers and companies encourage their employees to take advantage of mental health assistance and programs — digital or otherwise — once a company begins offering them?

It starts with destigmatizing mental health care and issues, and that often involves getting managers and executives more involved in talking about mental health, openly incentivizing participation and making information and goals shared through the programs private.

At a large Seattle-based retail coffee maker, Headspace put together a fireside chat-style video that featured the company co-founder and CEO when it rolled out a new program with the company, creating a space for the CEO to discuss candidly his mental health journey. Ultimately, that honesty and openness sparked “unprecedented” and continued engagement rates with that retailer’s employees.

In Borenstein’s view, offering varyied content and options is also a key component to getting employees involved and invested in wellness. Just like employees and their stressors, solutions are not one size fits all, and neither are employee wellness goals.

Since stress and mental health issues impact the whole body, Grokker offers everything from guided private and group exercise classes to counseling and expert mental health sessions. It is also quick to develop new offerings when it observes new wellness trends or increased interest in particular programs.

“What we’re really in the business of is trust,” said Borenstein. “How do we help the employer develop a better trusted relationship with its worker, and the way we do that is make sure we are an incredibly trusted provider and brand to the employees. …

“You have to provide a sense of ‘you’re not alone’ and ‘we’re going to be here for you no matter what you’re suffering from and no matter what your achievements are. We’ll support you through that, too.’”

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Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund

In 2020 there was a 70% increase in returns to general merchandise e-commerce sites. In the last two months alone, returns exceeded $70 billion dollars for these e-commerce retailers that mention constantly, “easy returns.” Yes, we know they want us to believe they just pass the returns to the vendors, but that isn’t always the case. Ever heard of smoke and mirrors?

During the pandemic of 2020, more people than ever were using the Internet for a broad range of purchases, much broader because of the new circumstances. On top of that, many fewer people want to do in-store returns. Can you blame them? So the returns are a larger problem than ever.

In an article in Payments.com, Jan. 11, it was disclosed that Amazon, Walmart and more recently Target are using their ultra-complicated diagnostics and algorithms to study this process and are now telling more people “yes, you will get your refund, but in addition, you may keep the purchased item. Please consider contributing it to a charity or passing it along to someone needy, or just use it yourself.” They did not say, to my surprise, “We don’t give a hoot!”

All of us in the furniture and mattress industries are too aware of the costs of returns and complying with the regulations on selling used furnishings. Many returns erase the profits on several sales, not just that one being returned.

Now these massive e-commerce retailers are using their technology to evaluate each return, according to the Payments.com article. They look at how often you return things, the likelihood the item will be damaged or dirty, how much money they recover on each return of that item and if it can possibly be put back in the store. That is a lot to consider, but they are finding that more often, they lose more money on the return than they can ever recoup on a resale.

We as an industry need to seriously need to examine this same issue.

More times than we want to admit, you might be ahead of the game telling your customer that they will get a refund and can keep the item, use it as they will. Yes, it will cut back on the selection in your scratch-and-dent department, but that isn’t all bad. Deep in the corners of that department are things you would rather forget anyway.

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Restonic Mattress names Tokarz president

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­BUFFALO, N.Y. – Restonic Mattress Corp. has tapped Laurie Tokarz as its new president, succeeding Ron Passaglia.

Tokarz brings 25 years of experience in the home furnishings and bedding industry to her new position. Most recently, she was the chief sales officer for Visionary Sleep, Restonic’s largest licensee.

Tokarz began her bedding career at Sibley’s department store as a buyer and was later named divisional merchandise manager for the home furnishings division. From there, she joined Bauhaus Upholstery, and in 1996 joined Serta as a sales representative.

In 2000, Tokarz joined Alliance Sleep Products, a Restonic licensee, and worked alongside the late Tom Comer, eventually serving as president. In 2017, Bob Sherman acquired Alliance Sleep, and Tokarz was named chief sales officer for the newly formed Visionary Sleep. Tokarz also currently serves on the International Sleep Products Assn. board of trustees.

Tokarz succeeds Passaglia, former president and CEO, who retired and transitioned into a consulting position Jan. 1.

“Laurie has a unique understanding of the dynamic changes happening within our industry from the consumer, retailer and the licensee viewpoints,” Passaglia said. “Her experience and successful history of applying these assets for today’s dynamic marketplace will be well-received by our retailers and all of our domestic and international licenses. Her loyal brand stewardship to Restonic has positioned her as the ideal candidate for this position.”

In her role as president, Tokarz will work with domestic and international licensees as well as retailers. She’ll oversee brand strategy and alignment for Restonic’s family of brands, which includes Biltmore and Scott Living. Tokarz will work with Julia Rosien, Restonic’s vice president of brand and digital marketing, to support an adoption of digital transformation in marketing and communication.

“I am delighted to take on this role, which allows me to continue my 20-plus year goal of driving the Restonic brand,” Tokarz said. “With the retail environment evolving at warp speed, Restonic is poised to help retailers garner consumers’ attention with turnkey digital marketing programs and the strength of our licensed brands, Scott Living and Biltmore.”

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Blog: Furniture industry costs on the rise, and prices are likely to follow

There is a scourge spreading across the industry that threatens to blunt the momentum of renewed consumer interest in all things home. Its effects are not mitigated by vaccination or subject to state and local decisions to close businesses or keep them open. Unlike the pandemic, its impact will not vary from state to state or market to market.

This affliction is not new; it challenged the industry as recently as just two short years ago.

I’m speaking, of course, about rising costs and price increases. One of the most impactful right now is freight, with container rates in the $1,300 to $1,500 range to California and nearly double that to New York ports. At a time when manufacturers are looking to ramp up production overseas and speed that production to eager U.S. consumers, the impact of these steadily rising costs has made their efforts more costly and difficult.

In the context of other rising costs, it is increasingly likely, if not already underway, that retailers will be seeing price increases passed along in the coming weeks and months. It seems equally inevitable that consumers will be confronted with similarly increased prices.

This is not a bad thing.

For too long, the furniture industry has been victim of reverse inflation. No other industry still sells its products at the same price today as when the Dodge Aries was America’s hot vehicle choice. For those too young to get the reference … it was the early 1980s.

Don’t get me wrong. No one wants to raise prices: not suppliers, not manufacturers, not retailers. But if there was ever an environment in which the impact of raised prices could be minimized, this is it. Time and again I’ve heard from retailers in recent months that it’s less about what’s hot than what’s available.

With demand being what it is, with many younger consumers coming into the market for the first time, and with others coming back for the first time in some years, price sensitivity is likely to be less an issue now that at any time in recent years.

These are not issues that are going away anytime soon. They will certainly define the first half and will likely play a key role in shaping the year’s performance overall. For some, they will represent an existential challenge, for others a major opportunity.

Our staff is currently engaged with the industry to uncover the strategies companies are employing to deal with issues related both to rising costs and to enhancing capacity and eliminating backlogs. As these issues continue to challenge furniture retailers, we are reaching out for those strategies as well.

We welcome those who are willing to share their stories and challenges and those who believe they are positioned to maximize the emerging opportunities. We also welcome opinions on all sides of these key issues. If you would like to share your story or your opinion, please reach out.

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Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers

 

wendy youds - cropped

Wendy Youds

Wendy Youds, vice president of product and merchandising, Article

As we continue to scale and the pandemic-induced demand continues to surge into 2021, we’re doubling down on supply chain efficiencies.

We’ve diversified the number of manufacturing partners we work with to take more control of the design process and introduce more original equipment manufacturer (OEM) designs. We’re also developing exclusive raw materials for our products, including upholstery fabric and leather.

These efforts ensure our products are readily available to consumers and improve manufacturing lead times while maintaining our quality standards across our catalog with competitive pricing, which ultimately makes the furniture-buying experience easier for our customers.

Todd Wanek - cropped - 2020

Todd Wanek

Todd Wanek, CEO, Ashley Furniture Inds.

The biggest focus for us and everyone in manufacturing and retail is figuring out the supply chain and get back to executing at a higher level in 2021. We need to gauge consumer demand and put together a plan that meets that demand. 2020 was a year of learning for everyone because the entire system was stressed. It showed us and everyone else the flaws.

We’re expanding our physical infrastructure with more warehousing, more new trucks and more capacity. We’re re-inventing the flow of information, from manufacturers to retailers, from retailers to consumers, all the touch points.

2021 is a year of challenging everything that was constrained in 2020, from manufacturing to distribution to supply chain. We’re identifying everything that went right in 2020 — and there was a lot — and everything that went wrong, and (we’re) refocusing to improve execution and flow of information.

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone

Andrew Crone, CEO, Chaddock

We made some big moves in 2020 that have set a solid foundation for a great 2021. We’ve set new standards for quality and turnaround time. We’ve innovated easy custom programs inspired by our design accounts, and we’ve made the process of bringing custom-crafted furniture to life easier than ever.

We plan to do even more of that in 2021. Chaddock remains committed to being on-demand for our customers. Whether that’s by expanding our quick-ship program to offer more designs that maintain industry leading lead times or continuing to inspire personalization or develop new tools to create greater efficiencies, we want to  allow our customers to focus on what they do best, creating and selling design.

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Roy Calcagne

Roy Calcagne, CEO, Craftmaster Furniture

The opportunity in my mind is reducing our lead times. … Everyone has 12-week, 14-, 16-, 22-week delivery right now, and (manufacturers) are all in the same boat. The first guys to come back to normal lead times are going to be the winners.

If we can be one of the first to reduce our lead times back to normal, we can pick up slots and permanently lock in these great gains in business we’ve had this past year. When the economy opens up and people start traveling and dining out again, a lot of this disposable income will dry up, and where once we had, say, five slots on a floor, we want to have 10.

The biggest way to achieve that is expanding capacity. … We believe our Lenoir plant that opened in September will give us an additional 25% capacity, and we’re adding a line in each of our three plants in Alexander County, so we’re talking about a total of 40% expansion in capacity this year.

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari

Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO, Ethan Allen

Our focus for 2021 revolves around strengthening the ways that we combine technology with personal service.

These are our main priorities: employee safety, continued investment in digital design and interactive communication technologies, growing our business and continuing to generate cash, refining our product offerings to reach a large client base, and leveraging our vertical integration, including continuing to make 75% of our products in our North American workshops.

Dittmer,Jerry 2021

Jerry Dittmer

Jerry Dittmer, president and CEO, Flexsteel Inds.

Flexsteel plans to accelerate growth investments focused on building a differentiated and highly compelling customer experience, rapidly expanding our supply chain capacity and agility, and integrating our omnichannel and digital experience with all our customers.

Dave Swers

Dave Swers

Dave Swers, president, Glen Raven Custom Fabrics

With more time at home, many consumers are investing in and around their homes to create an environment they can enjoy. This has created additional demand for Sunbrella fabrics in every category, including both indoor and outdoor upholstery, among others. For example, the outdoor season is now extended with the patio becoming a new focal point for leisure and family time.

With these shifts come new opportunities, as the desire and demand grows for comfortable textiles that perform throughout every season.

We recently announced a $65 million investment to expand our production capabilities at our U.S. and global plants to support our manufacturing and retail partners. This significant investment will support even greater future demand for Sunbrella, Dickson and other Glen Raven fabrics so we can continue serving our customers with success.

In addition, the way consumers shop is changing, and we are increasing our marketing investments on new channels while working with our partners on new ways to connect with and inspire consumers.

Naboicheck,

Bob Naboicheck

Bob Naboicheck, president and CEO, Gold Bond

The industry is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been very fortunate to be able to get materials that we need to keep up with the increased demand that we are seeing.

We anticipate the growth will continue in 2021 as customers dramatically expand their program with us. We remain committed to maintaining the quality of our products by using the construction we have always used instead of despec-ing product with inferior components. Our deliveries have held, and our team is delivering product quickly because of our ability to receive the materials we need from our partners.

Mark Jones

Mark Jones

Mark Jones, president and CEO, HSM

One of the most immediate opportunities in the home furnishings segment is supporting our manufacturing customers as they ride the “nesting phenomenon.” Likely to persist well into the new year, consumers want to upgrade their homes with new furniture, mattresses and home accessories. As a key supplier of components for these products, our 2021 strategy is built upon solidifying our position as a trusted and reliable domestic supplier for the home furnishings industry.

From a process perspective, as orders climb well above everyone’s expectations — the most we’ve seen in more than a decade — we will be making further investments in automation equipment across our enterprise to drive manufacturing efficiencies to benefit our customers.

In terms of our products, we are seeing increased consumer preferences for products and brands that promote wellness and are sustainable. As such, we will continue our R&D emphasis on products such as our Flexecore sustainably designed mattress component system, which is designed to eliminate the glue that is typically used to bond coil springs and mattress layers together.

Of course, none of the changes in our processes or products can come to fruition without the support of our people. We will continue to leverage the resiliency and resolve demonstrated by our team in 2020 to continually reimagine how we operate our business in 2021 and beyond.

Lee Boone

Lee Boone

Lee Boone, president, Home Meridian International

Given the extreme challenges our industry is experiencing in global logistics today, we have shifted much of our attention to product availability and shipping. The vast majority of our retailers are focused on our ability to deliver existing orders on existing products. While this may not represent “new” opportunity, delivering products to our customers has never been more important or more difficult.

Regarding new opportunity, we are launching our new Scott Brothers licensed product lines in the spring of this year, and we are already seeing strong levels of anticipation and demand for the brand. Beyond that, improving our service levels across all of our business units, product categories and channels of distribution is of vital importance this year.

Jeremy Hoff

Jeremy Hoff, president, Hooker Legacy Brands

In 2021, we will continue our focus on reducing product development lead times. Last year, we made tremendous strides in this area, and we’ll continue that effort this year. Creating more speed in product development keeps our assortment more on-trend and provides incremental growth opportunities with our partners.

Additionally, reducing our lead times from order to shipping on existing products will be a major emphasis for us in 2021. Focusing on continuous improvements in our supply chain and logistics will allow us to better align ourselves with the increasing demands of today’s consumer.

Lastly, we will also concentrate on rationalizing our portfolio of products to ensure that our overall capacity supports our efforts to be in stock and ship quickly.

Hooker Casegoods, Hooker Upholstery, Bradington Young, and Sam Moore will be ready in March for High Point Premarket in April and the rescheduled spring market in June. This will allow us to expedite all our marketing efforts to present our customers our new product assortment in person or virtually.

Jill Johns Interior Define

Jill Johns

Jill John, chief customer officer, Interior Define

Interior Define saw an increase in demand during the holidays, and really post COVID-19 hitting in the early spring. The company is taking the following actions to meet the increase in demand: Expanding our manufacturing facilities to meet increased demand; leveraging our shipping providers to offer expedited options when available; and growing our customer service team to better assist with a high volume of requests.

Terry McNew Headshot

Terry McNew

Terry McNew, CEO, Klaussner Home Furnishings

My main goal is to continue to evaluate the business in terms of processes, both in supply chain and internally. We have a number of changes underway that we’ll continue in 2021, and they’ve only been accelerated by COVID-19, which has impacted the supply chain all over the world the same way it impacted us with things like absenteeism and quarantines. We’ve been working on ways to eliminate waste, and we’ve been able to increase our through-put by nearly 70% per employee in the past 10 months, but we’ll still be working on that.

First, we’re reducing transportation waste within the production process. When you cut wood in one location, ship it to another to turn it into frames, and walk those frames 50 yards to another place for assembly, that’s not a lean process. We’ve reorganized to put all the processes beside each other. We’re about 80% of the way there. Since we have 2.5 million square feet of production space in five main campuses with multiple plants on each campus, it takes a while to fully implement.

We’re also on a march to rationalize our product line, and we’ve already begun reducing the number of non-productive SKUs. We’ve discontinued slow-moving pieces; people forget how to build them if it’s only a few times a year, and you end up with excess supply of materials due to minimum order quantities. That’s increased our through-put, and our SKU count is down 30%, but we still have a long way to go.

A big key in the year ahead is President-elect Biden’s tax policies: Mr. Biden tends toward higher taxes, and that reduces economic activity. … If one party controls Congress and the administration, higher taxes are more likely. To me, that’s the last piece of the puzzle for forecasting 2021.

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow

Kurt Darrow, chairman, president and CEO, La-Z-Boy

Obviously technology is going to play a larger role going forward in putting control of the purchase process and buying experience in our consumers’ hands. Today our customers not only shop and do research online, but can schedule and track their own delivery from our distribution centers.
Another technology area is personalization. In the past, we’d run ads and always the same message to every customer, but now we are able to get targeted messages to targeted customers utilizing all the data we have on what they’ve bought and what they’re looking for. That will become the norm rather than the exception.

Everybody with a large retail footprint is trying to catch up with e-commerce or omnichannel, and the e-commerce businesses are trying to establish a retail footprint. Our core customer wants white-glove delivery and won’t accept drop shipping to the door. Technology is the key again, and we’re doing a lot of work on the technology and communication side.

From the distribution center, we are working toward a system where we’ll send a picture of the delivery team to the consumer in advance. And our system allows the customer to schedule their own delivery times and, once it leaves the distribution center, track the timing to her home so she isn’t waiting for a call. The more information you put in the customers’ hands, the more control you give them, and that’s where we’re making significant progress.

A second issue is supply chain, and given the increases in volume, everyone’s supply chain is stressed, and everyone’s re-thinking it. With the industry’s experience with tariffs and the pandemic, a number of questions are being asked: How many different partners do you need, how do you strategically spread your country risk? How can you remain agile and have flexibility when volume goes up or down?

A major retailer told me recently they used to shop only for “value” — the best price you can get — but they got over-weighted with one or two countries. He mentioned he does not want to make a single bet on a single geography, and he is thinking about what that looks like in the future so we’re not beholden to the winds of change in one part of the world.

A third consideration is our employees. What do they need coming out of the pandemic to continue to feel safe in our plants and in our stores, and what can we do to help them enhance their performance with things like technology, processes and workflow in both our factories and stores.

I think the pandemic “hangover” is going to last a while, and the expectations for your customers, your supply chain and your employees are going to be a little different.

Campbell_Mike_LeatherItalia_2019

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell, CEO, Leather Italia

First is a continued focus on our forecasting and making sure the flow or our product and our production schedules are consistent and true to demand. It is critical that our company look at product needs and make sure we are supporting those needs for the retailers.

To that end, we’ll increase pre-purchases of raw material, in particular leather, which has become very polarized with this growth and demand we experienced in 2020. In order to be consistent and perform at an extremely high level, keeping more material on hand is a very clear need, and it’s become a very high-action item we’ll be concentrating on.

Also, at our main motion facility in China, Shae Motion, we’ve added four more production lines to support more growth in 2021 and to ensure consistency of flow with respect to our current and future product obligations. 

Phil Haney

Phil Haney

Phil Haney, president and CEO, Lexington Home Brands

For Lexington Home Brands it is not so much a change, but rather a continuation of our commitment to service our business with our retail dealers and designers. When the pandemic hit, we did not cancel any purchase orders with our suppliers, we did not delay any shipments or slow down any production in process. During the “shut-down,” we continued to receive inbound product at our service centers and as retail business rebounded strongly for our retail partners, we had inventory to service their needs.

As business continued strong through the balance of the year, we have continued to place large orders for product and remain committed to providing excellent service for our dealers and the design community. However, we are not immune to the various logistic issues challenging our industry; container and ocean freight availability; and fabric, foam and metal delays.

The biggest change is just the amount of inventory on hand to support the business. 

Jack Krause

Jack Krause

Jack Krause, president and COO, Lovesac

The biggest changes we will make are in how we define our go to market strategy and how we guide our customer through the purchase journey. We have learned a great deal this year about customer needs and how they cross between the digital and physical world almost seamlessly, from showrooms to the live chat experience, or making online appointments, etc. We have a strong test-and-learn agenda to help us continue to design our organization, and our customer experience around this new reality with an aim to create the most efficient and enjoyable customer journey.

Curtright

Billy Curtright

Billy Curtright, national sales manager, Magniflex

Our 2021 strategy is focused on helping our brick-and-mortar dealers sell our products online. By combining our social media marketing campaign and our drop-shipping capabilities, we want our dealers to be able to compete in the new marketplace.

And we will give them all of web tools required to do that ranging from dynamic video and engaging copy for their websites to generating consumer leads in their trading area. We will do whatever it takes to help them combine their in-store experience with the latest in online marketing to close the sale. 

MLILY_Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen

Stephen Chen, president, MLily USA

We will be adopting a two-pronged strategy in 2021 to take advantage of the opportunities we anticipate. First, as our business continues to grow at a brisk pace, we are expanding our domestic manufacturing footprint with two additional plants in the United States. That will bring us to a total of four to handle all our production needs domestically.

Second, we will continue to expand our product line, with a special emphasis on innovative and unique products that truly differentiate us in the market. Prime examples of this strategy include the upcoming launch of our JAMA collection — our first entry into the juvenile bedding segment — which will include two mattresses and a pillow. We see opportunities for significant growth in the juvenile sleep products category, and JAMA will fill a niche by offering retailers bright, fun mattresses from an already trusted vendor partner.

In addition, we’ll be expanding our innovative fan-cooled PowerCool sleep system with a new model designed with a higher-density foam to deliver a firmer comfort feel. With this addition, the PowerCool line will be available in plush and firm, providing consumers a choice of comfort options on one of our best-selling designs that features industry-leading technology.

Hill,Scott2020, new classic

Scott Hill

Scott Hill, president of sales, New Classic Furniture

Our owner and I are really bullish on 2021. There are so many good signs: the housing market, interest rates, the stimulus package that just passed, a vaccine. We all want to put 2020 behind us, but we need to keep in mind what we learned and how to take advantage moving forward.

The biggest thing we’re focusing on is that it’s all about speed to market. What a year the industry could have had if we’d been able to get more product to market faster.

We’re increasing our footprint in domestic warehousing by double digits so we can have more product waiting for our customers. We’re also increasing our overseas warehousing to allow customers ordering containers to get the goods faster.

We’re adding more personnel and investing in our online platform, which skyrocketed in 2020. We see that growing again substantially in 2021, at least by double digits.

Finally, we’re taking the guesswork out of product development. We won’t be waiting on markets anymore and are making product decisions every month. We’re getting input from key customers across the U.S. before it’s exhibited as well as our own gut feeling. If we can make those fast product decisions with key retailers, we’ll be able to increase turns at least one time per year, which will be huge for our growth.

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson III

Jonathan Johnson, CEO, Overstock

Overstock will continue to leverage new and improving technology to help our target customers find the products they love and deliver those products to them quickly. We are focused on the online retail blocking and tackling to continue our sustainable, profitable market share growth.

Shuford_Alex_7-2019

Alex Shuford III

Alex Shuford III, CEO, RHF Companies

The spike in demand that we and the industry have enjoyed over the last two quarters is likely to continue through the early part of 2021, and so capacity expansion is top of mind. However, we don’t “trust” the durability of this demand surge, as we believe it is, as least in part, being fueled by short-term shifts in consumer spending that will subside once travel and entertainment industries recover in the second half of 2021.

With that in mind, our capacity expansion plans have to be flexible enough to move up and down with volatilty in the coming year. We certainly need people and are hiring, but we are also looking at capital spending (equipment) projects and efficiency programs to help get more out of the workforce we already have.
We do however believe that part of the demand equation has changed more structurally. We believe the pandemic has jump-started household creation among the Millennials and helped to shift their focus from urban living based on “convenient access to personal entertainment” to suburban living and starting or enhancing their family structures. This coupled with low interest rates and “work from home” flexibility has the potential to increase the total amount of residential square footage that needs to be furnished over the next five years.

These new customers shop differently and have unique service expectations. Speed, convenience and trust are critical. Smaller boutique retail experiences that are authentic should thrive.

Brad Cates

Brad Cates

Brad Cates, CEO, Sarreid

Our plan and associated strategy for 2021 started in April 2020. … Along with the major improvements we made to our website and printed catalog, we ramped up our social media presence and built a 3,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art studio for photo, video and Zoom calls, enabling us to entirely rethink our reliance on the traditional, market-driven product introduction cycle.

While we have always been focused on a continuous offering of fresh product, we pushed product development into an entirely new gear, working with an individual I consider to be one of the best case goods designers in the business. Concurrently, we doubled, then doubled again, our purchase orders for in-line product and best sellers and kept the containers flowing, putting us in an enviable in-stock position at a time when we all know available inventory is the name of the game. The result is that Sarreid is now faster to market than at any time in our 54-year-history. …

While the pandemic was certainly a catalyst for these moves, the success we have enjoyed means we don’t ever foresee returning to the way we used to approach the business. As we move into the new year, we continue to be in heavy product development and to dramatically increase our ordering in order to have the right product at the right time for our customers. 

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker

Meganne Wecker, president, Skyline Furniture

We expect to see online sales continue to grow into 2021. Given that we specialize in e-commerce, we plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.

We will be keeping our manufacturing process nimble and investing heavily in our 3D capabilities. We firmly believe these components will be key to a successful sales strategy into the new year.

Nick Bates

Nick Bates

Nick Bates, president, Spring Air

We are not making big changes in 2021. Instead, we plan stay the course in helping fill the orders of our retailers. This is not the year to change our business model.

We have taken on took on a lot of new business, and our focus on expanding our manufacturing capabilities to remain current with our delivery. During 2020, we were successful in securing new business, and our sole focus will be in beefing up our production to hit maximum output.

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine, president and CEO, Therapedic

The biggest thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increase in online shopping: the consumers’ ability to interface online to meet their purchasing needs, creating a significant amount of Internet purchasing power. Consumers have become much more savvy and adept at buying online.

As a result, we have been retooling our websites. We’ve made them more accessible for sight and hearing impaired and overall easier to navigate. Therapedic.com is undergoing an entire retrofit to make it more accessible and optimized to be more mobile friendly. All of the enhancements will be completed within the first quarter.

bassett, wyatt 2020

Wyatt Bassett

Wyatt Bassett, CEO, Vaughan-Bassett

Our biggest change in 2021 will be to focus on the return of retailers looking for new, fresh and different looks and new product, particularly goods that can reach retail floors before the middle of the year. It will have been more than a year and a half (October 2019) since most retailers have focused on shopping for new product vs. trying to source what was available.

We have been fortunate in the past nine months that we manufacture domestically and have a supply chain that is very local. We have maintained very good delivery (exceptional delivery relative to the overall market) and currently ship more than 80% of our line, including all best sellers, within two weeks. That will only improve on our current line in the next 60 days; and we will carry stock from day one on all new introductions.

I believe given the current strength in home furnishings, we can stock and deliver fresh, new step-up looks at attractive, saleable price points and continue to service them throughout the year on, or close to, an on-demand, in stock basis.

Matt Davis COO Walker Edison

Matt Davis

Matt Davis, COO, Walker Edison

As we look forward into 2021, one of our priorities will be to continue focusing on improving the overall end consumer experience. We are making large investments into our supply chain network that will improve shipping speeds and get Walker Edison products into the hands of consumers faster than ever.

Not only will customers receive their items quicker, but these investments will also lower damage rates and create business efficiencies that will ultimately lead to a happier end consumer.

Image of Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak

Steve Oblak, chief merchandising officer, Wayfair

We know our customers have had a hard year, and if anything, have an even deeper connection to their home and community. They are going to be much more inclined to shop online to renovate, decorate and create their own unique home space than before.

The acceleration to online isn’t necessarily changing our plan as much as we’re fast adjusting to heightened expectations around quality of merchandising, financial and in-home services, inventory availability, speed to customer and of course price to value in this economic environment. So, the biggest change here for us is we’re moving even faster on our ambitious plan to deliver the best home experience for our customer anytime, anywhere.

Another big change is for our supplier partners. One of our top priorities is to be the best home platform for our suppliers. We want our supplier interface, Partner Home, to be as good as the consumer experience we have for our customers. Our suppliers should expect significant upgrades this year on the ease and quality of the tools and analytics we provide them to optimize their business with us.

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga

Luis Ruesga, CEO, Zuo Modern

Every year there is a new challenge, and this year we think it will be in the logistics and manufacturing side. Thankfully, we have a great team overseas and our leader in production, Steve Poon, has many years of experience to minimize the overpaying on freight, delays on manufacture and QA, thus giving us a strong advantage to keep supplying products to our partners with an aggressive price and a prompt delivery.

Our focus for the first two quarters of the year will continue to be on the residential side with drop-ship as a priority as we see end consumers continuing to shop from home. We also see a possible fast recovery on the hospitality and event side by the end of the third and fourth quarters, with demand for hospitality items because of the reopening of new restaurants, bars and hotels.

The post Vision for 2021: 30 industry leaders identify strategies that will separate winners, losers appeared first on Furniture Today.

Mental health matters: NRF panel tackles retail stress, offers digital mental health tools

HIGH POINT — In the face of a year’s worth of pandemic stress, national political unrest and more, the rate of mental health issues, stress and burnout in the U.S. has skyrocketed, and according to a session during the National Retail Federation’s annual retail conference NRF 2021, its impact is becoming more apparent in retail spaces.

According to a study from workforce management company Quinyx, 54% of retail employees said their job has negatively impacted their mental health during the pandemic, and 70% of employees say this period has been the most stressful of their career.

As a result, work effectiveness is being impacted.

In its 2021 State of Stress survey, employee health and wellbeing engagement company Grokker found that 50% of employees have reported increasing their unhealthy eating habits, 42% have reported getting less physical activity, and 25% have increased their use of alcohol and/or controlled substances. Right now, hourly employees without benefits are the most stressed, with 80% of workers reporting feeling overwhelmed, though stress is widespread in about 76% of employees.

“Stress is very, very real … and what is really kind of staggering is when you look at retail employees in particular,” said Lorna Borenstein, CEO of Grokker. “But how do you support employees with such a widespread problem?”

According to Borenstein, she has seen three things really make a difference:

  • Recognizing that stress does not just affect mental health, but it also impacts sleep, nutrition, energy, work and more. It is a whole person issue.
  • Utilizing digital solutions such as apps and videos to support employees as they are less expensive and more private than most in-person solutions, especially with coronavirus social distancing concerns and for employees without benefits.
  • Partnering and working with credentialed professionals so that your employees can connect with true experts and build community.

At online meditation and wellness platform Headspace, Stuart Poole, senior director of business development, said that COVID-19 has not only accelerated stress, but it also has increased the acceptance of digital health platforms, as medical offices and more have turned to online appointments and video calls in the wake of the pandemic. This has made digital mental health solutions more needed and popular for employees, especially as rates of mental health issues and stress surge.

“We ran a study of more than 2,500 U.S. and U.K. based employees in retail, hospitality and travel, and a few other industries and we found that 42% of workers have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety,” noted Poole. “There’s just not enough therapists in the world to meet the surging demand of these mental health issues, and it’s important to have an approachable and scalable offer.”

Even though the solutions offered by companies like Headspace and Grokker may look different from traditionally therapy and mental health programming  — such as celebrity-guided motivational sessions, meditations, exercise programming and more — studies show they work for employees. With Headspace, users see focus improve 22% after just one sessions, burnout decreases by 14% after four sessions, and stress decrease on average 32% after 20 days of usage. After two months, 46% of users see depressive symptoms decrease.

But how can managers and companies encourage their employees to take advantage of mental health assistance and programs — digital or otherwise — once a company begins offering them?

It starts with destigmatizing mental health care and issues, and that often involves getting managers and executives more involved in talking about mental health, openly incentivizing participation and making information and goals shared through the programs private.

At a large Seattle-based retail coffee maker, Headspace put together a fireside chat-style video that featured the company co-founder and CEO when it rolled out a new program with the company, creating a space for the CEO to discuss candidly his mental health journey. Ultimately, that honesty and openness sparked “unprecedented” and continued engagement rates with that retailer’s employees.

In Borenstein’s view, offering varyied content and options is also a key component to getting employees involved and invested in wellness. Just like employees and their stressors, solutions are not one size fits all, and neither are employee wellness goals.

Since stress and mental health issues impact the whole body, Grokker offers everything from guided private and group exercise classes to counseling and expert mental health sessions. It is also quick to develop new offerings when it observes new wellness trends or increased interest in particular programs.

“What we’re really in the business of is trust,” said Borenstein. “How do we help the employer develop a better trusted relationship with its worker, and the way we do that is make sure we are an incredibly trusted provider and brand to the employees. …

“You have to provide a sense of ‘you’re not alone’ and ‘we’re going to be here for you no matter what you’re suffering from and no matter what your achievements are. We’ll support you through that, too.’”

The post Mental health matters: NRF panel tackles retail stress, offers digital mental health tools appeared first on Furniture Today.

Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund

In 2020 there was a 70% increase in returns to general merchandise e-commerce sites. In the last two months alone, returns exceeded $70 billion dollars for these e-commerce retailers that mention constantly, “easy returns.” Yes, we know they want us to believe they just pass the returns to the vendors, but that isn’t always the case. Ever heard of smoke and mirrors?

During the pandemic of 2020, more people than ever were using the Internet for a broad range of purchases, much broader because of the new circumstances. On top of that, many fewer people want to do in-store returns. Can you blame them? So the returns are a larger problem than ever.

In an article in Payments.com, Jan. 11, it was disclosed that Amazon, Walmart and more recently Target are using their ultra-complicated diagnostics and algorithms to study this process and are now telling more people “yes, you will get your refund, but in addition, you may keep the purchased item. Please consider contributing it to a charity or passing it along to someone needy, or just use it yourself.” They did not say, to my surprise, “We don’t give a hoot!”

All of us in the furniture and mattress industries are too aware of the costs of returns and complying with the regulations on selling used furnishings. Many returns erase the profits on several sales, not just that one being returned.

Now these massive e-commerce retailers are using their technology to evaluate each return, according to the Payments.com article. They look at how often you return things, the likelihood the item will be damaged or dirty, how much money they recover on each return of that item and if it can possibly be put back in the store. That is a lot to consider, but they are finding that more often, they lose more money on the return than they can ever recoup on a resale.

We as an industry need to seriously need to examine this same issue.

More times than we want to admit, you might be ahead of the game telling your customer that they will get a refund and can keep the item, use it as they will. Yes, it will cut back on the selection in your scratch-and-dent department, but that isn’t all bad. Deep in the corners of that department are things you would rather forget anyway.

The post Blog: New take on returns: Just keep the product … and the refund appeared first on Furniture Today.

Restonic Mattress names Tokarz president

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­BUFFALO, N.Y. – Restonic Mattress Corp. has tapped Laurie Tokarz as its new president, succeeding Ron Passaglia.

Tokarz brings 25 years of experience in the home furnishings and bedding industry to her new position. Most recently, she was the chief sales officer for Visionary Sleep, Restonic’s largest licensee.

Tokarz began her bedding career at Sibley’s department store as a buyer and was later named divisional merchandise manager for the home furnishings division. From there, she joined Bauhaus Upholstery, and in 1996 joined Serta as a sales representative.

In 2000, Tokarz joined Alliance Sleep Products, a Restonic licensee, and worked alongside the late Tom Comer, eventually serving as president. In 2017, Bob Sherman acquired Alliance Sleep, and Tokarz was named chief sales officer for the newly formed Visionary Sleep. Tokarz also currently serves on the International Sleep Products Assn. board of trustees.

Tokarz succeeds Passaglia, former president and CEO, who retired and transitioned into a consulting position Jan. 1.

“Laurie has a unique understanding of the dynamic changes happening within our industry from the consumer, retailer and the licensee viewpoints,” Passaglia said. “Her experience and successful history of applying these assets for today’s dynamic marketplace will be well-received by our retailers and all of our domestic and international licenses. Her loyal brand stewardship to Restonic has positioned her as the ideal candidate for this position.”

In her role as president, Tokarz will work with domestic and international licensees as well as retailers. She’ll oversee brand strategy and alignment for Restonic’s family of brands, which includes Biltmore and Scott Living. Tokarz will work with Julia Rosien, Restonic’s vice president of brand and digital marketing, to support an adoption of digital transformation in marketing and communication.

“I am delighted to take on this role, which allows me to continue my 20-plus year goal of driving the Restonic brand,” Tokarz said. “With the retail environment evolving at warp speed, Restonic is poised to help retailers garner consumers’ attention with turnkey digital marketing programs and the strength of our licensed brands, Scott Living and Biltmore.”

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