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Recap: The 29th Furniture Marketing Group Symposium

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Bedding Panel: Moderator retailer Alan VonderHaar, and panel members Mike Derro, Brad Rogers, and Steve Rusing came together at the 2019 FMG Symposium to discuss the challenges facing today's mattress industry as well as its unique opportunities.

The 29th Furniture Marketing Group (FMG) Symposium was held at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, January 24 - 26, 2019. The event was attended by 350 members, vendors and other industry leaders. The Symposium featured a diverse group of speakers and panels and offered unmatched opportunities for attendees to network and socialize with other member retailers and a wide range of product and service vendors.

“The speakers and the sessions delivered pertinent and timely information to both members and vendors, and the so- cial events were well-attended and fun. We heard from several attendees that it was the best Symposium yet,“ said FMG Executive Director Mike Herschel.

The three-day event was chock-full of information, networking, and fellowship and featured a full slate of speakers and panels. On Thursday evening, members were treated to an unforgettable keynote address from a unicycle-riding, ax- juggling, back-flipping Dan Thurmon. Dan was dynamic, entertaining and inspiring and encouraged the audience to live Off Balance On Purpose. Following Dan’s energetic keynote, attendees adjourned to the welcome reception to enjoy an evening of great conversation, food and music.

Friday was a full day with speakers covering a range of topics including developing and communicating corporate culture, delivering great customer service, hiring and training of associates, digital advertising and non-traditional approaches to building a brand.

Opening up Friday’s sessions, Pamela N. Danziger, speaker, author and researcher, internationally recognized for her expertise on the world’s most influential customers, the American affluent, answered the question, What Do HENRYs Want? HENRYs are the High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet consumers with household incomes of $100K - $249K. She shared powerful information on how marketing to HENRYs can improve retailers’ bottom lines.

Darren Budden, director of Shipboard Human Resources for Royal Caribbean International, spoke on delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience. He spent 25 years at companies like Royal Caribbean, International, General Electric and IBM. Darren shared his customer-focused, multi-cultural experience, drawing from his time at Royal Caribbean oversee- ing 15,000 crew members representing 80 different nationalities.

Andy Brief is the director of Account Services at DeVito/Verdi, one of the most consistently lauded ad agencies for strategic and creative excellence. Andy explored D/V’s philosophy, Capturing the Truth, based on a view that their job is to capture a truth about the product or the consumer that will resonate. Andy discussed the fact that what works in the market is the need to find and hit a consumer nerve that resonates as truthful, valuable and unforgettable.

Friday afternoon also featured a mattress panel, made up of industry leaders Steve Stickler, Ashley Furniture Indus- tries; Mike Derro, Serta Simmons Bedding; and Steve Rusing, Tempur-Sealy International and moderator Alan Vonder- Haar of Miskelly’s. The panel discussed the challenges and opportunities faced by the mattress industry and retailers.

Rounding out Friday’s presentations was unforgettable sleight-of-hand magician and inspirational speaker, Bodine Bolasco, in his presentation, Vision Creates Reality. Bodine brought to the stage an infectious energy and adventurous spirit, sharing relatable humorous life and business experiences, while exploring the essentials of creating customer loyalty.

Fun was the name of the game at a well-attended and upbeat Vendor Appreciation party held Friday night in the The Cosmopolitan’s Chelsea Theater. Attendees relaxed in a festive atmosphere surrounded by friends, jazz and good food.

Saturday featured a review of member television commercials moderated by Charlie Horich of Hector Horich Lebow Advertising, followed by a Best Ideas session. The sharing of Best Ideas and Best Items rounded out the sessions on Sat- urday. After lunch, 30 FMG members toured both the new Walker Furniture store in Henderson, NV, and the nearby R. C. Willey store. Larry Alterwitz and Jeff Child were on hand to welcome the members to their respective stores.

About FMG: Furniture Marketing Group is a 100 + member buying group headquartered in High Point, NC, made up of inde- pendent retail furniture dealers throughout North America. FMG’s mission is to organize furniture dealers to share infor- mation, and negotiate with manufacturers and importers for maximum dealer profit. As the largest volume furniture buying cooperative in the nation, FMG currently represents over 860 storefronts with cumulative annual sales approach- ing $3 billion. By providing a wide variety of money-saving vendor programs and services, FMG members increase rev- enues and decrease expenses. All benefits and services flow back exclusively to the individual member companies.

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