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Greater New York Home Furnishings Association Gets IHFRA Chapter Of The Year Award

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IHFRA announced that the Greater New York Home Furnishings Association will be recognized as IHFRA's Chapter of the Year at the 76th annual Presidential Gala and Awards Banquet during the High Point Market. The Chapter is being honored for the bold initiatives it has taken to reorganize its operations and reframe its mission to align itself with the current economic situation and changing nature of the furniture industry.

For more than 80 years the GNYHFA has served a membership composed of reps, retailers, manufacturer/importers and suppliers to the industry.

The organization has been known for its social and networking events that are always done in a "Big Apple" way. These include, supplier expo events, a black tie dinner and dance, a top-notch golf outing, educational seminars and informal Texas Hold Em networking evenings.  It has also been active as needed in local and state legislative issues as they affect NY area retailers and reps.

This past year, GNYHFA honored Neil Goldberg, Michael Goldberg and Steven Goldberg of Raymour & Flanigan at a highly successful dinner and dance gala. The Goldbergs received the Jerry Gans Memorial Award, its highest honor. The event, complete with a souvenir journal honoring them, drew roughly 450 industry members.

"Our Dinner Dance," said GNYHFA president Chris Delisa, Sales Executive New York Territory for Home Line, is a huge undertaking for the Association, spearheaded by our long-time member, supporter and past president Andy Gans of Gans Brothers. Andy invests his own blood, sweat and tears to make sure this event is the highlight of the New York furniture industry's year."

In addition, GNYHFA recently redesigned its website, gnyhfa.org, installing a Paypal feature to streamline dues and event payments, plus instituted some aggressive social networking with the creation of an active Linkedin site that now boasts roughly 250 members.

However, in spite of an aggressive event calendar, a pro-active membership committee headed by Abe Feinblum of the Furniture Real estate powerhouse Julius M. Feinblum, when the board of directors of the Association took stock of its situation, they had to acknowledge that it was facing a long downward trend in membership, and a reduction in grass roots member participation. 

Said Chris Delisa, President, "The NY home furnishings industry has changed in recent years. Retail consolidations, and difficult business conditions have had a negative effect on our mid to large-sized, NY-based independent retail members. Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot of furniture sold in NY, but it is sold through different channels. We are a historical organization based on long standing family ties and strong relationships, but at the retail level, to some degree, those ties have weakened in recent years. This same trend has made it difficult for many reps, especially in the mid and upper end who have fewer good customers to sell."

Added Jordan Greenberg, Executive Board member, recent GNYHFA president and President of showroom operation Apropos, "We've been lucky to have the support of a some of the best people and organizations out there. For example, Jim Druckman, President of the New York Design Center has been generous for many years, making available an office and conference rooms for our use. Also supporters and fellow board members Pat Cory of Cory Home Delivery and Lou Massood of MGM Transport have offered their support and guidance through good and tough times. Even so, many our most active members... a group that includes, some great talent such as Lenny Kharitonov,  Tony Bellarosa , Linda Feinblum, Martin Herman, Michael King, Brad Pyne , Robert Segal , Ann Marie Vignapiano, Abe Feinblum, Andy Gans, Pat Cory, Harris Kirsch, Tommy Leflein and Russell Bienenstock and  have realized for some time that we needed to change the way our organization does business so we can generate more direct member involvement and reduce costs for members and supporters."

Toward that end GNYHFA recently made the decision to eliminate its full time Executive Director position, cut office expense and initiate a grass roots effort to generate membership. It has also allocated resources to focus on its core mission to help members become more efficient and profitable; influence general business conditions experienced by NY area members; and promote good business practices through the exchange of ideas at networking events seminars and functions. 

So far those efforts have paid off. Just two weeks after the change in direction, membership was up by 20%. The Association just announced that member stores of the Fashion Home Group have rejoined the Association and rep membership is on the increase.

"With lower overhead and a more active membership, we are confident we are on the right track," continued Delisa. "Change is never easy, especially for an Association like ours. The fact is that although GNYHFA is an affiliate member of IHFRA providing representatives and now also retailers and suppliers with valuable discounts and services, our major strength comes from the ties we've formed locally. Our members have relationships that support and inform their lives and their ability to make a living in the furniture industry. We are committed to developing them further in the coming years by making it easy for local business people to join GNYHFA and stay involved."

The IHFRA Presidential Gala will be held on Friday, April 16 at 6 p.m. in the IHFC Club on the 11th Floor Green Wing.  For information and reservations on the Gala, contact the IHFRA Office at 336-889-3920 or e-mail ihfra@ihfra.org

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