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Furniture First Holds 10th Annual Symposium

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Furniture First recently concluded its 10th Annual Symposium in Nassau. The extended weekend provided members with the opportunity to mix business with family fun and tropical sunshine. Prior to the symposium, Furniture First board members met for a two-day long-term planning session to chart the future of Furniture First. “This year’s Annual Symposium enabled our members to have fun in the sun and hours of invaluable networking,” said Shelly Burd, Director of Operations at Furniture First. “Speakers Pat West [of West Retail Consulting] and Martin Roberts [of GRID2 International] offered our members insightful seminars and individual attention. As always, ‘The Best Idea Session’ was stellar.” At this year’s symposium, with its relaxed tropical location, members were able to confer with the speakers one-on-one and get advice for their stores. West and Roberts also attended networking and roundtable sessions with the members. Patrick West shared his insight on improving Customer Care in the 21st Century. With over 25 years in the home furnishings industry, his programs have improved the bottom line of many companies with software solutions that simplify merchandising, operations, customer service and finance management. His presentation was a great nuts-and-bolts refresher for members who may have lost sight of how day-to-day operations add to overall profits. Highlights of his presentation included how to develop Key Performance Indicators for the customer care departments and functions of a furniture retailer. Martin Roberts spoke to the members about reaching out to customers under the age of 35. This customer segment was divided into four stage-of-life groups. These customers have different furniture needs and budget considerations, depending on their stage. They respond to different media based on their stage as well, with shelter magazines playing a large role throughout and TV having the greatest impact on those who are married with children. Roberts stressed that developing customer loyalty early with this demographic pays-off in the long run. This younger set finds shopping in traditional furniture retailers boring. They are more comfortable shopping in lifestyle retailers at the mall. Roberts suggested several tactics to overcome their resistance to conventional furniture stores, among them were to acknowledge the seasons with accessories and signage. Another suggestion may seem counterintuitive to many retailers: don’t put your best sellers at the front of the store. While brown and beige may top the charts in customer sales, they do nothing to excite the imagination of the customer and invite them in. A retailer can grab the attention of the consumer and shake the “boring” perception by featuring color up front. The Furniture First Symposium also featured their ever-popular “Best Idea Session.” Members shared some of their biggest success stories of the previous year. A wide variety of initiatives was discussed. They included new product lines, new value-added customer services, and charitable initiatives that benefited both the store and their community. “Learning from other members as to what works, and bringing in customers and making sales is one of the biggest benefits to the membership,” said Bill Hartman, President of Furniture First. At the end of the three-day event, members headed back home with than a tropical glow. All remarked how much they enjoyed the location and the opportunity for family fun or a romantic pre-Valentine’s dinner. The relaxing venue allowed attendees to recharge for the retail battleground. The speakers and idea sessions armed them new and innovative ideas on how to compete more profitably with their competition.

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