Second beautiful furniture truck contest attracts some winners.
Warehouse & Delivery By Dan Bolger, P.E.
North America’s furniture retailers continue to come up with superb delivery truck graphics as part of their advertising and corporate identity programs. It’s logical that beautiful trucks hit home with consumers because they are highly visible to Ms. Smith. When your truck delivers to her neighborhood, it not only delivers the obvious information related by the truck’s condition and graphics, but also a more subtle one that tells her where her neighbors’ needs for home furnishings are being met.
A really great benefit of great looking trucks is the fact that they cover your entire marketing area and your moving bill boards are even seen inside gated communities as you make perfect deliveries. To ensure the best possible image, during routine maintenance, you should make sure that truck bumpers and vehicle under-structure are touched up as necessary. This is a step that many furniture retailers overlook. In addition, wheels should either be routinely painted or, if you want to go upscale, you can consider buying polished aluminum rims. And of course, with increased concern for environmental pollution and going green, your drivers should never leave their truck idling. For security, make sure that drivers make sure to remove the key and take it with them inside the home. And your procedure manual should specify that the helper gets out of the truck at each delivery and guides the driver while backing up to eliminate the possibility of property damage or snagging a low hanging TV cable.
When one of your trucks is sitting at a customer’s home with the rear door open, the view should not be at odds with your reputation. Furniture should be properly blanket wrapped and everything should be tied for stability. Insist that all trash be bagged or placed after each stop in an empty carton. What if your customer should look in the truck cab and see a mess of cups, lunch bags and other debris? That would not be optimal, so make sure that garbage is removed from the cab daily and that the interior is cleaned at weekly intervals. This establishes a standard of performance you expect your delivery team to adhere to, regardless of whether they are your own employees or a delivery service. It’s your reputation on the line... the last opportunity to satisfy the customer on this order and an opportunity to plant the seeds for their next purchase. Remember that training yields positive benefits.
Beautiful trucks aren’t an extra cost but a joy to behold and real benefit. Did you know that a 30 inch by 12 foot banner on the side of a bus in a relatively small community can cost $500 each month? Doing a wrapped bus can cost $1,000 per month, or more depending on the population and traffic volume. Billboards range from $500 to over $2,000 each month for space rental plus a production fee. You can estimate the advertising value for your beautiful trucks by visiting the web site of the large billboard and bus advertising company www.lamar.com.
When I first put graphics on my truck fleet in the mid seventies, the options were paint or 3M decals. Today’s decals are far superior. An increasing number are graphics printed on vinyl, like the ones from TruckSkin on some of this year’s entries. Creative retailers rotate the graphics seasonally or during special promotion periods or to announce store openings. Also consider putting your most beautiful truck in community parades. Art Van’s Show Truck gets accolades everywhere it goes and communities throughout their marketing area ask them to send it. IKEA uses the unique services of locomotion-media.com for special events throughout the USA with excellent results. (especially the one used at a Florida opening set up as a bedroom and filled with human models.)
While not specifically part of this contest, another evident trend is the increasing role of demountable truck bodies. These units are loaded at central furniture distribution centers, transported two at a time to distant points by a single driver. Local delivery teams then deliver the boxes within that marketing area. There can be strategic advantages for retailers with stores where outlying points are beyond two hour driving time.
Bottom line, having beautiful trucks isn’t an expense. Beautiful trucks pay dividends in so many ways for single store retailers and multiple location retailers. That’s why you want them to look great all the time.
Small Service/Furniture Van
Winner - Michael Alan Furnishings: This Lake Havasu, Arizona retailer, known for excellent service, submitted entries in the “Local Furniture Delivery In-House” and “Small Service/Furniture Van” categories.
Family owned Michael Alan Furnishings & Interior Design features, “beautifully displayed, quality furniture and accessories at the best possible prices.” The company also offers design services.
This retailer wins in the cargo van category and gets honorable mention in the local furniture delivery category.
Equipment: ‘99 Chevy Cargo Van (winner) and Isuzu NPR (honorable mention). The store credits the van’s longevity to Mark Denevan, their Customer Service Technician. Mark has been with Michael Alan since 1995, and is its primary driver and care giver. The van is washed and thoroughly inspected weekly. Every 3,000 miles the oil is changed, and every 5,000 the tires are rotated.
Van Use: The van is used for large accessory jobs, service calls, small deliveries, or in some cases quick emergency deliveries. It is equipped with a ladder, toolbox, blankets, furniture touch-up kits, and other appropriate supplies to handle any job situation. It is not uncommon for the van to be used on a morning accessory job, then go to a service call and transport a recliner to the local upholsterer, and then go on a delivery. It is even used to run errands, such as picking up water and soda for the store. Michael Alan’s desert living customers appreciated the water and soda they offer free to their customers... and they go through a lot of bottled water!
Submitted by: Mark Brady.
Sales Volume: 5-25 Million Dollars.
Cargo Van Graphics: Graphics that relate a clean, professional and upscale image were designed in-house and airbrushed by a local graphics company.
Delivery Truck Graphics: Vinyl graphics by TruckSkin, Traverse City, MI were designed and installed in Lake Havasu. Rails and straps secure the design to the side. Each truck has different graphics, with the same picture on each side. The back has another smaller picture with logo, and the front shows just the logo.
Michael Allen inspects and preps all products in the warehouse before loading for delivery. Once in the home, items receive their "White Glove" treatment. The delivery team makes sure everything is set-up and cleaned again before they leave. The customer is then asked to sign a delivery receipt, which states they have received their product in good condition. Should there be a need for service, due to whatever circumstance, the issue is reported right away to the service department. Customers are left with the feeling that they know they will be taken care of. The company says that they receive calls all the time on what an outstanding delivery team they have.
Local Delivery Truck In-House
Under $25 Million sales
Interior Ideas, Inc.: San Antonio, Texas based Interior Ideas is located in a high-end shopping center that contains a movie theater and more than 10 restaurants. The truck is a three sided billboard that sits in the parking lot visible to everyone who visits this center. There is a different image on each side of the truck.
Graphics: This retailer chose the graphics to showcase their vendor Vanguard.
Equipment: 2005 Isuzu NPR With 14 foot Supreme Box.
Graphics: The graphics were chosen from hundreds of options to showcase the look and caliber of their store.
Benefits: Chris Pfeiffer, President of Interior Ideas noted that, “It’s a great delivery truck, very eye-catching as it delivers around town and a wonderful billboard when it sits in the parking lot.”
Delivery Area: Delivers furniture and accessories to San Antonio and surrounding Towns.
Honorable Mention - Circle Furniture: With five stores and two outlet centers in Massachusetts, Circle Furniture gets honorable mention for its attention grabbing graphics approach and use of color. The retailer is known for eclectic, contemporary selection, fast delivery times for made-to-order items, corporate philanthropy, support of the regional economy, and most of all, fun.
Equipment: Isuzu FTR.
Graphics: Their advertising agency designed and the graphic created by TruckSkin.
Person Responsible: Jonathan Boyle
Maintenance: Monthly preventative maintenance and weekly washing.
Delivery Area: Delivers home furnishings to New England states, small items via UPS and nationally via furniture carrier.
Honorable Mention - Braden’s Fine Furniture & Interiors: This retailer founded in 1956 offers fine furniture and quality design services in its 95,000 square foot showroom and two Braden’s Lifestyles stores.
Equipment: Freightliner M2 with 26 foot Morgan Box and Demountable Truck Body System.
Delivery Area: Furniture delivered around the Knoxville, TN area.
Local Delivery In House
Over $25 Million sales
Winner Robb & Stucky: Upscale retailer offers interior design services complemented by high-end products. Three customer service centers (CSCs) are used to provide home delivery in Texas, Nevada, Florida and Arizona. Delivery within a 250 mile delivery radius from each customer service center uses the demountable concept to extend their reach. See truck photo on the first page of this article.
Sales Volume: +25 million dollars.
Equipment: 2006 Freightliner/Mercedes M2 business class straight truck.
Graphics: The Robb & Stucky advertising department designed the graphics to coincide with their ongoing branding campaign and worked with specialist Lee Bonsper to execute the application. 3M vinyl was applied to the aluminum truck body. The brown and gold colors represent understated elegance that the affluent Robb & Stucky customer responds to and appreciates. The color mixing and design “ooze” class and quality for upscale markets in Scottsdale, AZ, Dallas, TX, Las Vegas, NV and Boca Raton, Naples, Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and Sarasota, FL.
Special Modifications: The truck body is removable. The Robb & Stucky fleet is made of Demountable truck bodies that increases productivity.
Additional information: To enhance name brand recognition, the graphic design on the trucks is reflected on gift boxes, shopping bags and marketing collateral as well. There is a certain cachet associated with a Robb & Stucky truck arriving in a customer’s driveway; it is a reflection of quality. The delivery team is trained to reinforce that quality image with white-glove delivery service.
Submitted By: Ken Fitzgerald, VP of Logistics/Ops
Baer's Furniture (Honorable Mention): Furniture delivered within a 250 mile radius of Pompano Beach.
Submitted By: Bruce Dorfman, Baer’s Director of Transportation
Equipment: International 4300 with Morgan 26’ Box and Demountable Truck Body System.
Sales Volume: Over $25 Million.
Local Furniture Delivery Truck Franchise or Licensee
Winner Verlo Mattress Factory Stores: Wisconsin based Verlo Mattress Factory Stores deliver competitively priced, top-quality sleep sets and sleep-related products, built-to-order to consumers in Colorado, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia.
Store Sales Volume: Over $25 million.
Truck Brand/Model: 2007 Isuzu NPR with a 20' box from Morgan. Box interior has a wood floor with wooden walls and quick connects built into the walls. Truck configurations vary from franchise to franchise. This entry is from the Houston, TX franchisee.
Modifications: Step bumper for ease in and out of the truck as well as easy-attach strap systems for tying down products.
Graphics: The graphics align with Verlo's new branding campaign containing elements touting Old World craftsmanship - the brown leather strap and the Verlo craftsman wearing a leather apron. Graphics packages are designed by the Verlo Mattress Factory Stores home office marketing team and formatted for application by local sign companies. This allows Verlo to control the creative direction while still allowing the franchise owner to develop and support local business relationships. Updated versions of the graphics package are released approximately every 18 months. Verlo realizes that their trucks are not only moving billboards, but that the delivery team makes the last point of contact with customers. A section of their franchise operations manual dedicated to delivery includes step-by-step procedures, scripting, scheduling, uniforms, appearance, maintenance, driver hiring criteria, and even theft prevention.
Truck Advertising Benefits: The roving billboard keeps the Verlo name in the public eye, drawing top-of-mind awareness. Their goal: instant recognition!
Truck Maintenance: Individual franchise owners are responsible for maintenance and fleet operations. Monthly maintenance is required of each franchise owner, including cleaning, washing, and waxing schedules. The delivery section of Verlo Mattress Factory Stores Operations Manual outlines items for daily (tires, lights, washer fluid, general appearance, etc.), weekly (handling, brakes, alignment, etc.), monthly (transmission, oil, radiator), and quarterly (speedometer, dashboards gauges, etc.) inspections that must be submitted and filed with the local franchise owner.
Product Description: Each franchise owner has a delivery team responsible for getting beds, futons, pillows, frames, etc. to the customer.
Delivery Truck Outsourced
Winner Tepperman's: This four store Ontario, Canada based retailer promises its customers, “the best fashions, values and brand names in Furniture, Mattresses, Appliances, and Audio/Video at guaranteed lowest prices providing you the after-sale service."
Sales Volume: Over 25 million dollars.
Equipment: International 4400 DT466.
Truck Graphics: The logo was developed by their in-house advertising department. It was applied using paint.
Benefits: Tepperman’s goal was to keep the graphics design simple, but very visible. The bright red grabs attention. The same design and color is used on their delivery shuttle and in-home service trucks. The website address is visible on the rear of each of the trucks which are kept exceptionally clean and scratch free.
Special Modifications: Tepperman’s added air conditioning due to the very humid Ontario summers.
Special Maintenance: Trucks receive a daily circle check and monthly on-site check up. The leasing company offers a mobile repair service. Trucks are replaced every three years or 75,000 miles and re-painted every two years.
Delivery Area: 100 miles from each DC.
Long Haul Furniture Delivery
Winner - Haverty’s Furniture: Haverty's Furniture is a full-service home furnishings retailer with over 120 showrooms in 17 states in the Southern and Midwestern US regions providing its customers with a wide selection of quality merchandise in middle to upper-middle price ranges. Founded in 1885.
Submitted By: Steve Schingler, Assistant VP of Distribution.
Equipment: Freightliner M2 with 26 foot Morgan Box with Demountable Truck Body System
Delivery Area: 250 mile radius of Braselton, GA.
Honorable Mention - Ivan Smith Furniture: Shreveport, Louisiana based Ivan Smith Furniture has almost 30 store locations in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. They promise their customers, professional delivery services and a follow up call after delivery to ensure that customers are satisfied and were treated with courtesy.
Equipment: Hino 258LP with Supreme 26 foot box and the Demountable Truck Body System.
Delivery Area: Delivery within a 250 mile radius of Shreveport, LA.
Sales Volume: More than 25 Million.
Winner: Art Van Furniture based in Warren Michigan, Art Van Furniture operates Michigan's largest private delivery fleet and travels over five million miles per year throughout the state of Michigan. Art Van is a family owned and operated company with 29 stores in 28 cities in Michigan
Sales Volume: More than $25 million.
Equipment: Sterling Truck.
Truck Graphics: Graphics were designed and developed by Art Van’s in-house graphics team. The “Cindy Truck” has applied vinyl graphics and the “Holiday Truck” graphics are applied vinyl with metallic overlay.
Special Events: The Art Van trucks participate in several cruises and parades, receiving enthusiastic community support. Both the Cindy Truck and Holiday Truck have speakers to play music in parades.
Submitted by: Mike Hogan, Fleet Manager.
Delivered Products: Home furnishings in northern Indiana, Northern, Ohio, Ontario and throughout Michigan.
Honorable Mention- IKEA: IKEA operates over 265 stores worldwide and more than 30 in the US. The chain is known for offering low prices for well-designed, stylish, functional furnishings along with a family and employee friendly atmosphere. Although not known for home delivery services; home-delivery, export and assembly services can be arranged.
Equipment: The IKEA custom made “glass truck” has been used in many markets around the country to promote store openings and events. The truck is so unusual that it commands attention wherever it goes. There are even video clips of the truck on YouTube.
Daniel Bolger, P.E. provides operations consulting
services to clients throughout North America. You can contact Dan at email@example.com for more information on this or other transportation, logistics and furniture warehousing topics. Go to www.furninfo.com to read all of Dan’s articles.