Independent furniture retailers have always been plugged-in to their communities. They’re the ones whose name is featured on the backs of Little League jerseys, who sponsor the town parade and furnish the middle school teachers’ lounge.
In the past decade, the role of charitable giving has taken on much more meaning. Studies show a direct connection between charitable giving by retailers and increases in store loyalty from those who benefit.
“It’s not the reason we help our community, but I’ve definitely seen the appreciation and support returned our way,” says HFA member Randy Coconis of Coconis Furniture in Central Ohio.
Asking Coconis to pick a favorite furniture promotion is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. You’re wasting your time. But ask Coconis to pick his most meaningful promotion and there’s no hesitation. Coconis Furniture’s five stores handed out dozens of certificates in October – Breast Cancer Awareness month – offering free mammograms to women with no health insurance or whose insurance doesn’t provide for the testing.
Coconis says it’s a promotion he and his staff get excited about because it extends beyond just selling furniture and appliances. “Not every promotion has to be focused on your business, and this is one of those that’s about the community and helping people who might otherwise not be able to help themselves.”
HFA members, Knight Furniture and Stacy Furniture can relate. They are always lending a helping hand in their respective Texas communities with fundraisers and sponsorships or lending space in their stores to various community groups.
Joey Gunn, who, along with his father David, runs Knight Furniture in Sherman, Texas, can’t recall a time when their stores were not giving of their time and talents to the communities they serve. “Ever since I was crawling on the showroom floor in diapers, we’ve been part of our community,” says Gunn. “We do it because we want to, but let’s face it, it makes good business sense. Why would you not want to support the community that’s always supported you?”
In this season of giving, these three HFA members’ stories can serve as a vivid reminder to other furniture retailers of the power of giving.
A Cone Communications and Echo Research study found that 82 percent of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility when they shop. According to the study, two demographics particularly interested in philanthropy are coveted by furniture retailers – mothers and millennials.
“We want people to know that we’re a part of this community and that we’re not going anywhere,” says Gunn. “We’re going to support everything that makes our community great.”
Dorian Stacy Sims says everything she learned about giving came from her father and grandfather. Rick Stacy, Sims’ father, founded Stacy Furniture in Grapevine, Texas. “He recognized the importance of connecting and engaging with your neighbors,” she said. “It’s something that stuck with me.”
Sims says it’s important for furniture retailers to find a cause or charity they are passionate about. If you do that, the benefits will fall into place. “We never go out there thinking this is the right business decision to make. We think it’s the right thing to do, period. You’ve been given the time and talent to do great things through your store, so why not do just that?”
Knight Furniture donates its time and resources to all sorts of groups in Sherman. Little League baseball, Chamber of Commerce events, school choirs, women’s shelters, teacher-of-the-month celebrations and so much more.
“What’s cool is being the store that’s going to be at the Little League games and Chamber events,” says Gunn. “That’s something the big boxes can never do. That’s what sets your local store apart.”
Coconis agrees. He knows a promotion like free breast-cancer screenings makes good business sense, too. When furniture and appliance superstore Big Sandy moved into Central Ohio a few years back – Big Sandy’s store in Lancaster is a mere 300 yards from Coconis Furniture – Coconis knew he needed to be more aggressive in getting his store’s name and message in front of the community.
The company was even the official sponsor of a Veterans Day Parade in Zanesville, Ohio, this year. “We want people in this community to know we’re here for them in ways beyond just furniture or appliances, but obviously there for those, too. When people go looking for furniture or an appliance, I want them saying to themselves, ‘Coconis deserves a shot.’ And that’s all we really want is for them to give us a shot because then I think we can win them over.”
For other retailers looking to become more involved in their communities, Coconis, Sims and Gunn offer a few tips:
According to the study, two demographics particularly interested in philanthropy are coveted by furniture retailers – mothers and millennials.
Find a passion. “If you believe in what a group or organization does, you’re going to be more invested yourself,” says Sims.
Open your doors. It’s not all about money. Once a month, Knight Furniture invites an elementary, middle or high school choir to perform in its showroom. “They get a nice-sized audience to perform in front of and the store gets exposure, too,” says Gunn.
Just say no. Not every opportunity is the right fit. “You have to be smart with your time and allocations,” says Sims. “Sometimes sponsoring a football game isn’t the best return for your store. Sometimes a private school asking for help is going to have to take a back seat to a public school that’s really in need. You have to be able to say ‘no’ sometimes.”
For more information on the CEO Summit, call HFA Executive Vice President Mark Schumacher at 916-757-1173.
A feature about Home Furnishings Association's retail members, legislation affecting the furniture industry and other retail news from HFA.