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Welcome to WHY2K20

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 151 No. 6 November/December


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You only need to look at the innovators and disruptors in our world to see the value in asking WHY.

It’s hard to believe, but it is the 20th anniversary of Y2K. You may remember that time when we partied like it was 1999 (because it was 1999) and worried about dire predictions for the turn of the millennium. Horror scenarios about Y2K included the collapse of the banking system, failures in the power grid and living in a time when Tony Danza would have a sitcom, talk show and variety show all at the same time.

Despite the warnings and preparations, nothing happened. January 1, 2000, was no different than December 31, 1999. Twenty years have passed since then and our world, especially our retail world, is a different place in merchandising, competition, advertising and recruiting.

That makes this month the perfect time for WHY2K20: the time to look at every aspect of our business and ask why and sometimes why not?

You only need to look at the innovators and disruptors in our world to see the value in asking WHY. It’s the people who question the status quo and then take the risks of changing them that gain long-term success. Whether it’s the people at Uber who asked “Why wait for a taxi?”, Hulu who asked, “Why do you need a cable for TV?" or GrubHub who asked, “Why should I have to go out for food when it could be brought to me?”, it’s the serious questioning that brings about needed change.

There are always risks associated with change. Sometimes new ideas take a while to kick in. An idea can be way ahead of its time. But there is a greater risk in not changing. Just ask the people at K-Mart, Sears, American Motors or Blackberry.

Change may come with a cost, but often it’s just seeing if what you are doing, your operations and sales practices, are still delivering the results (aka profits) today that you were getting before “Friends” was on TV. Here are a few simple WHYs that you can start with:

Employee Retention?

WHY can’t I attract and retain great employees? Is it the work schedule, compensation, job satisfaction, work environment? What needs to change? Is having full-time commission salespeople still valid, or is there a better way? How can I change the environment in our stores/offices/distribution centers?

Advertising Effectiveness?

WHY isn’t my advertising working? Am I spending too much, or too little? And how do I know if it’s working? Is it footsteps through the door, web visits, or sales dollars? Should I really dive into all digital or stay traditional? And what is the right message to deliver?

Strong Margins?

WHY can’t I maintain strong margins? Or is margin still important? Why can’t my sales team charge for add-ons and just gives them away for free? Should I drop the low-end merchandise and only sell the middle to high end? Do I have to be all things to all people?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions, but things are seldom easy in retail.

Confidence?

WHY am I not confident in the performance of my business? Am I developing the right metrics? What are the most important measurements of how my business is doing? How can I change the way we measure performance, and how can I ensure that my team is accurate and diligent with their measurements?

Succession?

WHY is no one in my family willing or able to take over my business? Why is retail unattractive to them? How can I transfer my passion? How can I model my operation for a successful transition to other owners or leaders? Why can’t we do the things we need to do to affect change? Why aren’t we winning?

Easy Answers?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions, but things are seldom easy in retail. In fact, all of the answers may not be within your organization. Sometimes it takes a candid outsider view of your business to get to the real answers. It’s a great time to connect with your factory reps and their senior managers for help in this area. Add on your advertising contacts, shopper base and even former employees. Listen to their advice with a true open mind.

Document your action plan with goals and the steps to get there and add a timeline. There will be difficult decisions to make. Execute those as fearlessly as a surgeon removing a tumor. The decisions and actions you take can be the ones that lead you to Y2K30!


Gordon Hecht is Senior Manager-In Store Concepts for Serta Simmons Bedding Company, introducing and expanding bedding business in conventional and non-traditional venues. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver and later served in sales, retail management and consulting roles.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht