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Ashley for the arts

Ashley for the Arts set for Aug. 8-10

Photo: Last year’s Ashley for the Arts drew 70,000 fans to Arcadia, Wis.

Arcadia, Wis., punches above its weight. The small town on the Trempealeau River counts only about 3,000 residents but claims one big company: Home Furnishings Association member Ashley Furniture Industries. It also hosts one huge summer event: Ashley for the Arts.

Ashley for the Arts is a three-day music and art festival that drew 70,000 people last year. Even bigger crowds are expected at 51-acre Memorial Park Aug. 8-10 for a star-studded lineup of entertainers as well as an Art and Craft Fair, car show, hot-air balloon launches, a circus, yoga, food, a 5K race, fireworks, and other family activities.

Admission wristbands, good for all three days, cost $15 and are available at participating Ashley HomeStores through Aug. 3. Proceeds help support schools, children’s charities and medical research. Last year’s event raised $535,500 for 51 nonprofit organizations. That’s a huge punch for good causes.

Keep up with HFA member news on the Shop Talk blog.

Group photo at the Home Furnishings Leadership Institute

At the Leadership Institute, retailers grow together

Proving you’re never too old to learn, eight Home Furnishings Association members gathered in Baton Rouge, La., May 6-9 for the second annual Home Furnishings Leadership Institute at Louisiana State University.

Retailers spent four days learning from some of the industry’s best and brightest retailers as well as from LSU’s executive education professors. Topics covered included communicating effectively with employees, picking the right leadership style, succession planning and key performance metrics in your furniture store.

HFA members seemed to enjoy that many of the teachers were also part of the furniture industry.

“Experience in the industry is one thing that cannot be replaced in a classroom,” said Andres Capo of El Dorado Furniture in Florida. “So, having speakers that are directly involved in the business helped me identify and relate.”

Rachael Cowell of Great American Home Furnishings said she was excited to apply what she learned at the institute to her two stores in Oregon. “I attained more critical knowledge in the four days of this Leadership Institute than I’ve learned in the eight years I have been in this industry,” she said. 

We hope to see you at our next event!

Increase your store’s conversion rate with DoorCounts

Ask furniture retailers what would help them sell more furniture and you’re likely to hear the same response from most: more traffic through their front doors.

Jerry Murphey with retail traffic counter DoorCounts thinks retailers have it backwards. “Most retailers already have a healthy amount of traffic coming into their business,” says Murphey. “They need to be improving the conversion rates on the traffic the already have.”

DoorCounts, a Home Furnishings Association solution partner, is a cloud-based management platform that allows retailers to always know what’s happening on their sales floor. With DoorCounts, retailers can real-time sales queuing for their staff, instantly see results of every sales associate’s interaction with a customer and acquire important contact information for every customer who walks into their stores.

A retail traffic counting system helps furniture retailers make smarter business decisions, and DoorCounts is an industry leader. DoorCounts can easily determine how much sales revenue is being generated in relation to traffic, the days and times when staffing your sales floor needs to be beefed up and when you can cut back, and analyze whether promotional events are successful. DoorCounts can also help determine which advertising medium your customers respond to most. With all this data at their fingertips, retailers can make informed decisions about marketing, management, staffing and sales training.

Increase your conversion rate

With DoorCounts, Murphey said it’s not unreasonable to expect a furniture retailer to increase his or her store’s conversion rate by 10 percent – sometimes even 20 percent.

“That might not sound like much but if you’re a store doing $6 million in revenue, a 10 percent increase is a lot of money,” says Murphey. “Furniture is a different retail animal. People don’t go shopping for furniture just to look around. Their intention is to buy. So the question is, when they’re in your store, are you doing everything you can to convert them? Are you making the most of every opportunity that walks through your front door?”

Retailers already spend a considerable amount of money advertising just to get shoppers into their stores. “With each conversion,” says Murphey, “that cost goes exponentially down. It just makes sense to increase the conversions on who’s already coming into your store.”

For more information about DoorCounts, contact an HFA membership specialist at 800-422-3778.

Fly-in is valuable, participants say

Above: Jacqueline and Jesús Capó, Rob Davis, Mitchell Stiles and Matt Schultz at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

It’s called a fly-in, but Home Furnishings Association members traveled to Washington, D.C., by planes, trains and automobiles to meet with key government leaders May 14-15.

Subjects discussed included trade, taxes and regulatory matters.

The annual visit to the nation’s capital, arranged by government relations firm Dutko GR, gives HFA members the chance to hear from and express concerns to elected representatives and agency officials. The busy agenda featured a series of meetings all day May 14 with executives at the National Retail Federation, three U.S. representatives and four congressional staff members.

Combined forces with AHFA

The next day, HFA joined forces with the American Home Furnishings Alliance, whose participants included Ron Wanek of Ashley Furniture Industries, Doug Bassett of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture, Jeff Cook of A.R.T. Furniture, Alex Shuford of Century Furniture, Paul Toms of Hooker Furniture and other leading manufacturers. The combined group heard from three senators, two representatives, a White House aide, a Consumer Products Safety Commissioner and an Environmental Protection Agency official.

“The fly-in was a great experience to gain a better understanding of the inner workings of our government,” said first-time participant Matt Schultz of John V Schultz Furniture, who drove to Washington from Erie, Pa. “It provides us a rare opportunity to voice our concerns over current policy directly to the decision-makers. I would highly recommend the trip to anyone in HFA.”  

“It was wholeheartedly worthwhile!” said Jesús R. Capó of El Dorado Furniture in Miami, who flew to the capital with his wife, Jacqueline. Capó is president of the HFA for 2019. “No matter how slow the government gears turn, the HFA needs to be the squeaky wheel, as there are issues that affect us more than most. As the saying goes, ‘If not us, then who? If not now, then when?’ And, yes, I would recommend this trip to other HFA members. In fact, every member should attend at least once, especially the Top 100.”

The double benefit of advocacy

“Political advocacy always has a double benefit,” said Eric Blackledge, owner of Blackledge Furniture in Corvallis, Ore., who has flown to Washington many times. “From the standpoint of your business and investments, learning what federal, state and local decision-makers are thinking helps you anticipate and adapt to potential future changes. But active advocacy can also help you change that future for the better, not only for your business, but for our industry, and for the economy overall.

“After 50 years of advocacy work at all levels,” he added, “I’ve learned that although you will usually never know whether your input was the key factor that resulted in a good governmental decision, you will always know that if you did not get involved, you have no one to blame but yourself for the poor decisions that legislators can make.”

Matt Schewel of Schewels Furniture in Lynchburg, Va., drove to Manassas, Va., early Tuesday, then caught a train into Washington – arriving in time for the first meeting at 9:30 a.m. He didn’t mind the travel.

“The HFA fly-in was a great opportunity to make our voices heard on the critical trade and tax issues affecting our businesses, as well as to gather intelligence on the next steps,” he said.

Another train traveler was Lenny Kharitonov of Emma Mason in New York City. While he didn’t think he learned anything that was “actionable” for his business, he said, he found that the event “provides a unique perspective into how laws are made and what’s happening in our country. It’s a very valuable experience not only for executives but really for everyone. Overall, I appreciate the opportunity to be part of the fly-in, advocate on behalf of our industry, and have exposure into the world of politics.”

“I applaud the efforts of the association and dedicated members that take the time to help the entire industry advance,” said Rob Davis of Diakon Logistics in Warrenton, Va. “This year we had a powerful group with a relevant and timely message, which will certainly make a difference.”

Davis not only drove into the city May 14 and 15 but used his political connections to take a few HFA members on a special tour of the Capitol dome on May 13. They climbed some 300 steps to reach the highest vantage point, which would have offered them the best view in Washington, Davis said – if, unfortunately, it weren’t such a rainy, foggy day.

IHFRA sends a delegation

John Pinion IV from Cedar Park, Texas, is the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association’s liaison on the HFA Board of Directors. He was part of a four-man IHFRA contingent joining the fly-in that included Executive Director Ray Allegrezza, 2019 President Jonathan Schulman and Marty Berk.

“As IHFRA liaison, I believe the GRAT (Government Relations Action Team) and the fly-in are the best things HFA does,” Pinion said. “You have to show up to legislators and staffers and help educate them on key issues. Even more important, it puts a personal face on the issues. I believe the testimony of Matt Schultz and Cynthia Heathcoe was especially compelling and impactful.”

Schultz doggedly questioned lawmakers about their commitment to fixing a tax error that is keeping John V Schultz Furniture and other retail businesses from improving their properties, while Heathcoe testified to the damaging impact of tariffs on her business, Contemporary Living in Lake Park, Fla.

Making sure HFA interests are heard

Other HFA members who attended the fly-in were Larry Zigerelli of FFO Home in Fort Smith, Ark., Mitchell Stiles and Clara Arrington of WS Badcock Corporation in Mulberry, Fla., and Bobby Leon and Charla Borchers-Leon of Chesnick Furniture in Victoria, Texas, as well as HFA CEO Sharron Bradley and HFA government relations liaison Doug Clark.

They made their voices heard, which is the greatest benefit of the fly-in. It doesn’t really matter how HFA members get to Washington, after all. What’s important is how well they represent the industry.

Doug Clark is content manager and government relations liaison for the Home Furnishings Association. Contact him at 916-757-1167 or dclark@myhfa.org.

Art Van Store Ribbon Cutting

Cindy Crawford drops by to celebrate latest Art Van Furniture opening

Celebrity guests Cindy Crawford and Nigel Barker along with more than 400 other people showed up recently for Home Furnishings Association member Art Van Furniture’s latest store opening in Polaris, Ohio. 

The newest addition to Art Van’s chain features a 70,000 square foot, two-story store with a striking glass exterior and an open, contemporary floor plan showcasing six primary lifestyle collections (casual, urban, farmhouse, modern, traditional and mid-century). 

It’s Art Van’s second showroom in the state to be built from the ground up. Crawford and Barker mingled with attendees, shared their inspiration for their furniture lines, Cindy Crawford Home and NB2, and took part in an official ribbon-cutting ceremony alongside Art Van Furniture President and CEO, Ron Boire, company executives and team members. 

Performance speed artist, David Santia, wowed the crowd, including Crawford, by painting a striking, larger-than-life portrait of her in less than seven minutes. The painting was auctioned for $12,500 and, when added to a $10,000 check from Art Van Furniture, a total of $22,500 was donated to The Childhood League Center in Columbus, which serves children under six years old with developmental delays.  

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