I’ve noticed an interesting shift in meetings we’ve had with key staff in Cabinet departments like Commerce and Transportation or with members of Congress. Before I get to that shift, you need to know that we have increased the frequency of the meetings with influencers intentionally. We have got to keep your needs and concerns top of their minds to bring important issues to the people who can make a difference for our industry. A perfect example is the complex issues relating to supply chain challenges. One thing in particular that has gotten the attention of everyone we’ve talked to has been the exorbitant price of containers. The numbers are staggering when you compare them to pre-COVID. Five, six, seven hundred percent increases, if not more.
On their own, those broad numbers get the attention of the people we’re talking to, but it’s not enough. It doesn’t translate to how it impacts consumers; your customers. With that in mind, we put out a call to our Government Relations Action Team members. The GRAT is our group of HFA members who are active in our advocacy efforts and who meet with us regularly to discuss issues that impact our industry. I challenged them. I said we need real examples. We need to tell the story of added shipping costs, specifically in how it affects customers.
I was incredibly impressed with the response. We were flooded with a paper trail of invoices from the last 18 months. They painted an incredible picture of the rising costs of shipping. Let me make one thing very clear. This is not about naming names or pointing fingers. The information we receive we keep confidentially and share anonymously, both from where the information came from and the entities involved. The names at this point are not necessary. What is, is the clarity that the numbers bring to this issue. You are well aware of this issue; however, decision and policymakers, key influencers don’t have a clear idea. We have to paint the picture, simply and directly, and give them information they can share.
This information sent in has done that. We presented the data in a way that covered all parts of the country, a cross-section of our membership from the small single retail outlet to the larger chains. This information, in my view, has been a difference-maker in dealing with supply chain challenges. After conducting fruitful conversations with the administration and key people on Capitol Hill, these examples are a powerful follow-up. It is a one-two punch. The impacts on your business are clear.
You’ve heard the phrase, “there is power in numbers.” Generally, that means there’s more influence in a collective group. Frankly, we see that in all of our efforts at the Home Furnishings Association. I want to tweak that phrase also to say, “there is power in the numbers.” The numbers, the data, you can uniquely provide to tell the story.
I want to challenge all of you. Anytime you face a challenge, whether it’s supply chain related, difficulties with finding good people to hire, anything, help us paint the picture. Give us actual data to go along with all of the anecdotal stories we hear. We will keep it confidential and not name names, yet our GRAT can use it to help us put major issues into perspective and represent the interests of our industry.
There is power in the numbers.