My grandmother had a fantastic career in furniture. She was my mentor and my leader. She had a 30-year career in Sales with Haverty’s Furniture in Florida and taught me everything I knew about sales. My grandmother had a fantastic career in furniture. She retired and moved to Georgia to be closer to her only grandson, ME.
In 1996, at 14 years old, I walked into my parent’s single-unit furniture store in Douglas, Georgia, after school one afternoon. My grandmother pulled me into her office and explained that today, we would start learning about mattresses. She carefully explained that the first question the sales associate asks a mattress customer is, “Who is this mattress for?” An hour later and 100 questions rolling through my head, I was finished with my first training lesson that would become my life in the furniture industry.
In the 90s and early 2000s, it was commonplace to see a lifelong sales associate in a furniture store. Someone devoted their life to the profession and the furniture industry. My grandmother was one of those people. In the last 15 years, that trend has left the furniture industry. As this generation is retiring, our next generation has only looked at a sales position in the furniture industry as a stepping stone to enter management or get into sales in another industry. My heart breaks when I hear furniture store business owners refusing to pay commissions on sales, who also expect the sales associates to work 6 days per week in a retail sector with long hours each day.
Owners and managers at furniture stores around the country, I encourage you to think and look outside the box regarding your sales associates. I firmly believe plenty of people in the current generation would love to make a career in sales in our furniture stores. Some natural-born salespeople don’t want the headaches of management and don’t want to start over in a new sector after learning about the furniture industry. And they don’t want much of the garbage being fed to them about low/no commission and working their life away. We know salespeople can make much money as commissioned salespeople when trained to capture those opportunities. We know that store hours can be flexible to accommodate various lifestyles. We owners and managers need to communicate and elevate the notion of a career in sales. Managers talk to your associates during their monthly evaluations and determine what would get them to stay on with furniture sales as a long-term career. This is a beautiful industry full of rich history. It is up to us as leaders to cultivate the sales floor of the current generation. Let’s provide a framework that works to keep all of the exceptional talents right here in our industry!