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Cinde W. Ingram

CFR All Industry Forum beckons

The Casual Furniture Retailers Association will present its top Manufacturer Leadership Award during its Jan. 10–12 All-Industry Forum at AmericasMart Atlanta.

"As always, the forum offers great opportunities for education and networking," CFR President Craig Chapello said. In addition to fostering better business practices and good relations between retailers, the forum allows CFR members to meet informally with manufacturers.

Winners of CFR Manufacturer Leadership Awards presented during the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market in Chicago were: Hanamint, cast aluminum furniture; Telescope, extruded aluminum; Lloyd/Flanders, wicker; Meadowcraft, iron; and Gloster, wood. The five finalists in the accessories category were Brown Jordan International, Carter Grandle, GalTech, Olympia Lighting and Treasure Garden.

Rick Baker, immediate past president of CFR, stressed the value of networking with successful retailers. "This is a real opportunity to come to the CFR conference firsthand to see what it's all about and how it can help their business," Baker said. "And two, go to one of the world's largest accessory locations to look at new product that can increase sales in their business and set them apart."

Mary Fruehauf of Boulder, Colo.-based Fruehauf Patio & Garden Center recognized the value of implementing ideas gleaned from her first CFR conference in January. She and the general manager of her store started a program to encourage designers, based on suggestions The Greenhouse Mall's Karen Galindo offered during a presentation.

"We took her idea and modified it a little bit for our store — and didn't even go as far with it as she has gone, which we intend to," Fruehauf said. "We felt the waters out a bit and put in a downscaled version. It turned out great. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we just copied hers exactly."

About 10 designers were qualified, toured the Fruehauf store and were offered a rebate program for a percentage of sales. Even before the store could promote the idea, interior designers were given the options to bring clients into the store, referring the store to clients or making purchases for clients. As a result, one designer bought more than $20,000 in benches and dining tables to furnish a retirement home; another designer bought about $8,000 worth of outdoor home furnishings for a private home while other designers rang up orders of $5,000 and less. Each received a rebate check from Fruehauf's, which it considered a reasonable advertising expense.

Fruehauf's biggest sale rang up $105,000 net for a designer furnishing a large mountain home with multiple decks, patios and a swimming pool. "She came in, was excited about our program and brought her client back," Fruehauf said. "There was a lot of teak, cast aluminum, different types of furniture for different areas of his backyard. Almost all of it was in stock so it really cleared us out. They saw it, liked it and wanted it right then." Fruehauf plans to build on the designer program and will attend the CFR forum in January with hopes of adding more ideas from successful retailers.

Galindo said she learned enough from CFR store design seminars she didn't feel compelled to hire a designer before opening her San Antonio store. "Which saved us a substantial amount of money, way more than the forum would ever cost us — by tenfold," Galindo said. "Part of what we stand for in CFR is 'retailers helping retailers.'"

Bruce Aronson of Pool & Patio Center in Metairie, La., had struggled with its finance partner when he learned about the deal Citi Financial was offering to CFR members. "Once the system was up and running, I trained my sales staff," Aronson said. "I even up'd my sales staff's commission by giving them 50% of the money Citi Financial paid us for every transaction. Between the ease of use, quick decision time and additional commission, we have doubled the number of 90-day same as cash transactions we used to do. All of this was made possible because I am a member of CFR. Interestingly, my yearly dues are more than made up by the money we now make with Citi Financial."

The CFR Forum's keynote speaker will be Kent Cummings, a retired Army colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran turned motivational speaker.

CFR Manufacturer Leadership Awards were presented at September's Casual Show. From left, Craig Chapello, CFR president; Charles Vernon, Gloster; Henry Vanderminden IV, Telescope; Dudley Flanders, Lloyd/Flanders; April Sorenson, Hanamint; and Petey Fleischut, CFR vice president.

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