CFR offers advice to those willing to listen, adapt, during forum
Cinde Ingram -- Casual Living, April 14, 2006
Retailers who attended the 2006 CFR Industry Symposium in Orlando were rewarded with good advice on ways to adapt to survive in the changing marketplace.
Ruth Carter, Carter Grandle; Elizabeth Cooley and Whitney Gillespie, MMPI, and Donna Azzolini, Casual Living, gather outside for a break during the CFR Forum in Orlando.
Fellow Casual Furniture Retail members and leading manufacturers shared not-so-secret success plans during the educational sessions and roundtable discussions. The biggest complaint repeated was how few retailers attended the conference.
"To survive in today's world, we must lead through innovation rather than follow through imitation," Laneventure President Art Thompson said. He advised more than 60 people to sell the dream rather than compete on price and to recognize generational changes drive the industry. "To survive in today's world, you must know your customer and be willing to change with her," he said.
Thompson said older baby boomers are creating multi-generational homes to make room for grandchildren while younger boomers are increasingly focused on creative storage options. Generation X also looks for small space solutions and takes their children with them everywhere, allowing the youngsters to influence buying decisions. "Accommodating kids is making a commitment to adapt," Thompson said.
Generation Y, the "do it with me" generation, has a 24/7 mentality, prefers text messaging to conversing and grew up watching designer shows. Allowing involvement in decision-making builds loyalty within those younger consumers, who will comprise a third of the population in 2015, he said.
"You get the future you plan for," Summer Classics President Bew White added at the end of Thompson's presentation.
Lloyd/Flanders Vice President of Sales Dale Campbell also advised retailers to recognize the changing environment and to trade up, not down. "Before offering cheaper, think deeper," Campbell said. "Figure out the products and services you offer, or can offer, that will create more value for your customer while affording you more opportunity to generate higher gross dollars."
Campbell stressed the importance of investing in a beautiful store environment that encourages customers to visualize, offering a designer or design consulting service and following up sales with a handwritten note. He advised training salespeople to invite customers in, thank them for coming and make them feel comfortable. "Make sure everybody on your floor is somebody you would buy from," he said.
Retailers Dean Luckino of Georgia Backyard and Tim Newton of Leader's Casual Furniture later joined Mike Echolds of Tropitone to explore the topic Turning Training into Sales. Other retailers added their views on what does and doesn't work when training salespeople in their stores.
"The more frequently you train salespeople, the better results you'll see," Newton said. He advised using simple tools, such as Microsoft Word and Power Point, to make a training book or presentation. He also suggested role-playing to reinforce lessons.
Luckino described the cyber classrooms his stores use and advised splitting sales training from other store operations to promote a clear focus on the different objectives. He agreed various methods are needed because individuals learn differently. He challenged retailers to change the question, "How do I find good people?" into "How can I be a better trainer?"
Another way specialty retailers have to "trade up" their customers is through the growing selection of high-end performance fabrics and trims now available. A panel discussion explored the newest fabric choices and colors. It was moderated by Ruth Carter of Carter Grandle and included Fred Vecchione and Pat Ferrell of Bomar Trim; Chris Price of Glen Raven Mills; Evelyn Rosenfield of P. Kaufman and Ralph Allen of Shuford, HomCraft and UltraFabrics. Both manufacturers and retailers listened intently to the fashion-driven discussion.