Retailers group merging into ICFA
Heath E. Combs -- Casual Living, August 18, 2008
The Casual Furniture Retailers Association’s board of directors voted unanimously to integrate with the International Casual Furnishings Association. As the industry groups merge, retailers see it a positive step toward unity.
“Perhaps only once in a lifetime will all of the stars align and point toward a clear and defined voice for our casual furniture industry and that time is before us,” said Carl Vice, CFR president and an ICFA board member. “The 10 retailers on the board of ICFA are committed to utilizing the existing membership, benefits, history and, of course, the long-range vision of CFR as a foundation of the retailer side of ICFA.”
CFR was organized more than 30 years ago by a small but devoted group of retailers who recognized the necessity of interaction among fellow retailers, Vice said. CFR served more than 1,000 retail stores, sales representatives and manufacturers. CFR also hosted more than 20 mid-year forums, which reached more than 5,000 attendees who shared and embraced ideas and marketing tips. Its popular roundtable discussions served as a classroom for many upstart retailers and other professionals within the industry.
CFR officers, members and staff also fielded many questions from individuals seeking to get started as a retailer, sales representative or present products to the industry.
“Members of the press often call for interviews or statistics about our industry, and we receive hundreds of questions from consumers via the Internet regarding service issues,” Vice said. “These calls are sent to present and past board members for insight and to provide mentoring to the interested parties. Their goal is to share as much knowledge as they can and then direct the party through additional channels for further assistance. CFR adopted the slogan ‘Ask Me!’ some time ago and every member of CFR supports it; ask and you will get help.”
Vice said it was an honor to have served alongside so many dedicated past and present CFR members and supporters. “We often refer to the phrase, ‘The Casual Furniture Industry is like a large extended family,’ one rich in the pride of success and consoling to those in time of need,” he said.
CFR created a number of industry awards, including the ones for Manufacturer Leadership, Showroom Merchandising Excellence and Lifetime Achievement.
“Throughout our history, we have strived to present valued awards to those among us who have set the highest standards and have met the most stringent criteria of each award,” Vice said. “We have endeavored to see that the recipients of the awards will leave huge footprints for others to follow down the path of success.”
Looking ahead, former CFR members are now encouraging fellow retailers to apply for ICFA membership and take advantage of expanded benefits. During organizational meetings this year, the ICFA board committed to fortify education and certification of retail sales clerks, delivery drivers, retail customer service personnel, industry sales representatives, manufacturer customer service departments, shipping departments and management teams.
“ICFA is well on the track to present a national industry-wide health care insurance program that will insure significant savings for a single person or an operation with hundreds of employees,” Vice said. “ICFA has launched a national freight traffic plan that will deliver furniture to all points of the country efficiently, safely and economically. ICFA will soon launch a Web site, second to none, that will be informative to both members and consumers. It will have the ability to direct consumers to the ICFA retail member nearest them in the form of a sales lead. ICFA, with its huge national membership and affiliation to the home furnishings industry, will be able to negotiate greater reduced rates from credit card processors and improve consumer credit programs. ICFA has embraced the necessity of improving the casual furniture category to consumers and will explore many new advertising concepts. By using all segments of our industry, ICFA is committed to bring forth an improved mid-year educational forum in the future.
“CFR members now have the opportunity to be a part of these new and many forthcoming benefits that will protect and enhance our industry for years to come,” Vice added. “As our industry continues to change and grow, collectively, we need to unify our voices, talents, knowledge, long-range visions and channel those efforts through ICFA.”