• Cinde Ingram

Keeping the Beat Going

Casual industry takes heart of the home outdoors

How’s your family?

That question repeated nearly as often as hugs were exchanged at the 2015 Casual Market Chicago. The idea of home and family being close to the heart of this industry was reiterated during its annual ICFA Awards Gala.

Terri Lee Rogers appeared to be shocked as she accepted the Manufacturer of the Year award for OW Lee’s family and extended the family’s thanks to the workers, forgers and customer service.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Buzz Homsy was described as a catalyst, mentor and true merchant before he took the time to thank others for their support during his successful career building both California Backyard and the Casual Classics Furniture Group, a retail buying group with owner members representing more than 150 stores. Homsy said, “After 53 years in this business, what can I say other than it’s been a love affair from the start?”

As Dudley Flanders accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award, he reminisced about the influence of his father Don Flanders, who founded Flanders Manufacturing and grew it into one of the Southwest’s largest case goods manufacturers. The father and son joined forces to acquire the Lloyd division of Heywood Wakefield Company, and they built Lloyd Flanders into one of the country’s leading casual furniture producers.

But it was the decades-long cookie making of his wife Charlotte and daughter, Jessie, that Dudley Flanders spotlighted, and the audience responded with a round of applause for the women’s industry-famous cookies and cakes. They also applauded in appreciation for Lloyd Flanders’ new showroom, which reflects the influence of Jessie, who began attending this market at age 15 and joined the company full time this summer.

The Apollo Awards for retail excellence in the sales and marketing of outdoor furnishings continued the generational theme. In accepting for the multi-store category, Butch Wallace noted his son, Garrett, and daughter, Geneva, were “a couple of grade school kids” who helped out and swept the floors but grew into responsible partners who eventually became co-owners of the five-store Texas retail operation.

Linda Moran, owner of the Philadelphia-based Hill Company, praised the excellence of her staff and manufacturer suppliers as she accepted the single store category honor. She urged other retailers to take care of their customers as they would a friend.

Whether retailers or manufacturers, successful business people naturally treat customers with the same care and respect as they do family and friends. They know the importance of being present in the moment. They learn to watch and listen.

Talking about new products at Telescope Casual’s showroom with President Henry Vanderminden IV and his cousin Bill Vanderminden, vice president, brought to mind another example of how family connections are woven into the core of the casual industry.

The same was true in Pride Family Brands’ showroom for brothers Jamie Lowsky, who serves on the board of directors, and Steve Lowsky, who is now CEO. Their father, Pride founder Bernie Lowsky, retired and left the company’s legacy in his sons’ capable hands. Steve referenced the idea of family when talking about their dealers as well. “We want the ones who want to be part of our family,” he said.

With the number of casual furniture showrooms growing at High Point Market, I sense more will be sharing the message: Welcome to the family.

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