I have personally attended more than 102 High Point furniture markets (with a few missed during time out for military service), at least 25 San Francisco shows and 30 Las Vegas markets in my 65 years involved in the home furnishings industry both as a retailer and manufacturer.
The industry is grappling with what COVID-19 has done to our business model and now disrupted and changed it forever, but possibly there is a lesson for all, and without doubt this lesson is part of my commitment to future planning.
That lesson is the importance of powerhouse salespeople, the “A” players who take 20 minutes to hear your product pitch and your commitment to honesty and loyalty, and who sign on without hesitation even though they are worn out from all my storytelling. They leave with a few iPhone pics and minutes later they’re back with customers on the phone they know are looking for value and need to have this merchandise on their floors.
My partners did not want me to open for Premarket. They thought the health risk too great for my old self. Actually, they demanded I not open. I disagreed and wisely prepared and attended High Point Premarket last month and was fortunate to meet with 10 of my 15 target customers because of years of personal relations. All were here in High Point for only three days, and each one made arrangements to stop by our showroom in Furniture Plaza still under construction with no signage and only six designs. All gave me firm commitments and explained they would not be back to High Point in October.
One late afternoon as retailers were leaving town, I sat with one of my salesmen, who had worked with me years ago and had recently joined me at LeatherWorks, and we shared a glass of wine.
We were toasting a “true warrior” of the industry, the late Scott Berry. Our eyes became teary as we regarded our dear friend’s passing and shared stories about “Hog Eye” and others we knew as well, and past adventures over the years. We lost one of our best friends to cancer the week before. He was a good man, too young to die for sure, but we don’t control that; God does. Like Scott and all great salesmen, we have passion to sell something we have passion for: great value furniture product.
Before this friend, and now my salesman, left in September, he had given me eight names of other potential reps, many I knew, most I had meet as a retailer 30 years ago and adored doing business with. Some were well past my age or close, and they were all professionals in dress, in sales knowledge and extremely focused on selling to customers whose respect they had earned from representing themselves for years and years, not just factories they worked for. It was nirvana for my soul.
This amazing team of professionals wrote more business at this show with or without customers attending than I had planned to produce before Chinese New Year. I have since tripled my projection on production before the holiday closing and added to my ready-to-ship inventory immediately after factory reopening.
I salute these warriors of our industry. I could name them, but they would not want their other lines to know what they have in their bag filed under “market killer.”
Thank you all. Holiday Blessings and a prosperous New Year. Stay safe and healthy.
I trust I will see you in Las Vegas.
Larry Crink, LeatherWorks/Northridge Home