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Open letter from Ray

Having spent most of my professional career as a journalist/editor in chief at Furniture/Today, I’d like to think that I have a fairly good understanding of the home furnishings arena.

And now, after a number of years as Executive Director here at the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association (IHFRA), I’d like to think I know the difference between a badrep, a good rep and a great rep.

And when I blend these two careers together, I’d like to think I know when it’s time to point out an injustice.

It’s time.

Last week, I heard from an IHFRA member from the Midwest who had represented a well-known supplier based here in North Carolina.  In 2020, the rep had received a sales award for outstanding sales for this supplier.

This year, despite the havoc from the pandemic, the rep had already surpassed his budget and was seemingly on his way to another banner year.

Sounds like the ultimate win-win story, right?   Wrong.  It was a win for the factory and a loss for the rep.   It seems like management, in an ongoing search for additional profitability, rewarded the rep by yanking the line from him.

While this is certainly not a new story here, it is a story that we are hearing more often and sadly, a story I think we will continue to hear as factories struggle to balance the books that have often been turned upside down since the onset of the Covid-19 virus.

In this case, that line happened to represent some 70% of the reps income but regardless of the percentage, this is just bad business.  Actually, in my opinion, it is shameful.

I wonder how that factory would have felt if the rep had decided, with no warning, to pick up a competitive line and replace all of his former slots with items from his new factory?

And as we all know, there really are no secrets in this business.  New, good or bad, travels fast.  I wonder how other reps for that factory are feeling after hearing this news.  I know that if I were a rep for that factory, I would be worrying that I, too, might be penalized for outstanding performance.

We’ve all sat around and wondered why our industry struggles to attract young, bright and motivated individuals.  Maybe it is decisions like this that keep young people on the sidelines.   I can tell you right now, there is no way I would want to join and industry that rewards high achievers by dismissing them.

Factories need to wake up to the fact that now, more than ever, good reps are the critical link between the factory and the retailer.

I will be the first to admit that not all reps are exceptional.  But I take extreme exception to a factory pulling a line from a rep simply because it wants the money on its side of the fence.

I realize that business is all about the balance sheet.   But it also needs to be about balance, fair play and ethical behavior at every level.

The relationship between a rep and the factory has to be based on mutual trust, respect and honesty.

This story underscores what happens when one side fails.  Ultimately, both sides fail.

 


An important note from Ray Allegrezza

As you know, as your Executive Director, I value our give-and-take, two-way conversations with our members.  Every now and then, a topic touches my heart and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.  This is one of those times and I hope the following message to you, resonates with you.  As always, I am anxious to hear from you!

T.S. Eliot called April the “cruelest month,” and in terms of the clout that premarket continues to have on the Spring High Point market, he was clearly on the mark.

Early in January of 2020, the World Health Organization sent out a low-key notice about a mysterious Coronavirus-related pneumonia in Wuhan, China.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The pandemic, soon to be known as Covid-19, swept over the planet and quite literally, turned the world upside down.   And our industry, was by no means immune from the virus.

To our credit, we have not only survived, but have found new ways to get back to business.  However, to our detriment, it took a pandemic to force us to relinquish the status quo that many of us were so comfortable with.

We now communicate via Zoom or other comparable technologies,  we have been forced to embrace new technologies and like it or not, we are all driving our businesses, at least to some extent, on the digital highway.

Need more proof?  Take a look at the changing nature and role of furniture markets.  A few years ago if someone had mentioned First Tuesday, he or she would have probably gotten a blank stare.

Similarly, if someone would have told you that premarket would suddenly become as important as market, you would have smiled and dismissed that idea as beyond silly.

But to laugh at these ideas now, could mean the joke just might be on you.

Covid-19 has taken our play book and thrown it in the dumpster.   Regardless of your point of view, First Tuesday continues to become more important to retailers and don’t be surprised if this upcoming premarket takes a huge bite out of the June market.

Based on conversations I have had with a number of key retailers, they plan (just like they used to do at market) to come in early for premarket and stay upwards of five to seven days.

Sound to you what used to happen during “traditional” market?  It does to me.

Make no mistake---your customers have always driven the bus…always have and always will.

They will—and are—dictating what works for them…and if you want to sell them, it had better work for you.

I’ve talked to reps who after initially resisting First Tuesday are now converts, and here’s why: Reps are getting quality time with their customers in a much less frantic environment.  A number of them report getting to spend 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time with retailers.

Can you put a price tag on that?

In the months ahead, the business is going to be like a big game of musical chairs.  Retailers and reps alike are looking for respective partners that can deliver the goods, make good on the promises and help them succeed.

As a rep, you need to embrace change, understand the technology, be adaptive, be proactive  and most of all, provide solutions.

I don’t want to see any of you without a chair when the music suddenly stops!

 

 

 

 

 


IHFRA chief sees continuing industry disruption but some reasons for hope

 

HIGH POINT — In an industry update ahead of the recent International Home Furnishings Representatives Assn. board meeting, Ray Allegrezza said the industry sits “in the eye of a perfect storm,” enjoying never stronger demand while struggling like never before to meet it.

“Our biggest asset — a seamless supply chain — is once again our biggest liability,” IHFRA’s executive director said in a message to members (and posted to YouTube). “ Even before the pandemic it was fragile and was often knocked offline by price hikes, worker shortages, driver shortages, container shortages. And now, they have all hit at once and have hit us harder than I can remember, thanks to the pandemic.

 

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IMC Prepares for Spring 2021 High Point Market

HIGH POINT, N.C. – (Feb. 17, 2021) – International Market Centers (IMC) announced today that its Spring 2021 High Point Market offerings will include both showrooms and temporary resources as well as a robust lineup of digital tools for pre-market preparation and an all-virtual educational programming format. Spring Market runs June 5 – June 9, 2021.

“Spring Market is the perfect platform for retailers and designers to discover trends, source new product and make new connections,” said Bob Maricich, IMC CEO. “A successful High Point Market will play a pivotal role in the continued recovery of the furniture and home décor industries and we’re excited our properties can play a part in that.”

 

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Home News Now launches High Point Tuesday

 

The website and newsletter will be dedicated to helping retailers navigate First Tuesday events

Home News Now, in partnership with High Point Market Authority (HPMA), is launching a website and thrice-monthly newsletter dedicated to helping retailers and designers have a better High Point First Tuesday experience.

The monthly event allows exhibitors to open their showrooms to retailers on an appointment-only basis, and the website, highpointtuesday.com, will help dealers navigate First Tuesday with the latest on showroom openings, product introductions and more. The site goes live on March 1, just before the next High Point Tuesday event. Newsletters will follow three weeks, two weeks, and the week prior to the April 6-8 event and follow the same pattern ahead of future First Tuesdays.

The original High Point Tuesday event took place in November 2020, and Kevin Castellani, head of the High Point Tuesday committee, and director of external communications and brand positioning at Manwah, played a large role in the founding of the event. He encourages exhibitors to take advantage of it.

“I believe we’re creating an alternative to tradition,” Castellani says of High Point Tuesday. “The idea of opening a showroom once a month that everyone knows is available for dedicated meetings is going to be a format this industry embraces. Manwah is bringing people in just for business, and everyone that’s coming in is buying because they’re coming in for a purpose. That is changing the dynamics.”

High Point Tuesday will create a unique, compelling body of content and tool set that enhances the event and drives a better retailer experience. The newsletter will keep retailers and designers up to date on the latest news, product information and updated exhibitor information before each event.

Highpointtuesday.com will include an actively managed exhibitor directory tool which will eliminate misinformation about which exhibitors are open. Participating exhibitors are asked to contact High Point Tuesday Editor Alex Milstein at highpointtuesday@homenewsnow.com with their opening status. Those noting plans to open will have a green tab beside their directory listing showing that they are actively participating in the current First Tuesday event.

Vendors not open for the current event and those who do not contact Milstein will have a red button adjacent to their listing showing that they are closed. This critical feature will eliminate buyer frustration by giving them up-to-date information about who is open and when, ensuring buyers do not visit locked showrooms that they assumed would be open for business.

“The first of these events took place in November, and I think the smart exhibitors worked hard to make sure they had preset appointments,” says Tom Conley, president and CEO of the HPMA. “That seems to be one of the things people aren’t recognizing — is that this is supposed to be an appointment-only kind of situation. It’s not an alternative to a market where people just wander around.”

“I’m excited to help make this event more efficient and effective for exhibitors, designers and retailers,” says Milstein. “If we come together as an industry with a common goal, I know we can make this event valuable to everyone involved.”

With the next High Point Tuesday event right around the corner, all home industry members can click here to sign up for the free newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/b274ac539b86/high-point-tuesday. More information about the website and directory tool will be announced soon.

Sponsorship opportunities will be available for exhibitors. Contact Home News Now Publisher Rick Harrison at rick@homenewsnow.com for more information.

 


IHFRA Weighs in on Biden Administration

 

Association leaders and analysts weigh in on the pros and cons of a Democrat-controlled Whitehouse and Congress

HIGH POINT — While acknowledging it’s a bit of a guessing game this early on, furniture industry association leaders and industry analysts see a fair amount of positives for the furniture industry under the new Joe Biden administration.

whitehouse.jpeg

In interviews with Home News Now, they pointed to the possibility for new stimulus that could drive more business, to the potential calming of the trade tensions and a more nuanced approach to tariffs and trade concerns than the one witnessed under the former president. And they see all the economic benefits the industry stands to gain from the Biden administration’s emphasis and greater focus on getting the Covid-19 pandemic under control.

 

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New tax on number of miles you drive? Incoming Transportation Secretary Buttigieg likes the idea

Buttigieg endorsed moving to a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) system as a presidential candidate.

Incoming Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has suggested taxing Americans for the number of miles they drive, a policy he endorsed as a Democratic presidential candidate.

The Biden Administration is actively searching for ways to fund its ambitious $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., acknowledged "privacy concerns" related to implementing a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) system but said it should be considered as a potential replacement for the gas tax.

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Business OF Home Magazine Interviews IHFRA’s Ray Allegrezza

WEEKLY FEATURE | JAN 27, 2021 |
Lead times are terrible. When will they get better?

For designers already sick of explaining to clients why their furniture is taking forever, here’s a fun new one: Your sofa might be sitting at the bottom of the ocean.

Last weekend, a California-bound cargo ship hit a patch of rough weather, and 750 containers were lost at sea. According to American Shipper, which covers the global supply chain and international transportation, the vessel—which is now being rerouted to Mexico so the damages can be assessed—was carrying more than 4,000 containers of furniture cargo, including goods from Amazon, Ikea and Williams-Sonoma. Such is the strange interconnected world of globalized logistics that rising barometric pressure over the Pacific Ocean can lead to an empty living room in Dayton, Ohio.

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