The Last Word Podcast

Step into the captivating world of the home furnishings industry with "The Last Word Podcast." Join your host, Ray Allegrezza, a luminary figure in the field, as he engages in insightful conversations with a diverse array of professionals working in all facets of the home furnishings business. Ray Allegrezza, the former Editor-in-Chief of Furniture Today and now the Executive Director of IHFRA , brings his deep industry knowledge and extensive network to the forefront in this engaging podcast. With his decades of experience, Ray has seen the industry evolve and adapt to changing trends, and he's here to share the stories and insights that matter. Each episode of "The Last Word Podcast" delves into a wide range of topics, including the current state of the home furnishings industry, personal journeys of growth and success, and the dynamic ways in which the business is transforming. Ray's guests are thought leaders, entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and innovators who have made significant contributions to the home furnishings world. They share their experiences, strategies for success, and insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.

Whether you're an industry veteran, a newcomer, or simply someone with a keen interest in interior design and home decor, this podcast provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable perspectives from those at the forefront of the field.

The Last Word - Episode 1: Tom Erdman

For our first episode, moderator Ray Allegrezza chats with Handy Living’s Tom Erdman about where the industry is headed in a post-pandemic universe. Tom brings years of experience, both with brick and click to the table.

Originally recorded January, 2023

The Last Word - Episode 2: Charlie Malouf

Episode 2. Ray interviews Charlie Malouf, CEO of Broad River Retail, a Top 100 furniture retailer. Listen in to find out how Broad River grew its business during the toughest months of the pandemic, why Charlie calls his team ‘memory-makers,’ and why he has found success by making Broad River a purpose-driven company.

Originally recorded February, 2023

The Last Word - Episode 3: Heidi Jewell

As part of Ray Allegrezza’s The Last Word series, this week he brings you a video interview with industry veteran Heidi Haleh Jewell. Jewell, who joined the industry a number of years ago, spent the majority of her career in retail where she managed as well as had buying responsibilities for a number of leading retailers. Currently, she is in management at Violino USA, a global source of leather upholstery. In this edition, Jewell talks about her time in retail, the role of women in the business, how we can attract more young people into the sector and also shares actionable things young people coming into the sector can do to be successful.

Originally recorded June, 2023

The Last Word - Episode 4: Lori Friedlander

In this exclusive interview, we had the honor of sitting down with the accomplished industry expert, Lori Friedlander, who has an impressive track record with renowned brands like Ethan Allen, Bassett, La-Z-boy, and more. Lori shares her invaluable insights and strategies on how to thrive and succeed even in a slow economy, advise for smaller retailers and much, much more.

Originally recorded July, 2023

The Last Word - Episode 5: Lael Thompson

In this captivating episode of “The Last Word” podcast, we dive deep into the dynamic world of the furniture industry with our special guest, Lael Thompson. Join us as we explore the remarkable journey of this young retail prodigy who is reshaping the industry landscape with his innovative strategies and fresh perspective. 🔮 What to Expect: A deep dive into Lael Thompson’s background and entry into the furniture industry. Insights into the challenges faced by traditional retailers in a rapidly changing market. How Lael’s innovative strategies are shaping a new era of furniture retail. The role of technology in driving Lael’s business model. Valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs and industry enthusiasts. Join us in this episode of “The Last Word” podcast as we uncover the captivating narrative of Lael Thompson’s journey through the furniture industry. Whether you’re an industry insider, a business aficionado, or simply curious about the power of innovation, this episode promises to be an enlightening and inspiring experience. 🎧 Listen now and be part of the conversation that’s rewriting the future of furniture retail! Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more thought-provoking episodes. Stay tuned for more insightful discussions that leave you with “The Last Word.”

Originally recorded August, 2023

The Last Word - Episode 6: Lance Hannish

Welcome to a riveting episode of “The Last Word”! Join your host, Ray Allegrezza, as he engages in a captivating conversation with the brilliant mind behind the crystal ball of advertising, Lance Hannish. Hannish, the Co-Founding Partner at CNA | Sophis Integrated Marketing Innovations, takes us on a journey back to decades ago when he foresaw screens of every kind becoming the ultimate conduit for advertisers to connect with consumers. Tune in as Allegrezza reconnects with Hannish to gain profound insights into the ever-evolving landscape of the advertising industry. From industry trends to the art of crafting compelling messages, and the intricate world of marketing strategies, this episode is a treasure trove of wisdom for digital marketers and enthusiasts alike. Get ready to dive deep into the pulse of marketing as Hannish shares his perspectives on the past, present, and future of the dynamic advertising realm. Don’t miss out on this enlightening episode that promises to unravel the mysteries behind successful marketing campaigns and the strategic nuances that keep brands at the forefront of consumer minds. Stay tuned for an episode that goes beyond the surface, exploring the very heart of marketing innovation and creativity.

Originally Recorded November, 2023

The Last Word - Episode 7: John Pinion

Join us for an eye-opening episode of “The Last Word” podcast as industry veteran John Pinion discusses the evolving role of industry representatives, the Covid-19 impact, and the challenges and opportunities faced by sales reps and retailers. Pinion shares insights on the changing landscape, emphasizing the transition from face-to-face interactions to technology-driven strategies, the pandemic’s effects on demand and inventory, and retailer challenges like cash flow issues and space constraints. He offers advice on adapting to technology, supplementing income, and spotting post-pandemic opportunities. Pinion also highlights the traits of successful sales reps, the need to attract young talent, and how aspiring reps can become industry experts. Don’t miss this enlightening conversation on “The Last Word” podcast!


Originally Recorded January, 2024

The Last Word - Episode 8: Amy Archer

In this episode, Ray and IHFRA delve into a captivating dialogue with Amy Archer, discussing the intersection of shared experiences, future plans, and deep insights into the design industry. Amy unveils her journey from being enchanted by home design as a child to her transformative experiences across various roles, culminating in her notable achievements, including the prestigious Pinnacle Award. The trio navigates through the complexities of consumer tastes, the essence of authenticity, and the pivotal role of innovation in staying ahead. Amy emphasizes the critical balance between company success and individual creativity, shedding light on the nuanced dynamics between sales teams and product development. The discussion takes a broader view, addressing the furniture industry’s marketing challenges and the evolving retail landscape, highlighting storytelling, technology, and AI’s roles. Amy’s take on AI in furniture design, her pragmatic approach to current industry challenges, and her dedication to fostering collaborative identities provide invaluable insights. Join us for an episode brimming with wisdom, humor, and a shared commitment to redefining the design industry.

Originally Recorded February, 2024

The Last Word - Episode 9: Blaine and Jeffrey Smith

In this engaging episode of The Last Word Podcast, Ray Allegrezza welcome Blaine and Jeffrey Smith, seasoned veterans with over 40 years in the industry. Blaine, from an independent sales viewpoint, talks about building a new team and mentoring the next generation. Jeffrey shares his transition from sales rep to a leadership role, focusing on organizational growth. They dive into current challenges like marketing in the digital age, dealing with inflation, and navigating supply chain complexities. The brothers stress the importance of adapting to change and the critical role of strong relationships in an evolving market. They also discuss the potential of technology and the need for industry-wide collaboration and standardization to overcome obstacles. This episode is a treasure trove of insights for professionals looking to understand the dynamics of the industry and strategies for future success.

Originally Recorded March, 2024

The Last Word - Episode 10: Justin Robichaud

In this insightful episode, Ray sits down with Justin Robichaud, the visionary founder of Wood You Build It, explores the unique philosophy that drives his business to offer custom-built, American-made furniture. Diving deep into the appeal of handcrafted items, Justin discusses how his company caters to a growing demand for quality and sustainability, over the common mass-produced alternatives. He shares the challenges of managing a niche business and strategies for growth, emphasizing direct sales through platforms like Etsy. Highlighting key milestones since its inception in 2019, Justin celebrates over a thousand percent growth, attributing it to the dedication to craftsmanship and a direct-to-customer model that includes delivering these bespoke pieces nationwide. Discover the passion behind creating furniture that’s not just made but thoughtfully crafted to be part of family legacies. Tune in to learn about the journey of an entrepreneur who believes in quality, customer satisfaction, and the art of furniture making.

Originally Recorded March, 2024

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