Canada's largest independent home show featuring products & ideas.
Oktoberfest was royally celebrated in mid-September this year at the quaint village of St. Jacob's, Ontario. Several thousand Home Furniture/Home Hardware dealers and suppliers, many with staff and families, employees and their special guests converged upon the company's Henry Sittler Building for the company's action-packed three day Fall Market, Canada's largest independent home show.
There are more than 70 Home Furniture stores and approximately 1,000 Home Hardware Stores and Building Centres. It is a formidable buying association of over 3,500 retail outlets in Canada and the U.S., plus its strategic partners Alliance Rona of Quebec and Harbour Wholesalers, U.S. One hundred percent dealer owned, Home's purchasing power, including the international group, is $3.5 billion annually, $1 billion in Canada alone.
The Show's theme wasn't all oom-pah-pah! although traditional German food, drink and music made a real contribution to family feeling and the getting-to-know you process. Work really began on Opening Day, Sunday, at 7:45 a.m. with a series of seminars designed to inform, stimulate and motivate. Topics ranged from "How To Work A Market", to introductions of the new Home Furniture Premier Collection, Home's step into Private Label, and the Home Gourmet Concept, housewares, small appliances and specialty cookware; Wood Finishes; Estate Planning; Retail Smarts -- High Quality Flexible Training; and Color and Decorating with Home's own designer, energetic Bev Bell, to dealer's own stories.
Tony Flanagan, Outstanding Retailer Award Winner was a popular speaker. Amongst other seminars were Furniture Retailing at Home and a series entitled Profiting From Product Knowledge, mounted by some of the 760 vendors exhibiting at the Show. Attendees were given insights into how to sell the new Private Label products, reduce thefts through E.A.S., Create Champions, and Balance Careers and Personal Lives.
Saturday was designated New Dealers' Day, an eminently sensible idea, to familiarize new Home members with their Market. A member/supplier golf tournament and dinner was staged to get everyone on a first name basis before the action began in earnest.
The Show provided a great opportunity to launch new products to be featured this Fall in Home's advertising vehicles. A new 32 page catalogue hit the streets at the end of September. The four-color, room setting booklet packages collections and single pieces at sale prices, and offers a 10 percent off retail coupon in case the consumer "doesn't see what they're looking for" in catalogue offerings.
The forefront of the catalogue is an introduction to consumers of Home Furniture's Premier Collection. The Private Label itself, in handsome burgundy and gold, draws attention to those product lines warrantied by Home's Furniture Consultants. There are construction requirements for upholstery, hardwood frames, no-sag or coil springing, spring edges, 2 lb. foam minimum, covered deck, arm caps and wear dated fabrics. Said Morgan McCabe, Furniture Merchandise Manager, "When we put our name on it, we want it to be a better product."
Monica Heinrich, Home's Marketing Manager, told us that a training manual has been developed for Private Label. And the popular National Store Concept Package was completed at the Show with the launch of exterior store fronts, together with new in-store merchandising ideas. All attractive incentives to many dealers. "We're ahead of our recruiting projections this year as we were last," said Monica. "Our goal is 200 to 250 dealers in ten years time."
She introduced us to one of Home's newest dealer-owners, Henry Enns of Winkler, Manitoba. His Grand Opening was held early in May this year, preceded by a wall-to-wall "Going Home" sale, and supported by an innovative series of direct mail pieces. A comprehensive marketing plan was devised, and the entire store was renovated with a new layout, color scheme, fully accessorized gallery concept and "Rooms from Home", a dramatic movement away from the former tightly packed parallel display and cool color palette.
Henry and Anna, his partner and wife, arrived in Canada in July, 1991 from Paraguay, South America where they were in the lumber business. They bought their store in November. Said Henry, "I was impressed and attracted by Home's flyers. I always look for professionalism and I've found it with Home."
Family Home Furniture occupies 9,000 square feet of highly productive space. There is a staff of five, two of whom are designers. The U.S. border is only an hour away from Winkler so Henry enjoys the patronage of some U.S. customers who are attracted by the advantageous currency exchange and different "looks". Sales are up about 20 percent and margins around three percent. "Five years down the way, I would like to develop the floor space, but I want to make the existing store successful first."
We talked with Don Logel, Market Coordinator. "Five hundred and seventy dealers pre-registered. Ontario stores don't usually pre-register, they just drive in. Each dealer brings people with them, some as many as 40! There are 760 vendors this year and each vendor brings four people. The Show occupies the entire Henry Sittler Building, 1,000,000 square feet."
Ivan and Phyllis L'Abbe, Cedar Pointe, Barrie, Ontario, joined Home more than five years ago. "A manufacturer's representative, also a friend, introduced us to the Home system. The benefits? Home's warehouse quick delivery makes the sale! And the flyers are wonderful; it would cost me $100,000 to create anything similar. Home provides a store with instant credibility." Since becoming Home dealers their sales have increased three times. "We keep beating our own records."
Bev Bell's seminar was packed when she introduced the "Big colors for fall, pina colada and Belgian chocolate." She said that as baby boomers age they increasingly like "old" looks, rusted metals, tea stain fabrics. Metallics are important since they're a reflection of technology. Cybercolours are bright. "We're turning inward," she told the group, "focusing on our homes, not only living there, some of us are working there too. We're isolating ourselves, families and friends in our own castles. How we use colors are more important than the colors themselves." Bev delved into practical questions that customers might ask. How to handle the new self-adhesive wallpaper borders, for example. She advised that "80 percent of the finished job is pre-surfacing". And all that faux stuff? "It must look like the real thing. You should want to touch it."
Some say the industry is tired of shows and complain there are too many of them these days, scattered around North America and, indeed, the world. However, the benefits dealers and Home staff derive from their bi-annual interaction at their own show are undeniable. Their new slogan, "Help Is Close To Home!"