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Ron Paddock retires

22 October 2018
Furniture, People

CAMBRIDGE, Ontario – R&T Furniture has closed its doors paving the way for owner and president Ron Paddock to retire after 30 years at the helm of one of this country’s, indeed one of North America’s few remaining independent importers and distributors of upholstery and case goods.

“It’s been a great ride,” Paddock told Home Goods Online in a recent telephone interview.

He admitted while business has been challenging in recent years, he wasn’t really looking to get out. But, in a refrain that’s becoming increasing familiar of late he received an offer for the company’s 34,000 square foot warehouse facility here that was simply too good to refuse.

Ron PaddockAfter growing up in a farm in southwestern Ontario, Paddock worked for a time as a disk jockey at a radio station and even did a stint on the sales floor at Grant Blackwell’s furniture store before joining Johnson & Johnson. He signed on with the original owners of R&T in 1988 to take charge of its sales organisation – days that he fondly remembers. “I was lucky, they let me do things pretty much as I wanted,” he recalls.

In those days, furniture – even that made in the United States – was brought into Canada by distributors, who ‘broke bulk’ and then serviced retailers large and small across the country. Distributors also gained ground in the U.S. as retailers began looking beyond their own regions in search of innovation and interesting product for their stores.

R&T Furniture was a big supporter of the Canadian Furniture Show and had a strong presence on the floor every year.At one time, this sector was large enough to have its own association – the International Wholesale Furniture Distributors Association. At its zenith, the group had 43 members, including a handful of Canadians. Paddock served twice as its president. “A few months ago, there were perhaps only three of us left,” he said.

He become sole owner of R&T in 1994. He’s most proud of the fact R&T was an early adopter of technology, much which has become standard today when it comes to controlling the flow of goods. This gave him a degree of flexibility as well as the ability to keep the ship lean and the service standards high.

These days, distributors aren’t a force in the furniture industry as many of the larger manufacturers manage their logistics – something that’s also increasing common with larger retailers as well. However, in recent years, R&T has provided distribution services to range of familiar names in the Canadian furniture sector including buying groups such as Cantrex Nationwide and Mega Group as well as emerging players suc as e-commerce powerhouse Wayfair.

Paddock isn’t sure what the next chapter of his life will look like, but with his wife, Helen and his four children and two grandchildren, he doesn’t think he’ll be lacking for things to do. He also attended the recent High Point Market to say farewell to old friends and figure what the possibilities are. “I’ve been having a lot of fun and I’m not going to stop now,” he said.

Allison McLellan: born to run a furniture store

22 October 2018
Furniture, People, Retail

WOODSTOCK, New Brunswick – When thinking of family businesses, people often envision a mom-and-pop shop, a medium-scale retail outfit or an operation whose name ends in “and Sons.” Those working outside the furniture world, aren’t really aware of how family oriented the industry truly is (in Canada, at least, it’s dominated by family owned enterprises at all points in the supply chain from manufacturing and distribution to retail) and how many children happily carry on their parents’ – and sometimes even their grandparents’ – legacies.

Allison McLellan, the youthful and energetic sales manager at McLellan BrandSource Home Furnishings, is one of those who was seemingly born into his role. But while he’s only been working in his family’s Woodstock, New Brunswick store full-time for a little over a decade, his journey is even more impressive when you consider he got his start as a sales manager when he was in his first year of high school.

“I’ve been working full-time for 13 years,” McLellan says. “I started working for my parents when I was 18, but I was there part-time all through school. Arguably, I’ve been there my whole life. [Growing up] you don’t go to babysitters, you just go to the store.”

Allison has become something of a jack-of-all trades within the family’s retail operation. Here he is assisting with an appliance repair at a customer’s home.McLellan’s parents – John and Carol McLellan – have owned the single unit operation since 1980 and continue to manage the business. McLellan’s sister is also involved and is currently working as an administrative assistant.

As for how McLellan Home Furnishings ultimately got started, McLellan says his father’s journey in the industry began long before the family business was born.

“My father was a service tech for Sears,” McLellan says. “He was an appliance repairman and he decided that he wanted to work for himself. He was ambitious enough to go out and start selling and serving appliances in 1980. He started with Whirlpool appliances, and he sold those and fixed them.”

While the elder McLellans are still actively involved in day-to-day operations, they’ve been watching their son grow in his role, one that now involves managing people, managing products and seeking out new and on-trend items for the showroom floor.

Under McLellan the younger’s watch, the store’s product offerings – which used to revolve around appliances almost exclusively – has expanded. It now includes BrandSource’s – the primary go-to-market strategy for the Saskatoon-based Mega Group – entire assortment.

“I would say we’re about half appliances now, just based on the fact that we’re one of the only sale/service places around now. We sell furniture, bedding, home décor and outdoor furniture as well,” he says, adding the company added outdoor furniture about two years ago.

What’s most surprising about McLellan’s journey is began so early. While many industry veterans bounce from place to place before finding their calling or carving out their own niche, McLellan never strayed far from his parent’s store. In fact, even though he’s done tours of service and been mentored in other stores, his family’s operation has been his main employer since his teen years – and he’s been taking on leadership roles since the beginning.

“I started as a sales manager and I started at the age of 14. I would go there every day after school and help salespeople meet their goals,” McLellan says, confirming he was indeed managing people when he was just a year out of elementary school.

His role with the company has, of course, grown over the years. “I’m still a sales manager, but now I look after human resources, advertising, merchandising, the buying and all the store policies. Pretty much everything except accounting,” he says, adding he tries to maintain a slightly more hands-off leadership style.

“I have my salespeople who help me out quite a bit and I try to help people make their own decisions. I don’t micromanage. I guide people as best as I can, I let them learn.”

McLellan’s store is, like the town it’s located in, modest in size. One of about 140 or so BrandSource bannered stores in Canada, it currently employs 10 people and occupies about 17,200 square feet of space, including the warehouse.

While some might assume it’s simply convenient to take on the role in a family business, those that have understand working closely with parents and siblings has its challenges (especially when one occupies a demanding position in an retail segment that’s always faced more than its fair share of hardships). That said, McLellan says his role has also given him the flexibility – and freedom – to enjoy life beyond the showroom floor.

“I think that it’s mostly been the flexibility to be your own boss that’s been most interesting to me,” he says. “I have a love for the industry, I love helping customers find the products that they need and helping them solve problems. I don’t think I could work for someone, I grew up working for myself and working for my parents. It’s not in me, I don’t think.”

If there’s one thing that stands out, it’s his enthusiasm for activities outside the showroom – and how he isn’t afraid to say his job works for him because it allows him the time to enjoy the great outdoors. “I love to spend time and travel with my fiancé, we love to Jeep and fish and snowmobile. We golf, and I love to spend time with the Rotary Club, we do a lot of socials and things like that,” he says.

“We live on the lake and do a lot of boating and swimming. We live in rural New Brunswick, so we spend a lot of time outside. I don’t see myself living anywhere else, we love to be outside. We live in Canada where it’s winter nine months of the year, so you have to make the best of your situation.”

Click here to read the rest of Ashley’s profile of Allison McLellan….

Meet Terry Harder

22 October 2018
Furniture, People

When Terry Harder talks his time in the business, he’s refreshingly honest about how a life in sales is fraught with both challenges and rewards. While he’s unflinchingly honest about the ups and downs, he’s also clearly dedicated to his craft.

For that alone, it’s easy to see why he was named the 2018 Retail Sales Professional (RSP) Award recipient for the Pacific Region.

Along with partner David Temlett, Harder is co-owner of Innovative Sleep Solutions, a single-unit mattress specialist in Surrey, British Columbia.

Terry Harder is the 2018 Retail Sales Professional Awards honouree for the Pacific Region.Harder had no idea the honour was coming. “I guess it was about two months prior to the awards ceremony, when I was told. I was very thankful, I was very surprised and honoured. I didn’t expect to win an award.”

Harder’s adventures in furniture retailing began at The Brick in 1992. Not long after that, he joined Sleep Country where he met Temlett.

“We’ve owned this store for five years, I worked for Sleep Country for 16½ years before that,” he says, adding sales works for him because he loves his customers. “I’m a big people person and I love the competition that’s part of retail. I enjoy meeting a new person every day of my life that I’ve never met before. It’s definitely challenging, but it’s a good challenge.”

Harder’s hardworking approach prompted Scott McEachern, a sales representative for Zucora Home, to nominate him. “Terry wants everyone to have a wonderful night’s sleep. He over qualifies everyone that shows interest in a new mattress. He helps out with deliveries, unloading of product and is always thinking of new ways to better himself and the business,” McEachern says.

Harder has been rewarded for his work more than once. “One of the huge highlights was being Salesperson of the Year for Sleep Country Canada in 2002 and from there, being promoted to a manager at Sleep Country was a highlight, as well as opening my own business five years ago.”

When asked why he started something new in a challenging retail landscape, Harder said it felt right. “I just felt that we had enough experience between me and my business partner, and I had a golden opportunity to do it with zero investment. When I left Sleep Country, I worked for another company for one year. I was tired of the corporate mantra, so it was an easy transition.”

He also had the good fortune to be given a wealth of merchandise to sell. “Two gentlemen owned the store [we ended up purchasing] for one year, and they’d purchased it from a husband and wife team who had the store for 25 years. Me and my partner helped them sell the merchandise off and we took over the lease that had just been signed. He owed us $4,000 and he said, ‘I’m not going to pay you, I’m going to leave you the merchandise.’ It was worth $28,000 and we sold it for $60,000. We’re very lucky that we didn’t need any money.”

Click here for the rest of Ashley’s profile of Terry Harder….

Surya publishes catalogue

22 October 2018
Furniture, Products

ATLANTA – Area rug and decorative accessory resource Surya has released its fall 2018 catalogue. Describing it as comprehensive and easy-to-navigate, the company said it includes more than 1,000 new accessories across all styles and price points; hundreds of new inspirational room scenes and style images; and expanded lighting, textile and wall hangings collections.

The catalogue opens with the Surya Spaces Featured Lifestyles, which showcase the present-day and upcoming trends within staple lifestyle categories: the casually curated Young Traditionalist for an updated traditional lifestyle, the formal yet approachable Duke & Duchess for a traditional lifestyle, the bold and free-spirited World Traveler for a global bohemian lifestyle, and the livable luxe Urban Sophisticate for a modern lifestyle.

Surya's fall 2018 catalogue covers a variety of product and style categories as well as a full-range of price points.Each lifestyle is accompanied by vivid photography and descriptions of the new, emerging trends with the style category. The lifestyles are part of the newly launched Surya Spaces initiative, a three-tiered collaborative design, style and inspirational resource, including a quarterly look book, an online image gallery and the four seasonal lifestyle trends. Users can shop the lifestyles at surya.com/suryaspaces.

With more than 980 pages, Surya’s fall catalogue provides a wealth of design possibilities that are intuitively organized by product category, style and price from high ($$$$$) to low ($). The visual indexes for Top Sellers and rugs further simplify the search process for current and potential customers.

The catalogue can also be used alongside surya.com for access additional product data and images, to monitor real-time product inventory, as well as place and track orders at any time on any day.

“We’ve been delivering a Surya catalogue every six months for the past decade and with each catalogue we continue to make calculated improvements to deliver an exceptional customer experience,” company president Satya Tiwari said in a statement.

“Our commitment to being a go-to source for design inspiration pushed us to revamp our approach to trends as well as update hundreds of room scenes and close-up imagery to provide more conceptual and detailed looks at Surya accessories,” he continued. “These make the catalog a tool that is simplifies the buying experience for customers when used independently or in collaboration with surya.com and a Surya sales specialist.”

Printed copies of the catalogue can be requested from a Surya sales specialist. The e-catalogue is available online at surya.com/ecatalog.

The company maintains a showroom in the International Centre, Toronto to serve Canadian retailers.

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