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Have you met the millennials?

23 May 2017
By the Numbers, Events, Retail

Millennials are all the rage today. You can’t open the TV, a magazine or a news website without someone writing about my generation. And it’s understandable given the influence my generation is having on pretty much everything.

I define the Millennial Generation as representing those born between 1980 and 2000. We are looking at consumers today who are between the ages of 17 and 37. As you would expect, there are substantive differences between someone aged 17 and 37 including their level of maturity, their stage of life, level of education, household income, and independence from parents or guardians. But Millennials, whether 17 or 37 years old share far more in outlook, experience and communication than does that 36-year-old with someone only 10 years older. These shared experiences, shared context is what make generations unique.

To understand Millennials, you first have to understand where we come from; who and what our major influencers were and are.

The starting point is our parents. Millennials were raised by Baby-Boomers and the general prosperity of their families and broader society and the way in which they were raised ingrained in them exceptionally high-levels of optimism and self-confidence which are enhanced by their parents’ expectations of them.     They grew up in a world of positive-reinforcement, helicopter parenting, and constant feedback.

However, high expectations also create an environment with a large amount of pressure and stress; Millennials are not immune to anxieties and self-pressure that the modern world has thrust them into.

Millennials are also digital natives. We grew up with technology and have made it a central part of our lives. To the 90% of Millennials who own a smart phone, that device is our most trusted assistant.  It’s our bank, our travel agent, our newspaper, our telephone, our music player, and our weather person. That device lets us watch the video content we crave, order food, and get us from one place to the next (by using the Uber app in many cities).

And to the 75% of Canadian Millennials who check Facebook at least once a day, social media is how we stay connected, find out what’s happening in the world, and increasingly the way we learn about and connect with brands.

The combination of social media and mobile technology has also created a perfect-storm of connectivity that changes the way millennials consume and process media and news content; source credibility is being steadily overtaken and trumped by interesting content of a diverse variety and range. Millennials are not looking for their parents’ newspapers or TV shows. Instead, they consume information that appears on the news feeds, shared by people in their networks they trust, are interested in or want to hear things from. We have moved from a world where people actively seek out news and information to a passive one, where the information we consume is delivered to pre-curated news feeds, isolated from people, perspectives, and ideas outside of our networks.

Half of Canadian Millennials tell us through survey research that their smart phone is the primary way they access the internet. So that very small screen is our gateway to an unlimited amount of information, and is likely the way we are doing research about your business. And let me make clear: If you’re not online in a meaningful way, your store or brand basically doesn’t exist.

One final dimension is critical to understanding Millennials: we are entering “adulthood” much later in our lives compared with previous generations. This stress and anxiety we feel in our lives is compounded by the delayed entry into adulthood and time it takes many to achieve major life milestones like becoming financially independent, getting married, or having children. Like their Baby Boomer parents, almost all Millennials see these milestones as priorities and yet cannot reach them as easily as it seemed for their parents’ generation. Due to extended periods of education, uncertain employment opportunities, and the rising cost of housing, many must put their plans on hold until later in life, when they are in a better financial position to achieve them. That means delayed homeownership, delayed family formation, and likely delayed purchasing of home furnishings.

The generational change we are experiencing is profound and very consequential. Because of the size of the generation (there are approximately 10 million in Canada today) and how different it is from previous generation, Millennials are causing substantial disruption to all markets, including those who manufacture and sell furniture, mattresses and major appliances.

Consider this statistic from the Canadian Housing & Mortgage Corporation: each year for the foreseeable future, 270,000 new Millennial households will be formed in Canada. That’s 1.35 million new households who will be looking to furnish their new homes over the next five years. That’s 2.7 million consumers browsing websites, visiting retail locations and making decisions about brands and designs will end up in their homes.

So if your business isn’t thinking about Millennials today, it’s time you did.

I will be a keynote speaker at the Canadian Furniture Show in Toronto on May 27 at 12pm. I’ll share my perspective on my generation and offer tangible recommendations on how to position your business to take advantage of this huge market. http://www.canadianfurnitureshow.com/trends-and-activities/presentation.

I’m also excited to be working with HomeGoods.ca on an exciting project that will study the preferences and behaviours of Canadian Millennials when it comes to home furnishings and major appliances. We will share more in the coming weeks.

CFS: Celebrating the industry

23 May 2017
Events, Furniture, Mattresses

This year’s Canadian Furniture Show will be easy to navigate and even though it will occupy a more compact space, president and chief executive officer Pierre Richard is promising attending retail buyers there will be plenty for them to see, shop and study as they walk the halls of the International Centre beginning on the morning of May 26.

There will be several noticeable differences from last year’s show. The schedule is the most immediate. In 2017, the show opens on Friday (May 26) and closes on Sunday (May 28). The exhibits will open at 9am and close at 6pm. This is a shift from the Saturday to Monday timeframe used last year and the Saturday to Tuesday used for decades prior to 2014.

According to Richard, the schedule was changed in response to feedback received from retail buyers and other attendees when they were surveyed after last year’s event. “A lot of buyers said they didn’t want to spend a weekend at the show,” he said, adding, “People told us they prefer Friday to Sunday.”

Set to be introduced at CFS is the elegant model 9707, the latest addition to Superstyle’s ‘Inspiration Home Collection’. Its attractive fabric combinations give a slightly formal attitude to the suite’s carriage coil support system and ‘Super-Cel’ premium seating.For the past 46 years, the Canadian Furniture Show has been – and remains – the industry’s only truly national event. Indeed, the only furniture and mattress industry trade events held outside of CFS are the member-only conventions and buying fairs held by Cantrex Nationwide and Mega Group and the Toronto Winter Furniture Show – an ad-hoc event for a group of companies with permanent showrooms in and around the International Centre. It’s organised by the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance.

Richard acknowledges when the doors open on the morning of May 26, the show will be slightly smaller in terms of its floor plate, but will show the wares of about the same number of exhibitors.

CFS will occupy Halls 1 to 4 of the International Centre this year having closed Hall 5 and the bridge connecting it to the rest of the building on Mississauga’s Airport Road. “The floor plan is more concentrated, more efficient,” Richard said, adding the show team has spent a lot of time configuring the traffic flow for 2017 and believes attending buyers and other visitors will find the show easier to walk and still find everything they want.

The exhibitors
The permanent showrooms of the International Centre’s SOFA (Source of Furniture & Accessories) annex will, as always, be open throughout the show. Since the close of CFS 2016, SOFA has added at least two tenants of interest to furniture buyers: Canadian solid wood case goods manufacturer Ruff Sawn; and, Zuo Canada, the Montreal-headquartered branch of Zuo Modern, the California-based modern furniture resource. Both of these firms could be found on the main show floor last year.

As has been the case for the past few years, a least four furniture suppliers with permanent showrooms outside of the International Centre will be ‘official’ participants in CFS 2017. They include three leading Canadian upholstery producers: Brentwood Classics, Décor Rest, and Superstyle Furniture – along with its sister companies, Trend-Line Furniture and Simmons Upholstery Canada. The fourth is Korson Furniture Design, the full-line resource that also represents Coast-to-Coast and Kannoa outdoor furniture.

Décor Rest and Korson are both expected to have small displays on the show floor in Hall 3.

CFS will host about 45 first-time exhibitors in 2017. They run the full gamut of products and services used by the majority of furniture retailers. Some also hail from a fair distance away from Canada’s borders. For example, Furninova is an upholstery maker based in Scandinavia. There are also at least two exhibitors from Pakistan including Happiness Office Furniture. Several are also based in China and Indonesia.

Some are from closer to home, such as Blu Sleep Products, the Quebec-based specialist in pillows and other sleep accessories.

Several are also from aligned services such as Tactik Logistique, a delivery and logistics specialist; and, Picture This Toronto, a company specialising in three dimension photography for a variety of purposes.

However, the big news on the exhibitor front was the return was the return of two high profile upholstery producers: Décor Rest and Palliser. Both skipped CFS in 2016.

Click here to read our complete preview of the 2017 Canadian Furniture Show

RSPA winners announced

23 May 2017
Events, Retail

TORONTO – The organisers have announced the recipients of the first annual Retail Sales Professional Award (RSPA) program, each of whom will be introduced to the industry this Thursday evening at the Canadian Home Furnishings Awards gala. The awards were created to recognise the outstanding achievements of sales professionals working on the floors of furniture, mattress and major appliance stores across the country.

The RSPA recipients were selected from a group of nominees received from across Canada. All were recommended by their peers or their managers in an open, industry-wide nomination process.

The 2017 recipients of the Retail Sales Professional Award include Sylvie Viel of Ameublement BrandSource Rice in Edmundston, New Brunswick for Eastern Canada; Ruth Parkinson of Executive Furniture Rentals in North York, Ontario for Ontario; Matthew Fecho of Mattress Mattress in Airdrie, Alberta for  Western Canada; and, Amanda Bell of Marshall’s Home Living in Kelowna, British Columbia for British Columbia.

During the evening, one of them will be named Canada’s National Retail Sales Professional for 2017.

The RSPA program’s presenting sponsor is Zucora Inc., the added-value specialist based in London, Ontario. The supporting sponsors include Home Goods Online, the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance (CHFA) and the Canadian Furniture Show (CFS).

The award recipients were selected by a judging panel that consisted of Mark Geddes, director of corporate sales training for Zucora;  Corrie-Ann Knell, director of sales and marketing for Home Goods Online; and, Pat Kelly, assistant vice president of home furnishings for Cantrex Nationwide.

In order to be considered for the award, the nominees were required to be actively employed as a sales associate or manager in a retail home furnishings environment with a minimum of three years’ experience and must have consistent met or exceeded the performance goals set by the employer. The nominee also had to demonstrate a customer-focused approach to the work and have a record of mentoring and assisting other sales professionals.

Panel member Pat Kelly said he was impressed with the calibre of every nominee submitted to the 2017 competition.

“When reviewing the candidates for these great awards one common thread ran through each –a passion for their work,” he said. “Each contributed on many levels including the success of the business, the right products, excellence in service but most of all a passion and care for their customer.”

It was evident each RSPA recipient worked to ensure each customer had the best experience possible and a result that exceeded the customer’s expectations. “You have to admire that and recognise the importance of the influence their behaviour has on others and the business.” Kelly said. “Recognition of their excellence is so important for our industry as examples of the changing environment and competitive pressures – it’s still the human factor that makes all the difference.”

Each of the RSPA recipients will be hosted by the sponsors during the upcoming Canadian Furniture Show, which opens at the International Centre here this Friday morning.

“We are very pleased with the diversity and wide range of nominations received throughout this year’s RSP Awards program,” Zucora president Brad Geddes said. “Those businesses where the recipients have the opportunity to serve customers should be especially proud that they employ sales professional who are among the best of the best in our industry.”

The CHFA gala will be held this coming Thursday (May 25) beginning at 5:30pm at the Universal Event Space, located at the corner of Highways 7 and 27 in Vaughan, Ontario. For tickets, contact CHFA president Murray Vaughan at (905) 678-4678 or e-mail [email protected].

The winners will also be profiled in special section of the Fall 2017 edition of the HGO Merchandiser, scheduled for publication this coming August.

Nominations for next year’s RSPA program will open in January 2018.

Groups drive CFS attendance

23 May 2017
Events, Retail

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario – Retail buyer attendance at this weekend’s Canadian Furniture Show (CFS) is driven, for the most part, by this country’s three buying groups: Cantrex Nationwide (CNW); the Dufresne Retail Solutions Group (DRSG); and, Mega Group. The show opens at the International Centre here this Friday morning.

All three use the event in slightly different ways, but all three agree the show is vitally important not just to their members, but to industry at large as well. All three will have a presence on the show floor. It should be noted all three also sit on the CFS organiser’s national advisory committee.

All are expecting a solid turnout from their members to the event and between the three should host a total of about 260 stores over the three days of the show.

“Initial indications are there will be less members attending this year versus last year,” DRSG director Steve Braniff reports while noting he’s still anticipating more than half of the 135 retail operations on his member roll to attend CFS this year.

DRSG will occupy over 5,000 square feet in the International Centre’s conference facility – the Orion ‘A’ ballroon – where the group plans to unveil its 2017 mattress line-ups, which will be the major focus of their efforts. Beyond this, Braniff anticipates his members will use CFS to preview new product and build relationships with vendors. “Our members tend to come to preview what’s new as our core programs are already put into place,” Braniff says.

CNW assistant vice president Pat Kelly is expecting more of his members to come this year. “I’m expecting an increase this year as the timing is somewhat better and with the return of Palliser we should see a stronger turnout,” he said, adding his members are keenly interested in new product and show specials, which he described as “the two keys to attending any show.”

The group itself will be adding to its various private label initiatives. “We will also be introducing new product and programs that will add to our members’ toolbox,” Kelly said. CNW’ will be located in Hall 2, space 2023.

Meanwhile, Mega Group expects to host a slightly larger number of its members to CFS, many of whom will start the weekend attending to the group’s annual general meeting of shareholders. At that time, they will also vote to replace vacancies on their board of directors.

Michael Vancura, the group’s executive vice president of retail, said they will host a range of marketing and merchandising sessions for the members of BrandSource Canada just before the show as well as the now traditional ‘Mad Dash’ where group vendors offer attending member deeply discounted show specials. They will also host their usual fundraising dinner for Ronald McDonald House. Mega can be found in Hall 3, space 3009.

The burning question for CFS exhibitors is whether attending group member are at the show to buy. All three execs report good results for 2016 although business so far this year has been spotty.

“We had a very good year in 2016 and we were very pleased with the results,” Kelly says. “January was very strong, then we had some real ups and downs by week over February and March but for the year-to-date we are very pleased with our performance.”

“DRSG member same store sales achieved better results than the industry did,” Braniff reports. “We had above industry average results in the furniture, mattress and appliance categories.”

Like his colleagues, Braniff also reports a tough first quarter, which despite some uneasiness in the opening months actually generated a little year-over-year growth.

Looking out past CFS, group execs are reasonably optimistic about the rest of 2017.

“We see 2017 being another good year for DRSG members,” Braniff says. “The first quarter had a slow start but picked up in the last month and that momentum at retail looks to be building.”

While there is a lot of concern about the future of NAFTA and what that will mean for the furniture industry as a whole, they are mostly pleased that the value of the dollar gives their members the freedom to support Canadian suppliers. “This is great for the Canadian furniture industry,” Braniff says, adding, “DRSG has supported ‘Buy Canadian’ since our inception in 2006 and will continue to do so where we can.”

“There’s no doubt 2017 will continue to be a little unpredictable and while the currency may continue to be an issue, we are overall optimistic about the year,” CNW’s Kelly says. “Hard work and good marketing will always support growth and that will be our focus for the year.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Vancura adds.


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