A great time for our industry
From the HGO Merchandiser
For the first time in our 12-year, Home Goods Online has established its own YouTube channel. It’s our plan to bring together words and pictures to give our readership a fuller understanding of what’s happening in Canada’s furniture, mattress and major appliance industries at all points in the supply chain from manufacturing and distribution to retail.
One of our first projects was an industry round-table which we held during the Canadian Furniture Show this past May. We managed to persuade several of the industry’s leading lights to take time away from the show floor to talk about issues of interest and we are grateful for their insight. Participating in our first round-table were:
Brad Geddes, president and chief executive officer of Zucora Home, the added-value specialist based in London, Ontario;
Jeannine Ghaleb, president and chief operating officer of Cantrex Nationwide, the fee-for-service buying and marketing group headquartered in Montreal;
Marc de Grave, vice president of sales (Canada) for Protect-A-Bed, the Chicago-based sleep accessory provider;
Benoit Simard, president and chief executive officer of Mega Group, the member owned buying group based in Saskatoon;
Pierre Richard, president and chief executive officer of both the Canadian Furniture Show and its operator, the Quebec Furniture Manufacturers Association, whose offices can be found in Montreal; and,
Mark Wiltshire, president of global sales for the Winnipeg-based Palliser Furniture, this country’s largest furniture manufacturer and resource.
What follows is a written, sometimes fuller version of the video podcast that can be found on our YouTube channel (click here to access the file). At times, we edited for clarity, so this might not follow the spoken word exactly. Each participant gave thoughtful answers to four critical questions addressing the state of the market for furniture and furnishings; the importance of the Canadian Furniture Show; the demise of Sears Canada; and, the prospects for furniture retailing.
HGO: What’s happening in the Canadian market right now that you see as exciting and innovative?
Brad Geddes: What a great time it is to be in the Canadian home furnishing market. There is so much change happening in consumers’ homes – it’s very much forward fashion and folks are thinking about how to live a different lifestyle. The introduction of new technologies is really creating different home environments, so we can’t think of a better time to be part of the industry.
Jeannine Ghaleb: Well, what’s happening is a lot of change. We are used to it now and we should all embrace the change. I find it very exciting because we’re going to answer to a new customer. I look at the possibilities…starting with bedding, the bed-in-a-box. I look at furniture; the custom side of it is very interesting. Because with Sears disappearing – Sears was the biggest place for custom in furniture – now I see all the vendors going this way. I find it very interesting for our independent retailers because they can sell custom furniture. They can change a table, they can change the fabrics, and this is something that online sellers cannot do. I think this very, very exciting for the consumer and exciting for the independent retailer.
Marc de Grave: I think everybody’s trying to get a new angle, a new product. In our case, we’ve gone to the sleep technology side of things. We have a pillow that has eight loud speakers, for example, so that’s keeping us fresh, keeping us alive, and I think that’s what’s happening in this industry…everyone’s trying a new angle. The biggest change in my industry, in terms of mattress protection/mattresses is the arrival of the mattress-in-a-box. We know those have been around forever, but right now the arrival of the Caspers of the world has really changed the whole mattress dynamic. There seems to be a little bit of a race to zero as far as I can see. So, now price is becoming a bigger and bigger issue then it was before.
Benoit Simard: The consumer has access to so many different ways of creating a purchase or a shopping experience…many times they don’t realise they just got into a buying process. That’s created a need for the retailer to offer a value that is completely different than promotion and price. That’s something that has to change drastically. The digital business front is really new for retail and definitely for the retailer. This is exciting and this where Mega Group has been making investments.
Pierre Richard: There is a lot happening in this market place and that makes it very exciting. One word defines people in this industry: passion. And passion brings a lot of innovation; an ability to change and adapt and if anybody thinks this industry is stable, they’re fooling themselves. We have to adapt to what the consumer is looking for. There’s lots of room for people to innovate: in design, in product and adapt to the new realities (such as multi-purpose furniture, etcetera). We also have to adapt how we sell furniture to the consumer. That is changing more rapidly then anyone realises – those who do not change quickly will be left behind. So, it’s a land of opportunity and a very, very exciting time. The Canadian market place is very healthy, our manufacturers are world class and it’s a terrific time to be in furniture.
Mark Wiltshire: What’s exciting and innovative is the use of technology within the stores. We keep hearing terms like extended aisle, a technology that maximises the footprint of your store. It’s using an electronic catalogue to maximise sales. I think it’s the next place to go for brick and mortar.
HGO: How important is the Canadian Furniture Show to the life of the industry as a whole?