Gilles Pelletier named to lead QFMA and CFS
MONTREAL – Gilles Pelletier, the new CEO of the Canadian Furniture Show (CFS) says his first job is to give this country’s only national furniture trade event a unique added value position while helping its owner and operator, the Quebec Furniture Manufacturers Association (QFMA), devise strategies that will help manufacturers succeed in an environment made more complex by the demands of logistics and the internet.
An industry veteran, Pelletier took over as president and chief executive officer of both organisations earlier this month. He succeeded Pierre Richard, who held the post for five years before going into semi-retirement at the end of May.
In a statement announcing his appointment, the QFMA described him as an executive with strong experience in the furniture industry who demonstrated “great skills in organisational, strategic planning and sales management that can be hands-on and very creative. His knowledge of various areas of the furniture business – manufacturing, product development, merchandising and business development to name a few – will no doubt be put to great use in the evolution of the Canadian Furniture Show.”
Most recently, Pelletier was vice-president of sales and marketing for the Vancouver-based juvenile furniture resource Storkcraft Manufacturing. Its licensing agreements with Graco, Broyhill and Thomasville, has made the company a leader in that segment of the market. Its products are distributed by a number of North America’s largest retailers, including Amazon, Walmart, Target and Wayfair.
He is perhaps best known for his 14-year tenure as vice president of sales and new product development for South Shore Furniture, the ready to assemble specialist headquartered in Ste-Croix, Quebec. One of the largest furniture manufacturers in North America, it was also one of the first to specialise in online sales. These days, its products are sold in Canada, the United States, Mexico as well as in the United Kingdom.
David Gélinas, chairman of the QFMA’s board of directors and executive vice president of Zedbed, said Pelletier’s leadership experience will serve the 150-member organisation well.
“We are thrilled to welcome Gilles Pelletier as president and CEO of the QFMA. He has held a wide range of high-level positions in the Canadian furniture industry, and we trust that his experience and abilities will bring great value to our association as well as to the Canadian Furniture Show moving forward,” Gélinas said.
In an interview with Home Goods Online, Pelletier suggested adapting to a world and a consumer driven by the immediacy of the internet is one of the biggest chllenges furniture manufacturers face. When coupled with the increasing complexity of logistics, he believes organisations such as QFMA have an active role to play in helping manufacturers find new ways to thrive.
“When you can buy a piece of furniture on Wayfair and have it delivered within 24 hours, it’s a new world,” Pelletier said, although he’s quick to add many customers still want to shop in store. “The consumer is buying online but there will always be those who want to touch and feel their furniture before they buy it.”
The QFMA is the last trade group dedicated to furniture manufacturing left in North America. The others have expanded their membership to include distributors, importers, retailers and other segments of the industry. Pelletier has no desire to follow their lead and said he believes focusing on manufacturing is the right thing for his organisation.
“Manufacturing is important to our country and we need to create more manufacturing jobs,” he said. “We need to have a long-term dream…we need to start thinking about what this industry is going to look like in ten years, 20 years time.”
Pelletier believes the QFMA is best positioned to help the industry figure out what the future will look and create strategies to help them succeed.
“We need to work together, it’s crucial that the industry comes together,” he maintains, adding, “We don’t even know who our future competitors are.”
His predecessor worked hard at building stronger ties with both the Quebec provincial and federal governments. Both are initiatives he plans to build on over the next few years, particularly when international trade agreements – such as the new free trade agreement with the European Union – are coming into being.
“It’s time consuming to enter new markets, so the question is how can we help our manufacturers enter these markets,” Pelletier said.
The QFMA is most closely associated with the Canadian Furniture Show, which will move back to January beginning in 2020.
“Moving the Canadian Furniture Show to mid-January 2020 was a major decision, and continuity is key to ensure the success of the next edition,” Pelletier said, adding, “The show is, after all, the most important event in our industry. However, I believe we have reached a turning point. Significant changes are needed, and I look forward to the challenge.”
While he firmly believes in the show’s potential and believes the industry needs to have an event such as this, he is also quick to point out “we need to do more than just change the date.”
He notes that everyone in the trade show business – regardless of the industry – is facing tough challenges.
“Our value proposition has to be more than this is the only Canadian show,” he says while asking, “What is our unique selling position? Let’s create that value-added proposition because when we have it, the show will thrive.”
Pelletier admits the challenges facing him are daunting but says he’s looking forward to meeting them. “I know the industry,” he told HGO. “I’m an optimistic guy. I don’t have all the answers but we’re going to make it happen.”
The next edition of CFS will be held at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario from January 16 to 18, 2020.