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From Home Furnishing Business

Take 5—Yavar Rafieha, Abbyson

What's in a name? For Yavar Rafieha and his brothers, the Abbyson name represents far more than a home furnishings brand; it epitomizes their family's legacy and values. After all, this third-generation business is still thriving after three decades, thanks to a successful combination of longstanding values and fresh strategies.

"Ultimately, we want to be known as a family business," said Rafieha. "And as a family business, our reputation means everything to us. We also see our customers and retailers as extended family—that's why we focus so hard on quality and service."

Thirty years of success means that the Rafiehas also place a premium on innovations that drive the Abbyson brand forward. These days, that means focusing on e-commerce, and investing in digital, supply chain and manufacturing assets.

The long-term goal of this strategy is to transform Abbyson into one of the major players in the industry. They are already well on their way. The company has put significant effort into creating the ideal infrastructure needed to be a good supplier partner to many distribution channels, e-commerce retailers, Top 100 retailers, and designers. Through video technology, state-of-the-art packaging, expansion into multiple categories, diversification of sourcing, and a strategic limited distribution model, Abbyson is already top ranking among e-commerce retailers, and has a long waiting list of retailers eager to carry their products.

Rafieha recently spoke with Home Furnishings Business to talk more about the future of Abbyson, including the company's efforts to transform their brand into a household name.

From its start in 1989, Abbyson has grown, not only in terms of revenue, but also in the breadth of its product offerings. Is your long-term goal to create a lifestyle brand recognized by consumers? 

We've seen significant growth over the past several years, which has been unprecedented. Our goal as a company is to continue to expand our product line across all categories and to develop a brand that becomes a household name. We are currently in the highest rankings among the largest retailers in the e-commerce sector, and we were one of the first brands to begin using video technology to showcase furniture. Ultimately, we want the Abbyson brand to be synonymous with family values and quality furniture.

Our whole family is behind our name, and our organization is filled with employees working hard every day to provide our customers with the style and quality they're looking for—while getting products to them as soon as possible. We believe this kind of dedication will be recognizable and long lasting. I imagine one day that the Abbyson name will be synonymous with brands like Starbucks or Apple and people might be sitting around their home with family and friends and say, “You like my new sofa? It’s from Abbyson!” And the other would say, “Oh I love Abbyson products! They are just so beautiful.”

Has your commitment to quality, service, and innovation differentiated Abbyson from suppliers competing solely on price?

What differentiates us is the balance we offer. We combine stylish products and top-selling designs with great value and mass volume. We not only stay ahead of the trend curve, we also keep operational prices down. This allows us to develop high-quality products at affordable prices. We want our customers to see the incredible value of Abbyson products from the moment they receive them, so we design long-lasting furniture that is stylish and trendy—all at an incredible price point.

We all fell in love with this industry because of our passion for design and being able to create furniture that brings peoples’ homes to life. We know that a piece of furniture can be the center of one’s home, and that so many life memories are created on and around those products. If we competed solely on price, we wouldn't be providing those critical elements—comfort, quality and style—that customers are looking for and that, ultimately, give us a competitive edge.

Would becoming a retail vertical such as Ashley Home be a potential strategy for the future? 

Abbyson is focused on being the best manufacturer and partner for our retailers and e-commerce partners. We are experts in e-commerce, and we have become known as major players in that arena. Therefore, our plan is to continue developing the best products, distribution, and customer service for our partners—ultimately providing the best experience for our customers. We do not have any plans in the immediate future to move into the retail sector ourselves.
The emerging generation, of which you are among the oldest, is reminiscent of the American Furniture dynasties. Is Abbyson one of the next generation of international furniture dynasties? 

As a family business, we also have deep respect for any other family business. It is a factor that adds a whole other dynamic to a business model, and it also brings customers a sense of trust and relatability. Therefore it is good to see family businesses come to the forefront.

At Abbyson, family is everything to us, and our customers are an extended part of that family. Our family fell in love with this industry and plans to remain in it for many, many years to come. From very young ages, my brothers and I gained experience in the home furnishings industry, travelling with and observing our father. It was quite an experience, and it instilled in us passion and excitement for home furnishings. Although my brothers and I grew up around this business, we each made the decision to climb on board. We hope that one day this family business of ours will even extend into the fourth generation, and maybe well beyond that. That is yet to be seen, but we have seen that our family has a natural passion for product development and design in this industry.

With you and your brothers as three motivated executives, the next generation of Abbyson is in good hands—but how do you contain the energy of three passionate leaders within the bounds of practical growth?

At Abbyson we have clearly established our roles and responsibilities for each member of the family. Each of our roles really came quite naturally, with me utilizing my leadership skills and eye for the big picture to develop into president and CEO. Doddy is the analytical one, so his role in finance and operations was a perfect fit for him. And Rodd has always been a go-getter with an eye for fashion and design, which made him a shoo-in for SVP of Sales and Design. Each brother is responsible for a large area of business and focuses on how to improve that area for the benefit of the company. When those roles come together, it is powerful.

We’ve created a special department called “Team Abby” which is a group of employees who report to Abby, our father and founder of Abbyson. He is still very active in the company and oversees our manufacturing, sourcing, and quality control. He loves seeing the company continue to grow and staying an active partner within the company.

Fortunately, we are not only family, but also we are very close friends. We use that powerful synergy to create great working relationships among the three of us. At the end of the day, we have a common goal. This synergy has led to very positive and strong outcomes for Abbyson.

Is there an Abbyson “look”? And what research, formal or informal, ensures that cohesion across a brand product assortment? 

The Abbyson look is Modern Traditional. It is a very clean style that allows consumers to experiment with, mix and match, and blend different looks in their homes, creating their own unique styles. 

We have spent a lot of time researching consumer demographics and identifying the key buying categories. We have entire teams who dedicate themselves to development and product analysis, and we are working on diversifying and expanding our product lines going forward.

The industry as a whole is in transition. Baby Boomers comprised the top percentage of consumers for so many years, but we are now seeing a shift in consumer demographics as buying power transitions to the Millennial generation. Our goal has been to be well-prepared for that transition, while ensuring that our product line is accessible across all generations and suits the needs of all of our customers. This is why we are focusing our product line on the Modern Traditional design. It is designer-friendly for each generation.

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