From Home Furnishing Business
Think about it, after all; retail has amazingly long hours, little thanks, sometimes finicky consumers.
That’s a lot to take without a love for helping people create welcoming homes.
Several conversations with retail friends have all led back to the frustration that legal topics and issues bring into their businesses. Staying abreast of changes in regulations impacting business owners is more than a full-time affair—there are hour and wage regulations; safety regulations; truth in advertising regulations and the list goes on and on.
Hint at the possibilities of a lawsuit over copyright infringement from a competitor or supplier and some retailers may break out into a body-coating sweat. Heaven forbid a legal squabble with a consumer who happened to break her arm and injure her rotator cuff when she stumbled over a low-profile cocktail table while she was admiring great artwork on the wall. (True story, by the way, that cost a retailer a good chunk of change in lawyer and settlement fees.)
In today’s world of hurry-up electronics, smartphones, the Internet and social media, copyright regs get more and more murky and indepth. It’s hard to know what is a copyrighted content, images or designs when surfing through Pinterest, Facebook and Google+. When does someone cross the line from sharing and step into copying?
On another regulation front, the industry is having to reevaluate the use of flame-retardant chemicals in upholstery and bedding. I remember stepping into this industry nearly 20 years ago when the debate over flame retardants was raging as to should we or shouldn’t we use such chemicals in home furnishings to prevent fires.
Today’s research shows the chemicals could leach and result in ill effects to people. Back in 1994, there were folks in the industry who stood firmly against such treatments for the very reason of the unknown human impact of the chemicals. California—the state with some of the strictest regulations—is currently leaning toward changing its standards on chemical treatment for upholstery. Typically, as goes California, so does the rest of the Union.
It’s enough to make one’s head spin, and it’s not easy.
The legal aspects of running a retail business seem more complicated than our country’s tax code. Thankfully, there are lawyers in the world who understand the ins and outs of legal matters that mean the most to retailers.
Inside this month, we take a look at a few of the legal issues retailers face on a regular basis. By no means did we delve into every single law or nuance that you or your colleagues have to worry about. THAT would take some doing.
Read the issue, and take some notes. Voice your concerns with your legal counsel. Make him or her a true business partner that you consult on a regular basis instead of only in times of legal crisis. You’ll be glad you did.
By Powell Slaughter
Toronto furniture retailer Decorium is blending big selection, looks at a value and a family touch to create a home furnishings destination for Canada’s largest metropolitan area.
A constantly changing showroom, marketing that verges on “guerilla” and a willingness to change have Decorium making moves this year.
A new location in a prime Toronto shopping district and a high-end gallery at its existing store has the family owned retailer optimistic for the year to come.
A DEVELOPING STORY
Decorium’s roots trace to the manufacturing operation that Steve’s grandfather, David Forberg, started when he immigrated to Canada from Europe.
He began manufacturing dinettes in the early 1950s, becoming one of the countries largest producers in the category. Forberg’s father, Joe Forberg, had joined the business, and David suggested opening a retail operation. A few years later, Joe’s brother came on board, and the Grand Designs retail brand grew to include eight stores.
In 1986, the family started Decorium as an import business for the design trade, offering chairs, chests, armoires and accent pieces from Italy, Spain, the United States and Asia. In the early 1990s, a recession in Canada and new tax laws put a squeeze on Grand Designs, which led the family to close the eight stores and turn Decorium into a retail business, located in what had previously served as the distribution center for Grand Designs.
CREATING A DESTINATION
As a retail operation, Decorium started in 5,000 square feet of the facility, but quickly expanded.
“Being open to the public, it took on a new life,” said Steve Forberg. “Now we’re a full-service store, with a full range of styles from classic traditional to contemporary to modern to glamour, to leather and fabric upholstery to rugs and accents. We have 700 rugs on display in the store.”
With one exception, Decorium doesn’t brand any manufacturers. Everything in the store is a “Decorium” item.
“Our customers say, ‘I bought this Decorium sofa,’ or ‘I bought a Decorium dining room,’” Forberg said. “We are the brand.
“The only thing we brand separately in the store is HGTV (product).”
On the floor, Decorium wants customers to be wowed by selection and understand they’ve arrived at a true shopping destination with outstanding looks at a value.
“We want them to feel they’re in a unique environment that offers a good customer experience,” Forberg said, “with high-end looks at accessible prices.”
Decorium also encourages customers to keep coming back to see what’s new.
“We’re constantly shifting product in our 60,000-square-foot showroom to make it fresh for the customer and keep it fresh for our sales staff,” Forberg said. “We have 60 to 100 new items on the floor each week. We have customers who come in monthly to see what’s new and fresh, and how things are laid out.”
Decorium relies on two taglines in its marketing: “Definitely—Decorium” and “Just what you’re looking for in a furniture store.”
“It’s a one-stop shop. In our advertising we ask why visit five stores when you can visit five in one,” Forberg said. “We’re large enough to move a lot of product, and we’re small enough to care.”
In addition to radio, magazine and direct mail, Decorium relies a lot on what Forberg called non-traditional advertising.
Commuters in the Toronto area see Decorium’s message via outdoor advertising on bridges, bus shelters and in the subway system.
“My philosophy is to try to advertise where others aren’t,” Forberg said. “I like to swim in a pool where no one else is swimming. Once people start swimming with me, I try to jump out of that pool and into another one.”
A HIGH-END MOVE
Decorium’s new store is located on Toronto’s Yonge Street in the upscale Rosedale area. Most surrounding stores don’t run more than a couple thousand square feet, so Decorium’s 9,000 square feet there make a statement. Plus, the location was home to other furnishings retail operations, so Decorium will be filling a gap.
“It’s a trendy part of the city,” Forberg said. “The new store on Yonge Street is on the longest street in North America. It runs from Lake Ontario to the Northwest Territories. In Toronto, it’s the street to be—it’s like being on Rodeo Drive.”
(Check this link for Yonge Street’s significance in Canada: En.Wikipedia.org/Wiki/Yonge_Street)
Renovations are nearing completion, and after a scheduled soft opening later this month, Decorium will hold a grand opening event in April.
“That store offer’s the fashion and style our brand’s known fore but it’s in more of a boutique setting,” Forberg said. “There’s more layering, more accessories, and overall it’s a little more high-end.”
This past fall, Decorium also opened a 5,000-square-foot high-end gallery at the main store branded as “Signature Collection by Decorium.”
The space features a decidedly upscale product selection, complemented with fixtures such as crown molding, hardwood floors and wainscoting.
“We’ve partnered with some factories for some exclusives that are really unique and high-end,” Forberg said.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
“Business was challenging, obviously in 2008 and 2009,” Forberg said.
Sales leveled in 2010, though, and he reports double-digit growth for the past two years.
“There’s an analogy I like to use,” Forberg said. “We’re like a retractable roof on a stadium. As a family business, we can open it and close it as needed. We’re hands on, we can watch our expenses, and we live and breathe the business.”
Decorium’s making moves, so Forberg feels pretty good about what lies ahead for furniture retailing in general and his family’s business in particular.
“If we listen to the news, how things are hard, we can get complacent and stand still,” he said. “We’re not going to let the economy and the news people tell us times are tough and that we need to hunker down.
“We know when we have to hunker down, and we can when we need to. We’re opening a new store, we’re taking risks, and I think those who are willing to make a leap of faith are the ones who’ll be successful.” HFB
Decorium co-CEO Steve Forberg is a father of two boys—10 and 12—and is coming up on his 15th anniversary of marriage.
Away from the store, he enjoys family time, both at home and on the road.
“We love to travel as a family,” Forberg said.
A hockey forward in his younger days, Forberg still spends time on the ice.
“I coach both my boys in hockey, and in my spare time I like playing hockey and golf,” he said.
Decorium at a Glance
• Founded in July 1986.
• Flagship location is a 100,000-square-foot store and distribution center in Toronto with a 60,000-square-foot showroom and 40,000-square-foot warehouse
• Opening a 9,000-square-foot location on Toronto’s Yonge Street in mid-February, with grand opening set for early April.
• Employees: 64
• Key management: Steve Forberg, and brother, Howard Forberg , co-CEOs; father, Joe Forberg, “ambassador”; Danny Abladi, distribution center manager; Tara Lindsay , advertising manager/buyer; Phil Raso, sales manager; Gabriella Mocanu, controller; Maribeth Bautista, customer care manager.
• Annual revenue: $10-20 million
• Web site: Decorium .com
Gel continues to be the buzz ingredient of choice among many leading bedding manufacturers, as more and more beds featuring gel (frequently infused with memory foam) were introduced.
One of the main appeals of gel—cooler sleep—was also a recurring theme in the new beds on display. Besides gel, this is also achieved through ventilation techniques as a result of retooled mattress construction.
And adjustable beds continue to be a hot trend among leading bedding manufacturers, as the technology continues to pull away from the hospital/Kraft-matic senior-citizen stereotype and emerge as an important add-on for younger consumers.
Here’s a round-up of the new bedding products shown at Las Vegas Market.
Sealy unveiled its updated Posturepedic line, which encompasses three series:
• Posturepedic Hybrid, a half-gel memory foam/half-springs line;
• Posturepedic Gel, which combines gel memory foam with titanium alloy coils; and
• Posturepedic Classic, which features Sealy’s redesigned Classic Coil.
The company will launch the new Posturepedic beds with an invigorated advertising campaign based on its acclaimed “Whatever you do in bed, Sealy supports it” campaign. New commercials coming to TV are geared to make an emotional connection with viewers by touching upon how key moments of life are spent in bed.
Serta announced it will build upon the success of its gel/memory foam-based iComfort line with iComfort Directions, which adds four new models to the collection.
The new beds feature EverCool Gfx, which adds grapheme for support and heat dissipation; Cool Action Dual Effects, which has new gels for support and coolness; Pods Gel-Active Support, which are macro-gel discs that add support; and ThermoCool Fabric Covers that have Tencel fibers for moisture transfer. The four new beds will range in price from $1,999 to $2,999. The company also showed its redesigned Perfect Sleeper mattress line, which includes a new Sleep To Go pillow that will retail for $39.
Simmons launched two new collections, Beautyrest Recharge and Beautyrest Recharge World Class, which will replace its Beautyrest Classic and Elite lines, respectively. Both lines combine pocketed coil springs with gel foam. The Recharge line, priced from $699 to $1,299, feature Aircool memory foam and GelTouch foam, while the Recharge World Class series (priced from $1,399 to $1,999) adds TruTemp gel, which is said to release warmth for a cooler sleep surface. The company also announced the addition of three new beds to its high-end Comforpedic from Beautyrest line, which will be priced from $2,999 to $3,999. All three beds feature the company’s proprietary Multi-Action Support Layer.
Memory foam giant Tempur-Pedic announced a new push into sleep personalization with the Tempur-Choice line. These beds have a new multi-zone adjustable support system in which a hand-held remote allows each sleeper to modify his or her side of the bed to achieve desired a level of firmness that feels just right from more than 120 different comfort settings. The line includes the 14-inch Tempur-Choice Luxe mattress ($3,999 in queen), and the 13-inch Tempur-Choice Supreme ($3,499).
Responding to customer requests for a plusher feel, Tempur-Pedic showed its new Tempur-Cloud Allura ($4,599 in queen), which combines soft Tempur-ES material with its cozy Tempur-Top pillow top. Another new model, the Tempur-Cloud Luxe Breeze ($4,999) has Tempur-Breeze technology to add an extra-cool feel to the company’s customary support and no-motion-transfer memory foam. Finally, the company showed its new Tempur-Ergo Premier adjustable base ($1,999), which can be run by a free app via wireless Apple or Android devices. These new Tempur-Pedic products will hit retail this spring.
Boyd Specialty Sleep introduced a new line of four Natural Flex latex beds priced from $699 to $1,499 in queen. The company also showed its new Cosmopolitan platform bed that will sell for $199 in queen, as well as four revamped air beds—the Operetta, Orion, Comet and Stardust—which have been updated with Boyd’s new TPU air core and will retail from $1,999 to $3,499 in queen. Finally, Boyd showed two new occasional-use beds, the $79 Siesta mattress and $129 Comfort Ease II fold-away guest bed.
Canadian mattress protection specialist Caber Sure Fit showed its new line of DreamSeren mattress and pillow protectors, made from a variety of fabrics including terry, bamboo and eucalyptus, and priced from $59 to $199.
Classic Brands announced the addition of a new mattress to its Dormia Memory Foam Collection, as well as three new gel memory foam mattresses to its E-Commerce Collection. New accessories from the company include the Cool Gel Memory Foam Topper.
Comfort Solutions showed its revamped five-model Perfect Contour collection, which combines a foam core with layers of latex, latex gel foam, and gel memory foam. This line is expected to retail from $799 to $1,299 in queen. Also redesigned was the company’s health-skewed Dr. Breus Bed line, which now consists of six new beds: Vitality, Longevity, Endurance, Synergy, Stability and Success, set to range at retail from $1,299 to $3,499 in queen.
Europe-based specialty provider Dormeo Octaspring, which made its U.S. debut in 2012, showed its proprietary memory foam honeycomb-structured springs that are the basis of its line of beds.
Englander Sleep Products debuted its LifeStyle line of specialty gel beds, along with new gel-based Tension Ease and Anniversary models, for a collection priced from $499 to $1,899 in queen.
FXI/Anatomic Global showed its Rejuvigel mattresses at Market. The line combines soft Visco foam with swirled waves of gel for better support and air/moisture movement. The beds are priced in queen at $1,199 (11-inch), $1,499 (12-inch) and $1,899 (13-inch). The company also showed its Bed Bug Defense Shield Mattress Protector, a disposable, flexible mat placed under a mattress to protect from bed bug infestation.
Glideaway Sleep Products premiered its Natural Awakenings by Sleepharmony latex and gel collection, which includes the eight-inch Nightshade, 10-inch Calypso and 12-inch Primrose. The beds, which have a temperature-regulating treatment and a top layer of latex to remove heat from the body for cooler sleep, will retail from $999 to $1,799 in queen.
The big news from Kingsdown at Market was the unveiling of the company’s new Sleep Smart beds, which come with interactive technology that, according to the vendor, monitors a sleeper’s movements, pain, pressure and sleep patterns throughout the night, and can reconfigure the sleep setting on an ongoing basis to ensure maximum comfort and health benefits. The company demonstrated the Sleep Smart system in a closed-door theater in its Market space.
High-end bedding specialist E.S. Kluft & Co. showcased its Aireloom brand’s Adapt-and-React collection, which includes all-foam, hybrid foam and innerspring versions that utilize gel for temperature regulation. The beds have a heavyweight zippered cover and a non-quilted Scandinavian look, and will be priced from $1,799 to $3,499 in queen.
Italian bedmaker Magniflex debuted its eco-friendly Linen Natursoft Deluxe line, which has a linen cover and layers of mallow extract and soy-based foam, and will retail for $3,999 in queen. The company also showed its new GeoEthic group, which are made with non-toxic, renewable materials. The Magnigel collection, into which pre-polymer gel is swirled into the foam, was also shown.
The big reveal from green-skewing Organic Mattresses Inc. was of the company’s new Point-of-Purchase program, which includes branded upholstered organic chenille materials including a headboard; pillows with shams; and an upholstered mattress base.
Pure Latex BLISS rolled out its new Yulex collection, a line of mattresses, toppers and pillows made with eco-friendly biorubber from the Yulex Corp. According to the company, these beds will offer a lush feel not commonly associated with environmentally friendly beds. The line includes the eight-inch Eco, 10-inch Sustain and 12-inch Renew.
The five-model Response Sleep System by Sharper Image collection was shown at Vegas Market, and, according to its manufacturer Southerland, can provide zero-gravity pressure relief, responsive support and contoured comfort. The beds have layers of open-cell Talalay latex and foam layers.
Adjustable base specialist Reverie showed its high-tech 7S (Supreme), which features “Made for Mobile” technology that enables control of lift, massage and other functions by tablets and smartphones via a remote app. The base will sell for $1,700 in queen.
Under-bed specialist Seahawk Designs unveiled a new upholstered 19-inch by 50-inch storage bench that complements the company’s Davenport storage foundation system. The company also introduced an adjustable bed base option, an extension to to its Casual Elegance collection.
Spring Air celebrated its Back Supporter collection by rolling out two new Special Edition Back Supporter models, available in firm and plush feels and priced at $599 in queen.
Therapedic International showcased its Agility collection, which combines gel foam and micro-pocket coils for coolness and support. Bio-based Preserve VG gel is swirled into the bed’s foam compound. Four models, Dash, Tango, Freestyle and Crossover comprise the line, which ranges in retail price from $1,299 to $2,499 in queen.
My second position was with a client that I worked with by way of the Fortune 500 that asked me to come to work for them. It was a dedicated third-party logistics provider that was privately held and employed just over 120 people. Less structured than my previous job, but attempting to become a “real” company.
This brings me to my present position as publisher of Home Furnishings Business. A team of five, the majority of us work from home, with some support from our parent company. Each company has had its share of pros and cons, but each was driven by the fact you must have good employees to deliver on the promises you make to your clients.
At one time or another with each place I have been employed, I have hired, fired or have been counted on to keep morale up within my group of employees. I know the old saying, sh*t floats downhill but it amazes me how quickly a senior manager will run when such tasks come up.
Right or wrong here are a few things that I have learned along the way.
When hiring, don’t try to just fill a vacancy. Use this time to find an “upgrade” and find someone that will work well within your team. If you hire a person that is motivated, smart and has a good work ethic, you can train them on the necessary skills to help them be successful in the position. They will grow into the role. Don’t rule out hiring from outside your industry, sometimes a fresh set of eyes, ears and ideas is what the position needs as a jumpstart. Explain what is needed for them to be considered successful and supply the tools to make that happen.
Firing, this is a tough one for most people. In today’s world of documenting potential issues, problems and inch-thick personnel files, it’s my thought that a person has a pretty good idea which path they are on before the firing takes place. If you have completed your supporting documentation and included it in this file, you should have no concerns about your next step. You have outlined what was needed for that employee to be successful, and they have not reached those goals. Lose no sleep when terminating an employee; you’ve had discussions along the way about performance issues and addressed this with each item that was put in the file. Cut the cord and move on, your team will be better for it.
Happy employees are more productive employees, but keeping employee morale up is a difficult task. Management needs to keep an eye on morale. Good employers will make sure an employee is feeling happy and secure in the position, so they can focus on doing their job and not have concerns about the “what ifs”. It’s a fact that an employee will be more productive if they feel good about the company. Remove any doubts employees may have, and you will be rewarded by them. Be sure to acknowledge employees for the effort they give. Celebrate the wins and always be sure to include families in your celebration. The family may not be on your payroll, but they are a vital support for your employee. It’s important for family members to feel included and part of your team.
This issue of Home Furnishings Business delves into these topics. Take a moment to read it and learn from others who are much more seasoned than me in what makes a successful team in the furniture industry. I’m sure you will walk away with an idea or two that will help you become more successful and create a team environment that will exceed your expectations.
The jury’s still out on the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, on businesses.
Jill Benson , an attorney specializing in employment issues in the Greensboro, N.C., office of Womble Carlyle, noted that employers will have to provide coverage in companies with 50 or more full-time employees. The next big deadline is March this year to give notice to employees, but that could be pushed back.
“It’s not clear yet what minimal essential coverage will be,” Benson said.
Taylor Ganz, vice president of finance, planning & administration at Profitability Consulting Group, said he’s spoken to a number of retailers who are reducing some full-time positions to part-time; and all part-time positions to 28 hours a week or less in order to reduce the number of employees they must cover in a health insurance program under the law.
“Some are raising prices, but they should be raising prices anyway,” Ganz said. “Up to now, a healthy benefit package has been a useful retention and recruitment tool, but because of the uncertainty around the new regulations it’s unclear how many retailers can offer the full level of benefits. … It’s the uncertainty about the law’s mechanics.”
With a huge number of retail associates spread over its Thomasville store network, Furniture Brands International has stayed abreast of health-care reform developments, said Beth Sweetman, senior senior vice president of human resources.
“We’ve been on top of health care reform for a couple of years, and we already comply with the legislation—we know what’s coming,” she said. “For us I think it will be an attraction and retention tool. Benefits are a significant spend for Furniture Brands, so we watch that carefully.”
Susan Brashears, at Brashears Furniture in Berryville, Ark., doesn’t expect much impact from Obamacare on the retailer’s benefit packages.
“We were already providing insurance for our people, and we have under 50 people,” she said. “We actually got a small rebate back from our health insurance company last year.”