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Hearth & Home September 2014

Richard Wright
Hearth & Home Magazine

It’s Under Your Control

Each year in September we interview key executives in the patio furniture industry for a feature we call Sitting Pretty. Topics and issues are far ranging and designed to provide a quick glance at the state of each company represented.

Our thanks go to the participating executives who gave of their time, and their patience, as we encouraged them to be as specific as possible. Of course, not everyone needs pushing; some are just downright candid.

A major take-away from this year’s conversations is that all eight interviewees experienced sales growth, and many attributed that fact not only to external demand, but also to internal improvements in infrastructure and procedures.

“We (wanted) to have a year where we could fix something,” said Tom Murray, president of NorthCape International. “We had several priorities – better inventory management, better accounts receivable management and better customer service; improvements in our cushion manufacturing really smoothed out a lot of delivery problems.”

You see, growing your business is not just about the economy and consumer confidence and the weather – you know, all those things you can’t control but can easily blame. No, it’s also about all the things over which you have direct control, such as the appearance of your store, the proper selection of styles, colors and price points, the quality of your customer service and the professionalism of your sales force.

“We had 12 product lines that were up,” said Dudley Flanders, president of Lloyd Flanders. “Which tells us it was across the board. It was loom; it was vinyl; it was some of the Loft product; our container products were up. That was one of the things we stressed to our reps, that the reason for such a good year was not because we had one hot line. It was because people seemed to be noting the quality improvements we’ve made and the delivery improvements we’ve made and they were pushing Lloyd Flanders as a brand.

“Our performance this year was very good. That makes a huge difference for both our dealers and us. Retailers can’t sell what they can’t get, and we don’t make any money on stuff we don’t ship.”

Internal improvements made the difference at Lloyd Flanders, and internal improvements can make the difference at every retail store in the land.

At OW Lee, company president Terri Lee Rogers said they “are actually ahead 25 percent, and that’s quite a large amount for us.” To what do you attribute such an increase, we asked. “I’ve thought about that,” she said, “and I think the main thing is that we had a better handle on our inventory, we were shipping more consistently and we didn’t have back-orders.

“It’s a combination of both internal and external factors, but I do think people had more confidence in us as a reliable supplier. We were shipping when we said we were going to ship.”

Retailers, please take the above comments to heart. Much of your future success will be determined by factors directly under your control. Make sure you read all the rest of our Sitting Pretty interviews.

See you in Chicago!

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