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Furniture First Symposium At Full Capacity

Furniture First held its annual Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona last week. The event was attended by 163 individuals representing the retailer members of Furniture First and 146 representatives from the group’s service and merchandise supplier partners. Sponsorships for the event sold out quickly last fall when they were announced to the buying group’s vendors. “We had to apply for special permission from the hotel and the local fire marshal to add more tables and booths this year to accommodate all the demand,” said Darby Hawkins, Furniture First’s on staff Event Planner.

Structured around the theme “Igniting Ideas, Sharing Solutions” the three-day event included guest speakers, roundtable sessions and a retailer panel discussion.

The event kicked off with marketing demographer Ken Gronbach, who described the impact of population changes on business. To complement the presentation, retailer attendees were provided with customized demographic market reports that broke down the mattress market potential around their main locations, prepared by Furniture First Director of Sleep Products and Mattress 1st Stores, Kerry Diem.

Day two saw the return of Doug Stephens as a speaker — he spoke at the group’s 2013 Symposium in New Orleans. Stephens’ talk focused on the need of retailers to adapt to new market preferences for experiences to thrive in the future. A panel discussion followed, featuring four retail members examining the complicated dynamics of succession in family owned businesses. Each side of the generational divide was represented with Jay Yennock and his daughter Morgan Marzano from China Towne Furniture in Solvay, NY, Randy Coconis and his son Bo Coconis from Coconis Furniture in South Zanesville, OH, Ron Deets and his son Kyle Deets form Deets Furniture in Norfolk, NE, and Jack Steger and his son Bryan Steger from Steger’s Furniture in Pekin, IL.

Day two was rounded out with informative vendor-led roundtable sessions and the immensely popular “Best Idea” competition. The $1,880 grand prize for the Best Idea was split between Chris Cooley of Michael Alan Furniture in Lake Havasu City, AZ and Brian Hall of the Furniture Mall of Kansas in Topeka. Both presented innovative ideas to improve customer service at the time of delivery.

Day three of the symposium started off with a retailer trouble-shooting session, in which the noncompeting retailers shared some of their biggest challenges to get advice from fellow members. Furniture First member, retailer and author Larry Schneiderman capped off the featured speakers for the event with the tale of his business journey peppered with humor, personal anecdotes, and business advice.

Highlights of the final day included several prize giveaways to members. Serta Simmons Bedding held a drawing for an Audi A3 and the winner was Joe Dunlavey of Wendell’s Furniture in Colchester, VT. The announcement was broadcast live on the Furniture First Facebook page. Tempur-Sealy gave Pat Callan of Callan Furniture in Waite Park, MN a one-year subscription for digital advertising. Other giveaway items included Apple products, Amazon products, Visa gift cards, Yeti coolers and free merchandise and services from Furniture First partners.

Furniture First also awarded prizes for networking during the event. The top prize of $1,250 went to Wil Dow of Dow Furniture in Waldoboro, ME; the second prize of $750 was won by Randy Coconis of Coconis Furniture in South Zanesville, OH and the third prize of $500 went to Jill Thigpen of Furniture Distributors in Havelock, NC.

Inspired by the success of charitable fundraising that the group did at their 2016 symposium, a 50/50 raffle was held for the benefit of two charities; breast cancer research and the Make-A-Wish® Foundation. Josh Pele of Russell’s Furniture in Santa Clara, CA won the cash prize for the raffle.

Furniture First will hold their 2018 Annual Symposium May 14-16 at the Harbor Beach Marriott in Fort Lauderdale, FL.