Tips & Insights

The Market for Success

Record-breaking sales result from hands-on product research, face-to-face networking

Roger Hancock, owner of the Buffalo area’s Town and Country Furniture, considers the High Point Market his most valuable ongoing business investment since 1972. Planning his trips months in advance, Roger carefully schedules his time to research and source new products, enhance relationships with established vendors, and catch up with industry leaders whose wisdom helps guide his business decisions.

“For more than 40 years, my personal interactions at High Point Market have directly contributed to our store’s phenomenal success.”
– Roger Hancock, Owner, Town & Country Furniture, Hamburg, NY

“Just this past year, from November 2015 to November 2016, we enjoyed a 425% sales increase as a direct result of adding the motion seating lines that I researched and sourced in High Point,” Hancock says. “I never wanted to stock these chairs; I thought it would be a waste of my time. A sales rep planted the seed for this when he waved me into his showroom three years ago and told me I was missing a huge sales opportunity. I spent the next few Markets checking out hundreds of power lift recliners – sitting in chairs, turning them over, pulling them apart, and generally irritating the sales people who would say, ‘Here he comes again.’”

“Hands-on research helped me source the best quality, made in America, power motion seating for our customers.”

Visiting the suppliers who contribute the most to his profit is a Market priority for Hancock, who plans every trip a month and a half in advance, building a constantly updated list of must-see contacts while also scheduling time to explore new products and vendors in anticipation of the changing needs of his customers. He relies upon the Furniture Today website to stay abreast of industry news and product introductions, and is sure to include visits to the showrooms of vendors whose products he doesn’t currently offer.

“I start each day at 7am before the crowds build. I like to browse the showrooms without any interference, and there’s always a good free breakfast available somewhere nearby. When I visit my most important vendors, I allow time to meet with others besides the sales reps. I seek out the management team, the designers, and any factory people who are in the showroom. I try to find out where they are going with their company, discuss new product ideas, and offer suggestions based on my customer feedback that they might incorporate into new designs. The ability to establish priority relationships with my vendors results in the highest level of service possible, even on out of warranty pieces. I can’t imagine a more cost-efficient way to have these face-to-face meetings than to visit them at Market twice a year.

“The lift chair sales explosion is a direct result of the aging of the population and their diminishing physical capabilities.”

Always focused on factors impacting the economics of the furniture industry, regionally and across the globe, Hancock also uses his time at Market to gather the latest facts and figures from the top minds in the business. He never misses Jerry Epperson’s Outlook for Home Furnishings seminar, and he makes it a point to find a seat behind Jake Jabs, president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse. “Jerry and Jake are the steering wheels of this industry. I credit their wisdom with contributing to my proudest accomplishments throughout the past five decades. While I talk and email with Jerry throughout the year, the opportunity to hear his Market forecast and ask him questions after is priceless. I ran into Jake near the elevator during the last Market and he gave me solid advice on a business challenge that I didn’t want to hear but needed to.”

“Where else can you gain immediate access to great industry leaders?”

While some of the more contemporary furniture designs introduced at Market don’t always appeal to Town and Country’s older demographic, staying on top of consumer buying trends is a consistent objective for Hancock. He noted the American Society of Interior Designers October 2016 series of Thriving in Place seminars, which focused on making homes safer and more comfortable for aging Boomers, helped explain blockbuster sales of motion seating. “While more vendors are offering products in response to the changing needs of older customers, it’s incumbent on the retailer to ensure that the quality supports the advertising. You have to physically experience these products for yourself in the showroom before putting them into your store. We’d all rather be making deliveries than service calls!”

With more than 85 Markets behind him, Hancock clearly remembers his first trip to High Point, when he stayed at the YMCA for $18 a week. “On that very first day, I asked a lot of questions of the gray haired guys on the shuttle bus from the airport to the Y. They told me if I was looking for case goods to go to Dixie Furniture (now Lexington Furniture Industries). Now I’m one of those old gray haired guys and my advice to my younger colleagues is simple. The High Point Market is a free investment in your future as a successful retailer. You only have to pay for your travel expenses, and the rest of all that invaluable industry information is available to you. How could you forgive yourself for missing it?”