Refining Dry Data Into Gold

Industry expert Jerry Epperson mines high-value insights from mountains of economic facts

At 9am on Sunday morning, a highly-focused group of retail and design professionals gathers in the Home Furnishings Association (HFA) Retail Resource Center. They come to hear Jerry Epperson’s most recent research, savvy economic analyses, and often hilarious anecdotes. They leave with up-to-the-minute intel, inspirational advice, and information they can use to grow their businesses.

Many of those raptly listening, and taking copious notes, are industry veterans like Jake Jabs, president and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse; Roger Hancock, owner of Town and Country Furniture; and design strategist and author Mary Knackstedt, who haven’t missed a session since the late 1980’s. Still relevant to a new generation of retail and design pros, the program also attracts plenty of millennial first-timers.

“I saw it posted on the Market website as a ‘must’ thing to do to maximize your visit,” said Cody Thomas, Chief Sales Officer with Rustica Hardware of Springville, UT. “Jerry was great! He was funny! I took all his recommendations back to my team. Most memorable was his advice to retailers to find partners for whom you are a big deal. It is far better to dive deeper with fewer partners. If you try to be something to everyone, you risk being nothing to no one.”

Sources: US Dept of Commerce, National Association of Realtors

Jerry’s gems are often mined from the economic and demographic statistics that measure the driving forces of home furnishings sales. For example, a 120.9% increase in housing starts, along with a 28.4% increase in existing home sales should indicate good times for our industry, and consumer spending stats show they do. Growth in the sales of furniture and mattresses is outpacing all consumer expenditures by almost 10% – and are almost 15% ahead of all durable goods expenditures.

Source: Furnishings Digest Newsletter, August 2017 (US Dept of Commerce, National Association of Realtors

“He’s entertaining, informative, challenging, and gracious. It’s a great way to start the day. I always record his presentation and write up a summary for our corporate staff and our nearly 300 franchise owners,” said Ross C. Feltz, Corporate PR Counsel for Decorating Den Interiors. “Although we aren’t furniture stores, we sell furniture, and what Jerry says is applicable to our business model as well.”

While it’s helpful to know that we’re in favorable economic times, Epperson also offers insights into how to grow your business in the current climate. “I will be using his point about the value of storytelling to encourage our designers to create narratives about their rooms to engage their clients,” said Feltz.

Sources: Barnes Reports, 2016 US Industry Market Report, ASID Business Performance Survey, US Bureau of Labor Statistics

“As an ad agency specializing in home furnishings, it is imperative for us to understand which markets represent growth,” said Chip Hector, COO of Horich Hector Lebow Advertising of Hunt Valley, Maryland. “ My biggest takeaway from Jerry’s presentation is to focus on the potential of the 25-44 year old shopper, and to develop a strategy to more specifically attract them.”

Sources: Barnes Reports, 2016 US Industry Market Report, ASID Business Performance Survey, US Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Most retailers and designers are so busy running their businesses that they cannot focus on the economy, demographics, shifts in retailing and other factors like I do every day,” says Epperson. “I always hope the audience will find a few gems in my rambling talks that can help make their businesses more profitable.”

“It’s all about credibility,” said Mary Knackstedt. “I have always quoted Jerry because he is more accurate and has more exposure than anyone else. I encourage designers to recognize that the economic realities he shares affect their creativity. Artistic efforts are stimulated and governed by the financial aspects of the business. Whatever your role in this industry, if you want to succeed and continue to stay on top, you must come to High Point Market and you must include Jerry’s State of the Industry in your schedule.”