Tips & Insights

The Essential Market

For Todd Lehman of Interiors Home, High Point is a marketplace of opportunity

I’ve been coming to High Point Market twice a year for 40 years, except the one year I only came once. I won’t make that mistake again.

This is a fashion business, that’s why we go to High Point. But, if you think Market is just about shopping for products, you’re missing opportunities. It’s so much more. It’s an integral part of our business. This is where we find the inspirations, uncover the ideas, and form the business relationships that are essential to our success.

Every Market, our team is working to achieve five objectives:

See our top vendors’ new products

As an overall business strategy, we’re always trying to narrow our resources. It’s just more cost effective to buy from fewer vendors. That’s why we see our top vendors first, and we spend the bulk of our time at Market with our current suppliers. We review their new products to see if we can meet our needs without bringing in new resources. More than that, though, we get together with their senior management to exchange ideas, hear about new programs they’re considering, and resolve any issues that may have arisen since the last time we saw each other. We’ll also introduce any special marketing programs we’re considering, and discuss possible co-op opportunities. Good vendor relationships are partnerships, and this twice-a-year opportunity to meet with our key suppliers’ executive teams helps keep those partnerships functioning as they should.

Shop for new vendor resources

Of course, we can’t purchase the efficiency of a narrow vendor list at the expense of having the right selection in our store. So, we always set aside time to look for and meet with new vendors. Plus, as we walk Market, we’re always on the lookout for products our customers will crave. If you’re not at Market, walking by showrooms twice a year, you just don’t get these opportunities to discover something new.

Learn about the latest store operating management improvements

To stay on top of best practices in retail, we go to the HFA Resource Center. It’s the InterHall of store operations ideas. We look for new consulting relationships here, too.

Meet with industry consultants to exchange notes and share ideas

Almost every time I go to High Point, I get together with Al White of Strategic Decisions, a market research firm, to find out more about the current consumer landscape. I’ll give him an on-the-ground perspective from my service area, and he’ll let me in on what he’s learning in other parts of the country. I find out what may be heading my way, and he gets more details to fill in his total picture.

Attend the Furniture First buying group meeting

This is one of the most important items on our agenda, and it continues to be an increasingly important part of our business. At these biannual meetings, members offer the group’s buyers advice on what to buy, but that’s just the start. We talk with each other about what we’re seeing at Market. None of us can complete our entire merchandising mix with only items from Furniture First. So, we share information about where to find those harder to locate pieces. We also have a Best Ideas session, where we discuss our most effective strategies for improving store operations, and we take advantage of the opportunity to share experiences with our retail colleagues.

It’s a busy schedule, we hit 50-75 showrooms in three and a half days, and we’re dining with a supplier most nights. The minute we get in the car here in Pennsylvania, the timer is running and we’re on “go.” When we return, though, we not only have a great selection of on-trend products, we have new insights into today’s consumers, new ideas for running our store, better relationships with our key suppliers, new resources, and a solid foundation for success in the new season.

About Interiors Home

Founded in 1969 by Lillian Lehman to meet the need for high quality, fashionable home furnishings in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area, Interiors Home has grown in size and scope to serve multiple communities in Central Pennsylvania. Now managed by Lillian’s sons, Todd and Gregg Lehman, the company still sets itself apart by adhering to her core values of expert design, exceptional service, value, and variety.