Steelcase moves toward the retail channel

Filed Under (The Competition) by Don on 15-11-2007

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This week has been a bust.  The holidays are fast approaching and the New Year is nearly here.  I’ve been busy the past two weeks training a new rep and bringing her up to speed.  She is sharp and eager to hit the road selling but I have to keep her for a few more days to complete her initial training.  Many of my 2008 projects are progressing very well.  My Green Office Project is gaining momentum and after a very productive meeting with my United rep I discover that Stationers has created a “Green” catalog comprised of 3800 earth friendly products.  That will be a tremendous help to our Project for 2008.  I have my office “elves” scouring everywhere to find information for me to use in my upcoming newsletters and for the web site.  Normally I would just look for this info on my own but some of my staff seem to really enjoy helping with some of my projects so I include them when they ask to help.

I learned today that Office Depot and CorpEx have added some new furniture “specialists” to their roles.  They are obviously going after more of the mid-market furniture business.  An important fact to point out when you sell against these guys is to remember they do NOT have their own installers.  All the big boxes contract out their furniture installs.  This practice doesn’t give the seller much control over the quality of the final job or the quality of the people doing the work.  Our office received a letter today, from a large customer, of thanks regarding one of our installers who went out of his way to make sure the customer was completely satisfied with an office chair that had some kind of unknown issue.  I don’t know all the specifics but the letter was singing the praises of how this person lived up to everything he promised and went out of his way to make sure the customer was completely satisfied.  That kind of service is what seperates the independent dealers from the big boxes!

I read a news article that stated that Steelcase, Herman Miller, Knoll and several other top notch furniture manufacturers were beginning to break away from their traditional contract furniture dealers and are beginning to make their products available to the public through other channels such as some of the big box retailers.   These manufacturers think the contract furniture dealer are not doing a good enough job bringing new sales and business in the mid-market channel.  Sounds like greed to me.  I guess the stock holders are not receiving enough dividends.  With an election year coming in 2008 I don’t expect our industry will experience much growth in the traditional supplies business.  However, traditionally when supplies slow down furniture sales increase so stay on top of your game folks, 2008 is going to be a great year for furniture sales!

This would be an excellent time to position yourself as a furniture guru to your customers and be sure they know you can service, install and personally guarantee the quality of your furniture.  Do not let the big boxes get a foot in the door of your customer.  Take advantage of any marketing materials your furniture reps can provide and don’t be afraid to ask for the order!

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