With 5 new stores this year, Home Furniture gets 40% return on targeted direct mail piece, expands in store video and training.
It's always exciting to track down Monica Heinrich. As Director of Marketing, Home Furniture, Elmira, Ontario, Monica has more than 70 stores to tend across Canada and, when I finally caught up with her by cell 'phone at Powell River, British Columbia, she was in her usual ebullient mood. "Peter Mitchell's done it again!" she enthused. "He mailed a thousand flyers to preferred customers for his Grand Opening Preview, and more than 400 people attended the four hour evening sale."
This reminded us of a conversation a few months ago when Monica reported similar phenomenal direct mail results. Of course I asked how Home Furniture had developed their magic formula. It all begins when dealers make the decision to "Go Home", she told me.
Home Furniture is the vast Home Hardware Stores' fastest growing division. The first store was founded in 1900, the corporate entity in 1965. Now sourcing worldwide, there are approximately 1,000 Home Hardware Stores and Building Centres, and a huge and growing buying association of over 3,500 retail outlets in Canada and the U.S. (when linked with strategic partners Alliance Rona of Quebec, and Harbour Wholesalers, U.S.).
Five new stores have joined Home Furniture this year, Anderson's Home Furniture, Prince Rupert, British Columbia; City Centre Furniture, Woodstock, Ontario; Furniture Plus in Powell River, B.C., Willis & Harper in Quesnel, B.C. and a new venture in Grand Cache, Alberta. Three additional stores have applications in house and two other stores will "Go Home" for the annual Fall Market. New dealers are reporting 20 to 30 percent increase in sales.
"Our trucking service is now nationwide. Everyone can have Just-in-Time delivery and control their inventories as they wish."
When dealers make the decision to join the Home family, they are offered a complete conversion program. "A road map with a basic check list easily leads dealers from stage to stage in preparation for their grand opening." Monica works with dealers as they plan their pre-renovation sales, throughout the renovation process, (Home assists in the design of new floor plans for each dealer) then preferred customer events prior to the opening itself. Both advertising (print and radio) and Home's highly effective direct mail, skillfully designed on colored paper, mailed in colored envelopes, are vital to the process.
"When Anderson's Home Furniture staged their preview 576 ballots were put in for their special draw. Many other people attended from their list of 3,000 who didn't participate in the draw, so they had a greater than 20 percent response."
Monica arrives on scene three or four days prior to the preferred customer and opening events and helps with the finishing touches, and Bruce Hammer, Home's National Manager, joins her for the opening event itself. They participate actively with the dealer, greeting, selling and "having a lot of fun!"
From Home's home office, national flyers are sent regularly to dealers to inform them of company happenings, new product lines and warm, family profiles of dealers' success across the country. This summer, a computer generated l5 minute video training program was added to the package. "The whole concept of communication is imperative to Home," said Monica. "The videos bring us right into the store with the dealer; we communicate with them, they communicate with their customers. We pack a lot of product knowledge into each video." This fall, the team will begin production of in-store product videos designed to help educate the consumer.
It's the pet project of Amy Stevens, Home's talented administrative assistant. "The conceptualization was a combined effort, and Amy works a month and a half in advance to prepare the video, the flyer together with an order form and our color catalogue pages." The video is comprehensive, upbeat, a ready reference for the dealer and an excellent training tool for staff. Its content corresponds precisely with the flyer defining not only each product line but complete product knowledge, like the history, growth and processing of rattan, the inside story and fabric content of upholstery, strong mention of Home's expanding Private Label Program and, in this version, a plethora of well chosen back to school items are depicted from microwaves, small refrigerators, storage units, desks, Amisco bunk beds and a variety of chairs.
Home's CD-ROM Catalogue was also launched recently, a direct line to Home for inventory, ordering, receiving and invoicing information. It's a supplier reference guide, a source for generating reports, a means to facilitate special orders, a customer database and an exciting CD-ROM color catalogue all in one. "Home Info" complements the existing print colored warehouse catalogue. Because dealers can customize the screens for customer access, Home Info will be an important part of the customer service area. If an item's not on the floor, perhaps it's in the warehouse. Features and benefits will also be displayed on screen as customers browse through the product selection. It will be updated and re-issued monthly.
The Private Label Program has already expanded to include leather, four top grain leather frames, sofa, love and chair, are now stocked at Home's Elmira Distribution Centre ready for quick delivery. A tag order program is also in effect for this category. And there's a complementing new series of Hydrocal occasional tables, plus three leather chair and ottoman combinations.
"Cindy Kilbey puts the advertising together for the grand opening programs, and she also works on our floor plans. Our ninth manual, "Ways to Boost Sales", part of our in-store library for dealers, was compiled by Cindy. Its purpose is to provide tips to help strengthen sales events, both national and local, and provide a reference of templates for local promotions. When dealers are planning a local event, they can select from the ad templates or provide us with a new idea and we look after the rest. Subsequently, we share the local promotion with our dealer network through the weekly newsletter's special promotions section."
Home celebrated its Fall Market in late September offering two days of product knowledge seminars, talks by dealers to dealers, a national store concept seminar, a golf tournament and two top notch key note speakers. Morris Saffer who pioneered the philosophy "The Store is a Brand", will define the tie in of the Private Label program, that each store is not only the destination for that product but also the brand. The Saffer agency has served Home Hardware for more than l5 years and is responsible for the creation of many of Home's successful campaigns. David Foot, author of "Boom, Bust & Echo", economist and demographer at the University of Toronto, will assist dealers to anticipate change and profit from coming demographic shifts.
More about both gurus and their messages soon!