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Canada's HFC: A Matter Of Survival

Furniture World Magazine


The Retail Council changes its name to Canada's Home Furnishings Council and expands to better reach consumers.

During a well-attended meeting at the October High Point Market, Joe Ramia, Gallery One, Dart-mouth, Nova Scotia, was voted President of Canada's Home Furnishings Council. Anthony Gray, Standard Furniture, Victoria, British Columbia, will honcho the Council's all - important Membership Committee, assisted by Sheila Henry, Industry Canada and with Dennis Novosel, Stoney Creek Furniture, Stoney Creek, Ontario, Michel Ethier, Ethier's, Quebec and Allan Adelman, Penthouse, Winnipeg and Calgary, as Regional Chairs. Steve Wallace, Vice President Marketing, Shermag, Sherbrooke, Quebec, heads the Marketing Committee with your Canadian Scene columnist as side-kick.

Guests Bob Nightengale, President of the Home Furnishings Council and Fred Preddy, President of Hammary Furniture explained to the enthusiastic gathering how HFC was founded in l989. They also described funding and marketing methods, the creation of Haven Magazine and Haven Television. HFC is expanding its activities with frequency of Haven's publication, a new accessories magazine, consumer advertising, home videos, a library and a press center which will be open to all manufacturers at the High Point Market.

The CHFC Board resolved to investigate establishing the Council as a non-profit organization, solicit membership by province, seek Canadian residential furniture association support, develop fund raisers and expand membership to include industry sales representatives and suppliers. Members accepted HFC's invitation to participate in current U.S. marketing/public relations meetings to gain an overview of activities and decide how CHFC and HFC might cooperate for mutual benefit.

In actual fact, this story began a year ago. Two retailers, Joe Ramia of Gallery One, and Otto Papasadero, Mega Group/VIP Stores Limited, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, acted as spokesmen for a group of similarly minded retailers and buying groups. They sent a letter to a select number of their peers across the country "intended to raise some competitive issues concerning the home furnishings industry". They were focusing on "the total economic environment which is competing with our industry for a greater share of the consumer's awareness and pocket book".

Joe and Otto rightly pointed to other more visible industries that compete for the consumer's disposable income. They also took note of "the tremendous amount of free publicity in the form of editorial space that these industries receive from the press".

They asked their friends to meet with them "to discuss ways and means of improving the image and performance of the retail home furnishings industry" at the Toronto International Home Furnishings Market in January 1996. The meeting took place at Simmons Canada boardroom early one Market morning. The consensus was that indeed "something must be done".

During the Market, Gail Bernstein, General Manager of The International Centre, site of Canada's largest annual residential furniture trade show, had her own independent brainstorm. In Canada's Furniture Mart, 75 room-setting manufacturers' showrooms occupy 250,000 square feet within The International Centre. Used primarily as a selling venue to retailers and designers, the showrooms are also open Wednesdays and Saturdays to the public. When a consumer visits her/his local retail store but is unable for whatever reason to make a purchase decision, retailers can send them to The Mart to browse amongst the newest and best home furnishings fashions, then return to their store to place orders. When consumers go without referral to The Mart and find product lines that suit their needs, showroom managers send consumers to the store closest to their homes. It has been a unique, painless and profitable way for the industry to successfully link manufacturer and retailers with the more than two million consumers each year visiting the Centre.

Gail was convinced that an additional initiative linking manufacturers, retailers and consumers was needed. So she gathered a group of l5 prominent retailers, amongst them Roy Speedman, Divisional Merchandise Manager, The Hudson's Bay Company, Toronto. He told the gathering about Joe and Otto's initiative. The retailers (Founder Members of the Retail Council) decided to invite manufacturers to their next meeting in April.

It was there that a Mission Statement was devised, the need for public nights at furniture trade shows debated, and yet another meeting was planned to take place during the Toronto Summer Market. The Mission Statement they developed reads, "The home furnishings retailers and manufacturers will combine efforts to create a greater awareness of the Canadian home furnishings industry to potential consumers across Canada." The name of the organization, with the addition of manufacturers, now became Canada's Home Furnishings Council.

A Board was formed from volunteers Millie Lax, Leeazanne, Toronto; Steve Wallace; Doug Piett, Sear's Canada, Toronto; Joe Ramia; Barry Birnberg, Concentric Management, Toronto; Sheila Henry and Ginette Bardou, Director Marketing and Communications, Quebec Furniture Manufacturers' Association.

Additional charter members of Canada's Home Furnishings Council are:

Andrew Artinian, Dunn's Bestway; Elizabeth DeBoer- Bilac, Heritage Interiors; Michel Gervais, Gest-Accor Group; Karen Harold, Harold's Interiors; Marvin Kirsch, Bad Boy Furniture; Morgan McCabe, Home Furniture; William Minna; Lloyd Schmidt, Smitty's Furniture; Darryl Sherman, Wilson Furniture- Oshawa; Dan Weare, Sear's; Claude Wilson, Wilson's Furniture-Winnipeg; Anthony Basso, Anthony's Art Design; Chris Beaton, Perma Foam; Orville Mead, Durham Furniture; Jerry Cockerill, Leda Furniture; Linda Hilgerdenaat, Garden Hill Galleries; Dave Hunt, Berkline Furniture; Harvey Kahane, Windsor Decor; Koos Kuijer, Mirroline; Richard Magnussen and John Power, Magnussen/Presidential Furniture; Christina Marzilli, Decor-Rest Furniture; Bruce McPherson Senior, The Gibbard Furniture Shops; Jim Nopper and Wayne McKibben, Reflections; Neil Devereaux, Ontario Furniture Manufacturers' Association; Carmela Perri, Concordian Furniture; Pat Thody, Simmons Canada and Paul Veilleux, Villageois Inc;.

Plus many others. A force to be reckoned with! Action continues at the January 1997 market when the Board will meet at 7:30 AM and the amalgamated groups at 6:30 that evening, Bob Nightengale will attend both events held at the International Centre.

Said Anthony Gray, "We're going to make this happen. It is a matter of survival."