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Cooperate To Compete

Furniture World Magazine


Companies once considered enemies are now cooperating to compete.

There is a new reality emerging in business today, a growing recognition that we must cooperate to compete. Individual companies are doing it. General Motors is cooperating with Toyota. Apple is cooperating with IBM. They are cooperating with their competition! Companies that once considered each other enemies now understand they must cooperate to compete.

Entire industries are doing it. Dairy, Beef, Pork, Cotton, Plastic and Raisins are cooperating with their competition. They are joining with former enemies to compete with outside industries to grab a greater share of their customer's hearts, minds and dollars.

Steve Covery, author of "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", says, "We need to be partnering with current and potential competitors to raise professional standards in our industries and to boost public perception... Such partnering requires a new mind set and skill set to move towards interdependency."

Many in the home furnishings industry do not understand the true nature of our interdependency. Others have not found a way to make this interdependence work for their individual companies. Yet we have an organization that has already influenced our customer's perceptions and buying habits in a positive way. The Home Furnishings Council provides numerous benefits for home furnishings retailers and manufacturers that flow right to our bottom line.

Some industry executives have voiced their reasons for not joining the Home Furnishings Council. They are listed below, along with what our experience at Gabberts and the Home Furnishings Council has shown.


Objection #1: "It doesn't work".

Our experience: The evidence is in and it is overwhelming. Other industries have proven that industry awareness campaigns work. The amount that HFC programs have changed the percentage of disposable income consumers spend on home furnishings has been measured. Ask the HFC for the data (at 800-572-5260). The HFC has already made an impact! But, just think what would happen if you and the rest of the industry were supporting the HFC.

Objection #2: "I might advantage my competition".

Our experience: Yup, you will! But, you will advantage your company too. Imagine that! It's a smart strategy in today's economic reality-at least that's what the people of General Motors, Toyota, Apple, IBM and the Dairy, Beef, Pork, Cotton, Plastic and Raisin industries think.

Objection #3: "We don't need to market home furnishings, in general, all I need is my own advertising. All I need to do is get my piece of the pie. There is already a demand for home furnishings".

Our experience: Good argument. The same thing could be said of cars, another big ticket item. There's built in demand. Plus, they have some added punch that the home furnishings industry doesn't have, like planned obsolescence and the fact that their customer doesn't expect their product to last forever. They sure don't need to market their product. But wait, they do market. Up to 33 cents out of every dollar of car sales is re-invested in marketing. How much less is spent marketing furniture? Maybe they know something we don't? The car industry is creating demand. And what is the HFC asking the industry to spend to market itself? One tenth of one percent! With that amount and with the full participation of our industry, the HFC could mount a powerful campaign with even greater results.

Join the HFC and actively urge others to join. All over the world people are recognizing a previously untapped source of opportunity for sales and growth by cooperating with the competition. It's a challenging, changing world out there. And it requires new solutions. For many companies and many industries the answer has been the same... cooperate with your competition. I believe it is our solution too.


  • High Ticket
  • Built in Demand
  • Customer Expects Limited Life
  • Planned Obsolesce
  • High Marketing Outlays


  • High Ticket
  • Built in Demand
  • Expectation of Long Life
  • Much Lower Marketing Outlays

Jim Gabbert is CEO and Chairman of the Board of Gabberts Inc., with stores in Minneapolis, Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. The chain has sales of $96,500,000 and employs more than 600. Mr. Gabbert is on the Board of Directors of the Home Furnishings Council. For more information on HFC research and programs, contact FURNITURE WORLD at editor@furninfo.com.