Real Life. Real Connections.

For building business relationships, face-to-face meetings always beat online interactions

Some say Market is like “a family reunion for reconnecting and resolving issues.” For others, it’s “a bubble, where day-to-day concerns are suspended to focus on product.” Some even liken it to “a Grateful Dead concert attracting a cult following.” For almost everyone, though, the convergence of so many like minds creates a great opportunity to form relationships for long-term success.

“Showroom visits provide the best opportunity to build lasting partnerships with vendors who are upfront, honest, and transparent,” said Tom Olinde, owner of Olinde’s Furniture & Mattress, with 12 stores in Louisiana. “It’s a trust game. Our most enduring relationships began with a gentleman’s agreement made during a meeting at Market five decades ago.” Jay Steinback, third-generation owner of Rothman Furniture & Mattress, which recently signed a franchise agreement with Art Van Furniture, agreed, “There’s only so much that can be done online, over the phone, through emails or newsletters. Market interactions help us fill in the blanks, which is why we all still show up twice a year in this digital age.”

“We try to visit as many customers as we can throughout the year,” said Jim Craven, VP of Sales at Fairfield Chair of Lenoir, NC, “but it’s logistically impossible to see them all. At Market, we catch up and identify the products and price points that matter most to them. It’s a fashion business and every six months we introduce fresh designs to our retail partners. We get their attention with photos but the “Aha!” moment comes with the tactile experience of feeling the fabric and finish, and sinking into the comfort of the cushions.”

“Our customers demand a high level of customization,” said Andrew Novick, VP of Operations at HUB Furniture of Portland, ME. “They’re hard to shop for! We can’t provide the depth of product information we need without previewing innovations at Market. We can’t trust an investment with a new vendor unless we’ve spent time with them and observed the features of their products. This is particularly critical with advanced technology. We’re selling recliners that move in five directions! In October, we saw a sectional with seats that open and close with a phone. This level of technical sophistication requires more hands-on instruction than an online tutorial.”

Precedent

While the main objective of most Market meetings is to preview new lines, buyers often seek to leverage this time to address operational issues. They benefit from direct access to their vendors’ top management teams, who usually venture from the C-suite to work the showroom. “As a manufacturer’s rep, I visit clients onsite, but it’s rare to have key decision makers together in one room to focus on a problem. I’ve seen complicated matters reported in endless emails and phone calls quickly resolved by productive conversations with CEOs who had the power to expedite critical decisions and save a relationship,” said Harrison Rose of Marty Rose & Associates.

“Manufacturers compete for buyers at Market, but buyers are all about collaboration,” said Scott Price, fourth generation President of Toms-Price Furniture with five locations in the Chicago area. “We’ve been reuniting with our colleagues at other high-end stores like Gabbert, Sheffield, and Stickley for over 35 years. We share our challenges and successes and bounce around new ideas for growth. These are deep and longstanding family-focused relationships that transcend business. When I got married, I asked Aminy Audi to give the prayer that she says before each Stickley dealer dinner at Market at my wedding. That’s a sacred connection!”