The Retail Tech Innovation School

Retailer Resource Center is a go-to destination for ideas and strategies, by Robert Bell

Good luck catching up with Joe Critelli at High Point Market. His packed schedule keeps him on the run, from showroom to showroom, morning to night. But buying product is only part of the exciting chaos of Market. To stay on top of the technology he needs to run an old-fashioned furniture store in a digital world, Critelli hits the Home Furnishings Association’s Retailer Resource Center.

Critelli has been a part of Critelli’s Fine Furniture for 37 years, the last 27 years as the third-generation owner of a store in St. Catharines, Ontario. He’s seen the need for his store to advance with the times and knows that today’s retail technology can help him get there. “I’m a firm believer you can never be smart enough in this business,” he says. “Our industry will never become less competitive than it is today. That means if you’re not moving forward, you’re really moving backward. The Home Furnishings Association’s (HFA) Retailer Resource Center (RRC) seminars keep me moving forward.”

“I always come away from Market smarter than when I arrived.”

The HFA’s Retailer Resource Center offers a full slate of technology-focused seminars. On any given day, retailers can drop by to learn how to develop an ecommerce strategy, analyze what digital advertising play is best for their market, or gain insights into the way online searches are changing for consumers (hint: think Siri, Alexa, Google Now, and Cortana).

“It’s really a lot like a small university,” says Critelli. “Except instead of a semester everything is packed into four days.”

Critelli says his store is a lot like other furniture stores. “We desperately need to catch up with technology,” he said. “I think we’re missing out on so much that can help make our jobs easier; our businesses more profitable.”

“Retailers have enough challenges. Finding time to learn and grow their business shouldn’t be one of them.”

Matt Huber of Belfort Furniture couldn’t agree more. Huber said furniture retailers are slowly realizing that the tipping point is here. “Actually, that point has been here for quite some time now,” he said. “There’s so much out there our store needs to take advantage of. To a degree we are, but not nearly enough.”

That’s what makes the RRC’s four-day semester so valuable. With 15 seminars – plus three dozen vendors offering a wide range of services – retailers can leave High Point with ideas and strategies they can quickly apply to their stores back home.

Focused on its mission of meeting the needs and interests of furniture retailers, the Home Furnishings Association opens the RRC to members and non-members alike. “We know how busy a retailer’s life is. Sometimes education can fall through the cracks, so we try to make it easy and accessible through our monthly webinars and seminars at the RRC,” says Sharron Bradley, Chief Executive Officer of the Home Furnishings Association.

The HFA’s Retailer Resource Center is located on the first floor of Plaza Suites and is open to retailers from Saturday to Wednesday during Market. See the HFA Exhibitor Profile for a full schedule of seminars and events.

Robert Bell is editor of RetailerNOW the monthly magazine of the Home Furnishings Association. To learn more about how the HFA can help your furniture store, visit