Where The Network Works

The HFA’s Retailer Resource Center is a great place to connect with retail colleagues, By Robert Bell

David Gunn of Knight Furniture in Sherman, Texas, has been dropping by the Retailer Resource Center for years to catch up with vendors and attend some of the HFA’s many free educational seminars. Only recently did he discover that it offers something of a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Market.

"I think a lot of retailers like seeing old friends there and talking shop so to speak,” said Gunn. “It’s a great way to hear from others who have a business just like yours and maybe learn a thing or two from each other."

“You get in there and you can put your guard down and relax a little more.”

The HFA’s Retailer Resource Center is located on the first floor of Plaza Suites on Main Street, a convenient central hub for getting around Market. There are more than 40 vendors at the RRC ready to answer retailers’ questions and more than two dozen seminars scattered throughout the week. But increasingly that learning has come R2R (Retailer to Retailer).

Even Joey Gunn, (David Gunn’s right-hand man in the family business, who also answers to “son”) has found the RRC to be a valuable place to pick the collective minds of other successful retailers. Joey is an active member of the HFA’s Next Generation NOW, a group of younger retailers who meet at Market to talk business, strategize, and learn from one another. “I’ll see a lot of them at the RRC. It’s a great environment to check in, say hello and see what’s working for them and what’s not,” Joey Gunn says. “All you have to do is ask and a lot of that happens at the RRC.”

“One of the great things about the furniture business is how everyone is so willing to help one another.”

Sharron Bradley, CEO of the Home Furnishings Association, said the RRC has always been available as a networking home for furniture retailers, but she’s not surprised it’s becoming better known for that. “Our members are smart,” says Bradley. “They know how to make the most out of any situation or event and this is a perfect example of taking our resource center and shaping it into what suits their business.”

Successful RRC Networking

1. Start with a plan

Begin by asking yourself a couple of simple questions: Who do I need to connect with to be wildly successful? What other retailers or companies could be most beneficial to my future business?

2. Be selective

Target your efforts toward connections that will help your business grow. The RRC can help you save time because so many HFA members and other furniture retailers take advantage of its services. If you’re not sure who you’d like to meet with, attend a few RRC seminars (Spring Market schedules are posted by mid-February, Fall Market by mid-August) to start meeting retailers just like you. But if you want to meet with a particular retailer, set an appointment weeks before Market (like now). Most HFA members are glad to meet and talk shop, if it works within their schedules.

3. Make it real

This is a chance to go beyond just gathering business cards, and to start making quality connections. Be genuine and honest, and your face-to-face communications will, over time, turn into valuable relationships.