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Ray Allegrezza

AHFA members focus on home furnishings industry's future

 Ron Wanek, left, Ashley Furniture; Karel Czanderna, Flexsteel Inds; Ralph Scozzafava, Furniture Brands International.Ron Wanek, left, Ashley Furniture; Karel Czanderna, Flexsteel Inds; Ralph Scozzafava, Furniture Brands International.
 Sandra Sauder, left and Kevin Sauder, Sauder Woodworking; and Ray Kuntz, Watkins & Shepard.Sandra Sauder, left and Kevin Sauder, Sauder Woodworking; and Ray Kuntz, Watkins & Shepard.
 Bob Duncan, left, American Leather; Andy Counts, American Home Furnishings Alliance, and Harvey Hollingsworth, The Natural Light.Bob Duncan, left, American Leather; Andy Counts, American Home Furnishings Alliance, and Harvey Hollingsworth, The Natural Light.
 Dwayne Welch, left and Amanda Welch, Hickory Springs Mfg.; Carli and Glenn Prillaman, Stanley Furniture.Dwayne Welch, left and Amanda Welch, Hickory Springs Mfg.; Carli and Glenn Prillaman, Stanley Furniture.

COCONUT GROVE, Fla. — Industry executives attending the American Home Furnishings Alliance's annual meeting at the Ritz-Carlton here this month were privy to a series of seminars based around the event's theme, Future Focus.

Kelly Peterson, group advertising director at Hearst Integrated Media, and Nancy Bauer, deputy general manager and senior partner at public relations and marketing firm Fleishman-Hillard, shared the findings of survey that showed how women are increasingly impacting the marketplace.

The presentation, titled "Game Changers: Women Defining the New American Marketplace," was based on the findings of an online survey fielded in September 2011 involving 1,270 women between the ages of 25 and 69 that have household incomes ranging from $25,000 to $250,000.

Among the study's findings was that the economy is at the core of women's concerns, with 71% of the respondents saying that life is more complex today than it was before the recession.

The recession prompted 75% of the respondents to shop differently now. Another 58% said they are worse off now than they were prior to the recession.

The study also showed that females are still the agenda-setters, with 87% saying they enjoy being the primary decision makers for their households.

The survey, which looked at specific categories the respondents were spending their disposable income on, determined that while furnishings, décor and vacations fared better than certain other categories including watches and jewelry, furnishings and décor fell far behind segments including entertainment (movies, shows and concerts) and fashion apparel and accessories.

The survey also underscored that the female shopper enjoys having as much information as possible; perceives herself as being a smarter shopper than ever; and in the end, still will rely on her intuition more than anything else when making a purchase.

The survey also determined that those trying to market to the female shopper should provide her with substance, communicate quality and value, and realize that her leadership and sphere of influence is growing, not diminishing.

In a presentation called "How to Protect Your Hard-Won Reputation," crisis management expert Rick Amme of Amme & Associates hosted a workshop that explained best-response techniques in the event of a crisis. He told the group that the best defense for a crisis situation is to set up a crisis team, write a crisis plan and lean crisis principles.

"The primary goal is to do the right thing and say the right thing, both to the media and to your internal audiences," he advised.

He went on to explain that in the event of a crisis, first take care of the victim or perceived victims.
Next, he advised attendees to fix the problem then notify stakeholders of your actions. "Do this as fast as possible and do not use the media in most cases," Amme said.

Regarding the media, he advised attendees to acknowledge the situation to the media quickly and provide whatever information you have.

"The longer you wait to tell the story, the less impact you have," he said. "Get it over with and tell the truth.... Don't catch spears - throw a message."

Other presentations included an economic update from Mark Vitner of Wells Fargo, tips on presentations from Amy Griggs Kilger of C3 and a session on social media by Brandi Boatner of IBM.

 Tom Conley, left, High Point Market Authority; Kevin Castellani, Furniture/Today; Ron Wanek, Ashley Furniture Inds.Tom Conley, left, High Point Market Authority; Kevin Castellani, Furniture/Today; Ron Wanek, Ashley Furniture Inds.

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