• Clint Engel

Mega Group USA convention draws record crowd

ORLANDO, Fla. — Mega Group USA drew strong reviews from its retailer members and new supplier partners here during the furniture, electronics and appliance buying group’s spring convention here.

The March 11-14 event at the Disney Dolphin Hotel and Resort offered a variety of training and educational seminars, a motivating keynote address on what it takes to execute a flawless business strategy, networking time, and a two-day trade show that featured new programs and handful of new supplier partners.

Mega Group 1470Wayne Theiss, left, Theiss Furniture, LeGrange, Ky.; Anthony Williams, Where the Heart Is, Milton, Fla.; Jerry Beckman, Monroe Furniture Center, Monroe, Wis.; and Paul Erickson, Erickson Furniture, Faribault, Minn., discuss marketing strategies at a roundtable session during Mega Group USA’s spring national convention Orlando, Fla.
A record crowd of more than 1,400 attended the show, including about 400 of Mega’s member retailer companies (also a record for a Mega Orlando show) and more than 100 vendor partner companies, said Jerry Honea, executive vice president of the furniture and mattress division for the Germantown, Tenn.-based buying group.

About half the roughly 125,000-square-foot showroom floor was dedicated to home furnishings and bedding, including large displays from Tempur Sealy and Serta Simmons Bedding — the latter showing its two brands together for the first time at a Mega show.

Mega Group USA hasn’t held its convention in the Orlando market for about seven years, “but based on this, I’m sure we’ll be back,” Honea told Furniture/Today.

“It has been a fantastic show,” he said, adding that several vendors pulled him aside early on to ask how they could lock in space for the Nashville convention coming up in August.

“When I get that kind of response, I know

Mega Group 1497Ed Ryer, left, Tempur Sealy; Brian Dack, Millennium Graphics and Design; Shelby Campbell and Kristin Blackwell, Illini Mattress, Champaign, Ill.; and Scott Warlick, Tempur Sealy.
we hit a homerun,” he said.

In a furniture trends session, Honea discussed the blending of occasional furniture and accent categories with other decorative accessories, such as wall art, into a single home décor category. Mega is encouraging its members to sell more home-décor items as a way to build their average tickets and increase traffic. To that end, the show included strong displays from Elk Group and Surya — the latter offering dealers a design gallery display that houses 18-inch by 18-inch rug samples. It’s part of a program that enables retailers to update samples constantly and includes quick drop-ship capability (to the store or end-consumer) that keeps retailers from having to carry inventory.

Later in the trends session, member retailers broke into small groups for roundtable discussions on winning sales, merchandising, marketing and other strategies. In one group, Jerry Beckman, owner of Monroe Furniture Center, Monroe, Wis., talked about his success with what he called “virtual remotes,” radio advertising that mimics local radio remote broadcasts from a store, but are recorded in advance and played in three- to five-minute segments over, say, the course of a day.

Beckman said the cost for a series of these virtual remotes in his market costs a fraction of what a live remote would cost, and that the spots are more impactful than traditional radio commercials.

Another marketing idea came from Anthony Williams, chief operating officer for the new store Where the Heart Is in Milton, Fla. He encouraged his table to claim their online Yelp business profile page for free and start filling out their profile with store information and photos. Williams said he is now considering a $400-a-month marketing program on Yelp even as the store is drawing interest simply through the profile and the massive consumer traffic on the business review site.

In his keynote address, on “Flawless Execution,” former F-15 fighter jet pilot James “Murph” Murphy, now CEO of consulting firm After Burner, connected his military flight background to proper business planning and execution. He talked about “task saturation,” or having too many things to do, and how it’s a major stumbling block and a “silent killer” to execution that leads to increases in errors and decreased performance.

He also emphasized the importance of debriefing after a mission to avoid future mistakes and to build on what works.

“We debrief after very single mission,” Murphy said, and he encouraged his audience to do it at their companies the same way it’s done in the military after a flight mission — “rank-less and nameless” to eliminate fear of reprimand and to quickly reach the “truth of what when right and what didn’t.”

Mega Group 1495Katrina Allen, left, Lynch’s Furniture, St. Robert, Mo.; and Jerry Honea, Mega Group USA, Germantown, Tenn.
On the show floor, imported bedroom and barstool resource American Woodcrafters, a new Mega supplier partner showing at the convention, was among the vendors Honea mentioned that were lining up to exhibit again this summer.

“It’s been much better than we expected,” said Donny Parker, American Woodcrafters president. “We’ve seen an enormous amount of retailers. We’ve opened several new dealers already and brought some people back into the fold who haven’t been buying.”

Parker said the company drew a lot of attention with is quick-ship program, noting how all goods are warehoused in High Point, and the company promises shipment within 48 hours.

During the Mega Madness event prior to the show-floor opening, American Woodcrafters offered 40% off on barstools as a short-term special and “sold a ton,” Parker said, enough to cover the company’s show expenses.

“We came here looking for new dealers and new placements,” he said, adding that he isn’t leaving disappointed.

Mega Group 1499Soft-Tex was moving Mega Group USA members into the bed-in-a-box category with its Tribeca and Astoria mattresses as well as a 14-pack pillow box that doubles as a display and can be replenished with smaller quantities.
Soft-Tex, another new Mega partner with an offering in the hot bed-in-a-box category, as well as pillows and sleep accessories, “had people in here all day,” said John Timmerman, national sales director.

Timmerman said the company was building its customer base quickly here, including several from Mega’s home appliance store members. He noted the company’s mattresses and compact pillow display were naturals for retailers looking to break into the bedding category but have limited floor space to display product.

The 9,800-square-foot Serta Simmons Bedding space was “very active” on the opening day of the show, said Marty Melcher, vice president of sales/buying groups, adding, “All of our people were busy.”

Melcher said both Mega and Nationwide Marketing Group, which was hosting a nearby overlapping show, did a good job of bringing out their member bases here and that SSB is capitalizing on it.

“We want to send a message that SSB is very dedicated to supporting the buying group world,” he said.

Clint EngelClint Engel | Senior Retail Editor, Furniture Today

Please feel free to email or call me with all of your retail news and tips, including expansion news, successful merchandising and marketing strategies and anything else you would like to see covered by Furniture/Today.  Contact me directly at cengel@furnituretoday.com or 336-605-1129.

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