From A Rep's Perspective

Mike Root

Midwest Furniture Show might be just your ticket

June 13, 2011

If you live in the Midwest like I do, you are probably familiar with the Midwest Furniture Show. This is a fast growing furniture event that is sponsored entirely by a rep organization. The event is later in June and I thought it would be great to showcase this furniture show, not only because it shows the creativity and hard work of a group of furniture sales reps, but also because it provides a valuable service to the furniture industry in the Midwest. If you are an exhibitor who wants a niche show to see Midwest dealers, or if you are a Midwest retailer who has a spot or two on your floor you would like add new product, then the Midwest show later this month might be just your ticket. More information can be found at www.midwestfurnitureclub.com.


Geoff Weed, Midwest Furniture show coordinator, was kind enough to write this blog post for me. He did such a good job, I'm going to share it with you verbatim. Thanks Geoff and the Midwest Furniture Club for the good work you do for our industry.


What makes 80 or so reps get together once a year to hold a furniture show in Chicago? I mean, aren't the markets in Las Vegas, High Point, and Tupelo enough? What possible good can come from another furniture show?

Chicago has one of the largest and most diverse furniture markets in the US. Old timers will remember the American Furniture Mart at 666 Lake Shore Drive, perhaps the most ominous address for a trade show ever, which long was the center of the furniture trade in this country. And going back further, Chicago was a national center for furniture manufacturing before North Carolina became dominant mid-century. But history and nostalgia really have little to do with the need for the Midwest Furniture Show in 2011.

Let's face reality. A small percentage of retailers attend our showcase markets.

This is especially true in Chicago. Despite the chance to attend a market every couple months, a vast majority of the furniture retailers in Chicago never attend a market. Located equidistant from Las Vegas and North Carolina, Chicago and its environs are too far away for retailers to attend. It's expensive. It's intimidating. Most retailers don't see a great ROI in attending a market.

What the Midwest Furniture Show does, is bring together a number of manufacturer's representatives (over 100 this year) and over 330 retailers for a couple of days every summer.

Chicago-based representatives routinely see as many accounts in the two days that the show runs as they do in a month. The opportunity to open accounts has also been cited by some of the more successful exhibitors as one of the benefits of the show.

Retailers get to see samples from lines they've never had, and meet reps they didn't know. They get a chance to huddle with marketing professionals and sales managers, and to speak with service and freight professionals about their business. They come early, and eat breakfast with the reps they know, eat lunch with the reps they are acquainted with and by the social hour at day's end, they've met some new business partners. It's informal and casual, but it's also serious work. The stakes for all of us are too high.

For many small and medium retailers, the chance to get out of the office for the day and rethink their business, with a wealth of resources at their disposal, is too good to pass up.

Perhaps most remarkable of all is the fact that the show is planned and executed by the Midwest Furniture Club, the IHFRA chapter located in Chicago. As competitive representatives from rival companies, there are plenty of reasons why this should never work. But it does. And the reason it does is that our rep group understands the importance of working together to move the furniture business forward. The entire planning process is a cooperative venture, overseen by the Board of Directors of the Midwest Furniture Club. None of the men and women that produce the Midwest Furniture Show receive reimbursement for the long hours and demands of putting together an event of this size and scope.

The Midwest Furniture Show has grown organically over the past five years. Five years ago, a few of us got together and convinced the owner of a shuttered furniture store to let us exhibit there (the promise of having 80 retailers see the available real estate was appealing). We had no AC, 20,000 square feet and a pedestrian marketing approach. Each year we gained more exhibitors, more attendees and better communications with furniture people in manufacturing, and distribution and retail. The Midwest Furniture Show now relies on our website (www.midwestfurnitureclub.com), social media, and other new media, alongside traditional communications like mailings, brochures and presentations by our Club members during our sales calls.

The success of the Midwest Furniture Show is a success story built on some basic American concepts: hard work, cooperation, open access to the market and the optimism that every year we can do a little bit better than we have done before. We invite all members of the trade to come to the Show this June 29 and 30 in Schaumburg IL and understand what we can achieve together.

Come to the Midwest Furniture Show June 29 and 30, 2011, in Schaumburg IL
www.midwestfurnitureclub.com