Relationships. Almost since the inception of our industry, success in home furnishings has been driven by representatives who have developed valuable relationships and serve as key intermediaries between manufacturers and retailers.
However, with the advancement of technology and the digital rearrangement of the way information is now being shared throughout the supply chain; some have raised the question … why do we need manufacturer reps?
After all, with online access to product information, processing orders on request and the manufacturer’s ability to digitally connect directly with retailers – it appears that the role of representatives is being been diminished – and some even suggest it’s a sure sign that reps are bound to become extinct. In my opinion that would be a short-sighted view.
Reps add value to the supply chain
Despite what some manufacturers and other suppliers may believe – good representatives add exceptional value to the supply chain – provided they are properly supported and have an inherent desire to help retailers achieve success.
After all, who is better positioned to deliver first-hand knowledge to the retailers’ owners, buyers and their sales associates? Reps are well-placed to advocate for their retailers while understanding which of the manufacturer’s products are ideally suited for the retailer’s market. They are able to influence merchandising and can help the retailer navigate the manufacturer’s products, systems and customer support processes.
In our own world of protection plans and home service programs, it is the rep who first identifies an opportunity when a retailer is considering a potential switch to ZucoraHome plans and products. Reps are also able to assist new retailers by helping them understand the significant benefits of offering protection plans or home service programs so they can generate additional bottom-line revenue at little or no risk.
Reps are our primary point of contact
For ZucoraHome, reps connect us with the industry – especially with independent retailers – where relationships are developed and nurtured over many years.
We appreciate that reps need to have one or more mainline products to offer retailers – which means protection plans or home service programs don’t usually come out of the rep’s bag first – and we’re ok with that. (It’s a rare situation that a rep is able to earn a comfortable living by relying on commissions generated solely from such programs.)
Nevertheless, we have witnessed manufacturers wanting to improve margins by foolishly thinking they can reduce costs on the backs of reps. It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to arbitrarily reduce commissions and enlarge territories while cutting back on the number of reps. Some manufacturers even argue that they would be better served if they employed their own people – but fail to realize the overhead cost of account development, travel and other expenses (usually borne by reps) can be far more expensive than working with qualified reps.
So, what is the future for the professional Rep in home furnishings?
We know that the world of retailing is rapidly transitioning to the Retail Renaissance – where digital engagement and customer experiences (both pre- and post-sale) are becoming the new competitive advantage.
We believe that reps are best positioned to help retailers navigate in this new world. Reps who are digitally competent, offer consultative guidance and focus on helping retailers create customers-for-life while generating new revenue streams are invaluable to the industry.
With the introduction of ZucoraHome’s new Smarter Retailer initiatives in 2020, we believe the role of reps is essential to helping retailers make the transition to the Retail Renaissance. Our new product protection plans and innovative home service programs, together with easy-to-use digital tools will ensure our reps and retail partners can achieve greater levels of success.
After all, it’s retailer relationships that are cultivated, opened and supported by our highly qualified and well-trained reps that will create significant competitive advantage for both us and our home furnishing market partners.
We couldn’t imagine a world without our reps.
By Brad Geddes
Brad Geddes, President & CEO of ZucoraHome regularly shares insights about the Canadian home furnishings industry, changing consumer needs, and the transformation of ZucoraHome into a smarter living enterprise that leverages technology and professional home services to help families enjoy a better quality of life.