Meet Canada’s Best Retail Sales Professionals from 2018

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Canada’s best furniture and mattress gatekeepers will be introduced to the industry when the second annual Retail Sales Professional Awards (RSP) are presented just prior to the opening of this year’s Canadian Furniture Show at the end of the month. Each will be saluted as leaders who consistently deliver exceptional sales and services.

The awards were created to recognize the outstanding achievements of experienced sales professionals working on the floors of furniture, mattress and major appliance stores across the country. The recipients were selected from nominations received from their peers, associates and managers in an industry-wide nomination process.

The 2018 RSP Award recipients include: Randy Shanks of Daleys BrandSource Home Furnishings in Fredericton, New Brunswick for the Atlantic Region; Marisa Deluca of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries in Etobicoke, Ontario for the Central Region; Brian Palethorpe of Perfect Home Furniture in Calgary, Alberta for the Western Region; and, Terry Harder of Innovative Sleep Solutions in Surrey, British Columbia for the Pacific Region.

The recipients will be recognized and honoured during the Canadian Home Furnishings Awards gala set to be May 24 at the Universal Event Space in Vaughan, Ontario.

During the evening, one of these regional recipients will also be recognised as Canada’s National Retail Sales Professional for 2018.

The RSP Awards presenting sponsor is Zucora Home, the added-value specialist based in London, Ontario. The supporting sponsors include Home Goods Online (HGO); the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance (CHFA); and, the Canadian Furniture Show (CFS).

The award recipients were selected by a judging panel that consisted of Mark Geddes, Senior Director of Sales for Zucora Home, Corrie-Ann Knell, Director of Sales and Marketing for Home Goods Online and Pat Kelly, the recently retired Assistant Vice President of Home Furnishing for Cantrex Nationwide.

In order to be considered for the award, the nominees were required to be actively employed as a sales associate or manager in a retail home furnishings environment with a minimum of three years’ experience and must have consistently met or exceeded the performance goals set by the employer. The nominee also had to demonstrate a customer-focused approach to the work and have a record of mentoring and assisting other sales professionals.

“Our home furnishings industry is very proud of the level of professionalism and care provided by sales professionals that serve consumers throughout Canada,” said Brad Geddes, Zucora Home president.

The number of nominees received in the second year of the industry recognition effort was more than double over the previous year. “With the significant increase in the number of nominees from across Canada, I’m sure it was very difficult for the independent panel to make their selections,” said Geddes. “It’s great to see that our industry is well represented and in such good hands on the sales floor.”

Each of the RSP Award Recipients will also be hosted by the sponsors during the Canadian Furniture Show being held May 25-27, 2018 at The International Centre in Toronto.

Nominations for next year’s RSP Awards will open in January 2019.Home Goods Online.ca covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. This article first appears in the Summer 2018 edition of the HGO Merchandiser and is reproduced here with permission.

We Found Canada’s Best Retail Furniture Sales People

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© Windsor Bay Communications Inc. 2017

EARLIER THIS YEAR AND IN COLLABORATION with Zucora Inc., Home Goods Online launched a new awards program whose goal was to seek out this country’s best retail sales people and sales managers working in Canadian furniture, mattress and major appliance stores. The quality of the response we received from retailers across the country was staggering and truly encouraging. The amount of raw talent at work on retail floors from Victoria and to St. John’s has to be seen to be believed.

When we published our invitation for retailers to nominate the best members of their team for this award, Brad Geddes, president and chief executive officer of Zucora, the London-based added value resource and Presenting Sponsor of the Retail Sales Professional Awards (RSPA), pointed out they really do control the industry’s fate.

The quality of the response we received from retailers across the country was staggering and truly encouraging.

“These men and women are our industry’s first point of contact with the customer. They literally control what the customer buys and why – yet we don’t, as an industry, recognise and celebrate their contributions,” he said, adding, “The RSPA will celebrate the outstanding achievement of sales professionals throughout Canada’s home furnishings industry. In addition to sales success, the RSPAs are driven by peer-recognised achievement for delivering customer excellence by going ‘above and beyond’.” Nominees had to meet the following requirements, at minimum:

  • He or she must be actively employed as a sales associate or manager in the retail of home furnishing products (furniture; appliances; electronics; bedding and related products) in Canada;
  • He or she must have a minimum of three years of direct sales experience with consumers;
  • He or she must consistently meet or exceed performance goals as confirmed by the candidate’s employer;
  • He or she must demonstrate a customer-focused approach with supported documentation;
  • He or she must have a record of mentoring and assisting other sales professionals as recognised by their peers; and,
  • He or she must be aware of the nomination and be willing to be considered for nomination, and if selected, be available to attend the Canadian Home Furnishings Awards gala event to be held in Toronto just prior to the Canadian Furniture Show (transportation and accommodation to be provided).

In all, the judging panel selected one winner from five regions across the country: British Columbia; Western Canada (including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, The Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut); Ontario; Quebec and Atlantic Canada (including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador).

From these, one national award recipient was chosen. The 2017 RSPA winners will be introduced more fully in their individual profiles that follow, but congratulations are warranted once again to: Sylvie Viel of Ameublement BrandSource Rice in Edmonton, New Brunswick – Atlantic Canada; Ruth Parkinson of Executive Furniture Rentals in North York – Ontario; Amanda Bell of Marshall’s Home Living in Kelowna – British Columbia; and, Matthew Fecho of Mattress Mattress in Airdrie, Alberta – Western Canada.

Matthew Fecho was also named Canada’s Retail Sales Professional of the Year for 2017.

Unfortunately, there was no winner found to represent furniture, mattress and major appliance retailers in Quebec.

This year’s judging panel included: Mark Geddes, Zucora’s director of corporate sales training; Corrie-Ann Knell, HGO’s director of sales and marketing; and, Pat Kelly, assistant vice president of home furnishings for Cantrex Nationwide.

The recipients of the first RSPAs received an all-expense paid trip (including airfare, accommodation and meals) to Toronto where they were presented to the industry during this year’s Canadian Home Furnishings Awards gala. They were also invited to attend the Canadian Furniture Show.

Pat Kelly was unequivocal in his praise for this year’s RSPA recipients.

“When reviewing the candidates for these great awards one common thread ran through each – a passion for their work. Each contributed on many levels including the success of the business; the right products, excellence in service but most of all a passion and care for their customer; to ensure that each customer had the best experience and a result that exceeded their customer’s expectations,” he observed.

“You have to admire that and recognise the importance of the influence their behaviour has on others and the business. Recognition of their excellence is so important and not just as examples of the changing environment and competitive pressures; but proof it is still the human factor that makes all the difference,” he added.

The RSPA program was also supported by the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance (CHFA) and the Canadian Furniture Show (CFS).

The call for entries for the 2018 Retail Sales Professional Awards will be made next January.

Home Goods Online extends its congratulations to the winning class of 2017. Our industry’s future is indeed safe in their hands.

A Letter from the Presenting Sponsor Saluting our Bridge to the Customer

“She doesn’t care how much you know; until she knows how much you care …” This is an old but familiar sales refrain. It seems that sales professionals who truly understand the importance of guiding and assisting customers recall this phrase automatically.

Professional sales associates are the real heroes of the home furnishings retail industry.

What we sometimes forget is that nothing happens until somebody sells something! Professional sales associates are the real heroes of the home furnishings retail industry. Without them, nothing happens Every day, we are fortunate to be able to interact with sales professionals and sales managers throughout Canada who are driven to succeed. Their success (and personal income) is largely dependent on their ability to listen, understand and assist their customers in helping to make the right purchase decision.

Sales associates serve as the bridge between a customer and the product or service offered for sale.

Sales associates determine a retailer’s financial success.

Sales associates are both the first and last impression made with customers.

The Retail Sales Professional Awards is an industry-wide opportunity to recognise the significant value that these key individuals provide for all of us in the home furnishings industry. Together with the support of two leading industry organisations – the Canadian Home Furnishings Association and the Canadian Furniture Show – as well as Home Goods Online, the RSPAs provide the occasion to highlight and celebrate those people that make it happen.

As the program’s Presenting Sponsor, Zucora is proud to have played a small role in recognising these industry professionals who inspire us. Their ability to serve, satisfy and care for customers on a daily basis provides us all with the business success that we’re able to enjoy.

Bradford ‘Brad’ Geddes

President and Chief Executive Office, Zucora Inc.

Ashley Newport is Contributing Editor to Home Goods Online. This article first appears in the Fall 2017 edition of the HGO Merchandiser and is reproduced here with permission.

Michael Knell

Youthful National Winner Looking to Grow With His Company

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© Windsor Bay Communications Inc. 2017

IT’S HARD OUT THERE FOR A RETAIL SALESPERSON – especially for one working in the complex, challenging and ever-changing furniture and mattress industry.

For that reason, it’s exciting when a young salesperson – one who is just 28 years old, to be exact – walks away with not just a 2017 Retail Sales Professional Award (RSPA) for Western Canada, but also named as the first Canada’s National Retail Sales Professional.

Matthew Fecho, a sales manager with Forty Winks Inc. (part of the Mattress Mattress, the 22-unit mattress specialist with stores throughout Alberta and British Columbia), was one of four recipients of the first annual RSPAs, a program sponsored by Zucora, the added-value provider based in London, Ontario. The program is also supported by other industry insiders, including Home Goods Online; the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance (CHFA), the Toronto-based industry association; and, the Canadian Furniture Show (CFS), this country’s only national trade event for furniture and furnishings.

The RSPA program was designed to recognise the outstanding achievements and accomplishments of experienced retail sales professionals working on furniture, mattress and major appliance floors across the country who also are seen as leaders by their peers and employers when it comes to delivering exceptional customer sales and service.

Since the award isn’t an easy one to win – sales people with three or more years of experience working on retail sales floor are nominated by their managers or peers – locking one down is impressive, especially when a nominee goes from being shy and somewhat introverted university student to an enthusiastic and engaging people person.

“It was humbling to know there was that chance and to be recognised by the company. It was definitely kind of exciting to know they wanted to recognise me,” Matthew Fecho, who was happily surprised by the win, said in an interview. “It was pretty exciting. Getting phone call from Zucora to let me know that I was the Western Canadian recipient was exciting to know.”

After Fecho heard the good news, he knew a few housekeeping arrangements were in order, as he had to travel out of province to accept the honour. The recipients were feted at the recent Canadian Home Furnishings Awards Gala held just prior to the opening of the 2017 edition of CFS.

“I had to change my schedule and get people in place to work for me,” he says. “I wondered ‘how am I going to get there?’ but it’s a once in a lifetime. My first phone call was to my mom and dad and my wife to let them know. They were all really excited, my wife especially.”

Like many people in the furniture industry, Fecho works with family and was actually nominated by his mother, Lori Fecho, who is also vice president of Mattress Mattress. But although he was nominated by a close family member, parental love wasn’t the driving force behind the well-deserved nod.

Fecho is an accomplished salesman, having achieved his personal sales targets for each of the past 39 consecutive months. He was also a top hourly performer for the entire group of Mattress Mattress stores in 2016.

Fecho also opened the regional chain’s location in Airdrie, Alberta three years ago and has been mentoring its four person team ever since. Now, his store has been ranked second in the chain for the past two years.

“We looked at hourly rate of sales for employees. [Matthew] was the most consistent and highest selling employee. He pulls his weight and more,” says Lori Fecho. “If anyone should win, we thought ‘he’s probably the one to do it.’ We get surveys back from customers and he’s gotten so many back where customers love him. They say that if they could have him on their team, they’d hire him in a second.”

While receiving the RSPA is an important milestone, it doesn’t just mark Fecho’s sales savvy, but also his personal journey from a quiet introvert to an outgoing company representative.

I love talking to people, and working for myself in a sense and not sitting in front of a computer screen alone in an office. I find it thrilling and exciting – and every day is different.

“The big thing for me, I never saw myself in sales, let alone selling mattresses,” he says. “I’ve been in industry since March of 2008 and about five or six of those years were part-time while I was in university.”

Fecho actually studied accounting at the University of Mount Royal in Calgary, so his transition is extra interesting, especially since he says he wasn’t particularly gregarious when he was younger. That said, working for Mattress Mattress taught him that he’s actually a great people person.

“I love talking to people, and working for myself in a sense and not sitting in front of a computer screen alone in an office. I find it thrilling and exciting – and every day is different.”

As far as working for family goes, he says it has its challenges and rewards.

“I see and talk to my mom almost every day. My uncle (Eric Buchfink, owner, founder and president of Mattress Mattress) and I are quite a bit closer now. You’re not scared to put forth ideas or say what you think is right. They won’t get mad at you or look at you differently. Sometimes arguments can get a little heated, but it opens the door to communication,” he says.

Both Lori Fecho and her brother Eric Buchfink flew to Toronto attend the RSPA presentation.

The younger Fecho’s success stems, in many ways from the passion he developed for the industry once he became more immersed in it. “That this is a health and wellness product and being healthy and active is important to me,” he says. “People run, walk and bike and walk their dogs. It’s easy to find a link between people and the mattress and see what will suit their needs best. It became a passion for me.”

Fecho sees himself a fairly active person, often playing dodgeball and ultimate Frisbee with his wife and friends. He also says he and his wife spend a great deal of time walking their dog and biking, sometimes traveling five to ten kilometres in a day.

As for what he likes best about the job, Fecho says the human interaction is most rewarding. “I was never a people person 10 years ago, and this changed me into a people person. I like talking, I know when to talk and sit back and listen and survey.”

Going forward, Fecho hopes to grow with the company. “I only have intentions of growing with the company. The goals I have are all within Mattress Mattress. I don’t intend to leave ever.”

He also wants the company that took a chance on him and helped him grow to get even bigger. “I think it needs to grow, we need more locations,” he says. “What we specialise in and do well in is mattresses, and we believe in educating customers and making sure they know what they’re buying. Growth needs to happen so people are more aware of us.” Those are definitely words that both his mother and his uncle will want to hear.

Ashley Newport is Contributing Editor to Home Goods Online. This article first appears in the Fall 2017 edition of the HGO Merchandiser and is reproduced here with permission.

Ashley Newport

Sylvie Viel wins RSPA for Work in New Brunswick Store

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© Windsor Bay Communications Inc. 2017

WHEN SYLVIE VIEL, A VETERAN SALES ASSOCIATE at Ameublement BrandSource Rice traveled to Toronto to receive the Retail Sales Professional Award (RSPA) for Atlantic Canada, she was the only exclusively Francophone recipient.

But that didn’t stop her from mingling and sharing a moment with fellow winner Ruth Parkinson – of Executive Furniture Rentals and the award winner for Ontario – over a shared taste in footwear.

Viel was one of four regional recipients saluted by the first annual RSPA, which is sponsored by Zucora – the London-based added value service provider – and three other industry insiders, including Home Goods Online (HGO), the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance (CHFA) and the Canadian Furniture Show (CFS). The award recognises the outstanding achievements and accomplishments of experienced sales professionals working on the floors of furniture, mattress and major appliance retailers across the country and seen as leaders when it comes to delivering exceptional customer sales and service.

Since the award isn’t an easy one to win – salespeople from across the country were nominated for the honour by their managers or peers – locking down for one designated for Atlantic Canada is impressive and very worthy of celebration.

I was honored, it felt like recognition of all my hard work for the last 28 years in customer service.

“I was so proud, excited and privileged,” Viel told HGO through an interpreter (she speaks French exclusively), to discover she had been nominated and, eventually, selected. She was even more thrilled to have been recognised for her hard work.

“I was honored, it felt like recognition of all my hard work for the last 28 years in customer service,” she says.

Viel accepted the honour at the CHFA annual gala, which was held just prior to the opening of the 2017 Canadian Furniture Shore – an event that attracted winners from as close as North York and as far as Kelowna, British Columbia.

As for what compelled her employer and manager, Jim Rice – the owner of Ameublement BrandSource Rice, which is located in Edmundston, New Brunswick – to nominate her, he says it has a lot to do with her drive to go over and above.

“Sylvie consistently strives to achieve more than is asked of her,” he wrote on her nomination form. “She was one of the top sales associates with a competing retailer for 10 years until she switched over to our team in March 2016.”

He also noted that Viel is incredibly dedicated to improving the store and increasing its performance and has gotten tangible results. “In 11 months, our overall performance has improved by over 50%,” he wrote.

Asides from being a strong salesperson, she has the personal touch that works to engage not only customers, but co-workers as well. Viel is known for her strong coaching skills as well as her eagerness and willingness to help other associates perform better. She also works to achieve her ends by setting monthly, weekly and even daily goals – something that works to embolden and encourage the other members of her team.

Interestingly enough, Viel is something of a new face at BrandSource Rice, having only joined the company 15 months ago. The last year has been a big one for the customer service veteran (she’s been working with clients for close to 30 years) who considers transitioning out of the textile industry into the sales segment a bona fide career highlight.

As for what she loves most about her job, she says the interactions with clients are the most rewarding. “There are a lot of small things, but the two most important things are my client’s loyalty towards me by asking to be served by me and always coming back when they need to make a purchase for their home,” she says. “There’s also the recognition of their satisfaction regarding the products I recommended to them to fulfill their needs and desires.”

Viel says one of the reasons she enjoys working at BrandSource Rice is everyone’s desire to make the store the best it can be is attractive. “[I like] the ambiance and the drive,” she relates. “The people are always working on improving not only as individuals, but as a team.”

In her free time, Viel likes to spend time gardening and keeping active. “Outside of work, my biggest passion is mostly gardening, but I also keep busy by doing yoga, taking long walks, reading and even playing golf.”

Viel has every intention of staying in the furniture industry and hopes to pass her wisdom down to others going forward. “I would love to pass on my passion to those who are willing to learn,” she says.

Ashley Newport is Contributing Editor to Home Goods Online. This article first appears in the Fall 2017 edition of the HGO Merchandiser and is reproduced here with permission.

Ashley Newport