2019 RSP Award recognizes top achievers

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London, ON, April 26, 2019: The Retail Sales Professional (RSP) Awards honour individuals who have gone above and beyond to make standout contributions to the home furnishings industry and their customers.

The four recipients will be introduced to the industry when the third annual RSP Awards are presented during the Canadian Home Furnishings Awards gala on May 24 on the opening evening of this year’s furniture show. During the evening, one of these regional recipients will also be recognized as Canada’s National Retail Sales Professional for 2019.

“Excellence in retail sales is driven by impeccable customer care and the recipients of the 2019 class are true examples of Canada’s retail best. At a time when retail is transforming and customer expectations are more challenging, I applaud and thank these leaders for their commitment to consistently deliver outstanding sales and service,” said Brad Geddes, Zucora Home president and the award program presenting sponsor.

The 2019 RSP Award recipients include: Amanda Mansfield of Hampton House Furniture in New Minsa, Nova Scotia for the Atlantic Region; Christina Lamont of Smitty’s Fine Furniture in Kitchener, Ontario for the Central Region; Jennifer Nelson of Leon’s Furniture in Medicine Hat, Alberta for the Western Region; and, Parry Gallagher of Coombs Junction Furniture in Coombs, British Columbia for the Pacific Region. The recipients were selected from nominations received from their peers, associates, and managers in an industry-wide nomination process.

The RSP Awards presenting sponsor is Zucora Home, the home service 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).

To learn more about the program or previous recipients visit the website at www.rspawards.com.

A record number of nominations received for 2019 RSP Awards

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Congratulations to the many sales professionals in the home furnishings industry who have been recognized by their peers, associates, and managers as leaders who consistently deliver exceptional sales and service and as a result have been nominated to be a recipient of a 2019 Retail Sales Professional (RSP) Award.

Nominees received in the third year of the industry recognition effort was a significant increase over previous years. Recipients will be announced in early April and recognized during the Canadian Home Furnishings Awards gala at the end of May. One of these regional recipients will also be recognized as Canada’s National Retail Sales Professional for 2019.

This year’s judges include David Cohn, Director, National Sales for Zucora Home; Corrie-Ann Knell, Director of Sales and Marketing for Home Goods Online; John Power, General Manager, Sales and Strategic Development, Mega Group; and Raffaele Laserra, Assistant Vice President Home Furnishings, Cantrex, Quebec.

The RSP Awards presenting sponsor is Zucora Home, the home service plan 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).

It’s great to see that our industry is so well represented and in such good hands on the sales floor across Canada.” said Brad Geddes, Zucora Home president.

Visit the RSP Awards website to learn more.

Amanda Bell Hates Stagnation, Loves Big Projects

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© Windsor Bay Communications Inc. 2017

WHEN AMANDA BELL STARTS TALKING ABOUT her job, you know there was no doubt she was a shoe-in for the newly established Retail Sales Professional Awards (RSPA). Her energy truly is electric, and her passion for her profession is palpable.

A sales associate working on the floor at Marshall’s Home Living in Kelowna, British Columbia, Bell was one of first four recipients of the 2017 edition of the RSPA, of which added value goods and service provider Zucora is the primary sponsor. Three other industry insiders also actively support the program, including Home Goods Online; the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance (CHFA), the Toronto-based furniture trade group; and, the Canadian Furniture Show (CFS), this country’s only national furniture trade event.

Since the award isn’t an easy one to win – salespeople across Canada are nominated for the honour by their managers or peers – locking one down is impressive.

“I was very honoured, it was a surprise,” Bell says. “The owner of my store didn’t tell me he had [nominated me], so when I received a call, I was excited. I had no idea it was coming, I didn’t even know what the award was.”

I was looking forward to the whole event and getting to experience all that. When you work hard, it just feels good to get some special recognition like that.

Bell and the three other winners were honoured at the recent Canadian Home Furnishings Awards gala. She was recognised by the industry and honoured by her manager James Marshall because she is “in tune with what is going on in the industry and a self-starter who is always eager to learn about new products and services.”

Bell’s job is unique because she isn’t just walking clients through a sale; she’s lending them her vision and helping them craft and create their living space. In Marshall’s words, Bell’s clientele list is broad and always satisfied with how she transforms their homes–whether those homes are a brand new builds or a full blown renovations.

Bell, a nine year veteran of Marshall’s Home Living, says the recognition felt incredible.

“I felt really happy and excited when I won,” she says. “I was so looking forward to the whole event and getting to experience all that. It was so nice. When you work hard, it just feels good to get some special recognition like that.”

Although she’s always worked in sales, her role in the company has morphed to better encompass her experience (and talent) as a bona fide interior designer. Her long-term tenure with the store (she’s been with Marshalls almost since its inception) has also allowed her to give back by passing knowledge and experience onto colleagues.

“I’m very proud to say I’ve, for the last several years, surpassed the million dollar mark in sales. Last year was $1.4 million,” she says. “I think I have some qualities that have allowed me to excel at sales. I’m a people person, I’m outgoing, I try to be very engaging and very real and genuine.”

Bell is also knowledgeable about products and that knowledge, she says, puts people at ease. “I’m trying to do my best for my clients and that really resonates with people. I’m enthusiastic and excited for them.”

As far as career highlights go, Bell says winning a bid on and decorating high-end units in an upscale Kelowna development was an incredible opportunity.

“Last year, I bid on and got 18 multi-million dollar units that I furnished from top to bottom,” she says. “ I set up 18 units with my crew. It was incredible and fun.”

The development, called Lakeshore Living at Manteo, functions as both a residential and resort property and Bell and her team even got to work directly with one purchaser to design their unit to their liking.

For Bell, homes and decor have always been fascinating and her early beginnings in real estate allowed her to segue into a sales position.

“I actually started my career as youngest licensed realtor in Regina, Saskatchewan. I was 21,” she says. “I made the leap to Kelowna. My son was young, so I didn’t want to put all the [real estate] time in, and I always loved houses and design and furniture. I got the opportunity to work in a sales capacity and then it grew and built from there.”

Outside of work, Bell likes to keep active and spend time with her family, including her now 22-year-old son.

“I’m a big family person. I love to go biking and boating. I love to do things with my rottweiler fur baby and travel.”

When it comes to work, Bell says she’s happy to be working in a store where no two days are the same. “We are unique, we are individually owned and operated and there is only one of us. We’ve turned into a really unique, trendsetting store that people come to. I want to keep growing and working on big projects, I don’t like to be stagnant.”

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

Furniture Expert to the Stars Takes Home RSPA for Ontario

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© Windsor Bay Communications Inc. 2017

WHEN RUTH PARKINSON, A SALES ASSOCIATE with the North York, Ont.-based Executive Furniture Rentals store, learned that she would be receiving an important honour for her work as an accomplished salesperson, she had two thoughts: she was honoured and worried about having to dress up.

“It was really exciting,” Parkinson said. “At first I thought, ‘do I have to dress up?’ But it was absolutely stunning. It was just great.”

Parkinson was one of four recipients of the furniture industry’s first annual 2017 Retail Sales Professional Awards for Ontario, an award sponsored by Zucora and a host of other industry insiders, including Home Goods Online, the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance and the Canadian Furniture Show. The award recognizes the outstanding achievements and accomplishments of experienced sales professionals who are seen as leaders when it comes to delivering exceptional customer sales and service.

Since the award isn’t an easy one to win, locking one down is impressive and very worthy of celebration.

“I knew nothing about it,” Parkinson says. “My boss came to me and he said someone wanted to talk to me. I was with a client, but he said to pick up the phone for some good news. They told me I’d been nominated and won. When you’ve been at your job for so many years, it’s good to be recognized.”

After 35 years, it’s great to be recognized by your peers. It’s been an excellent experience.

Parkinson’s job is decidedly unique, as she rents furniture to people and companies who need it for everything from temporary homes to special events. The company even provides furniture for the popular HGTV TV show, Property Brothers. While few people think about rented furniture–a necessity for traveling athletes, celebrities and companies looking for furniture for summer staff–it’s a thriving niche business.

“I’ve been at Executive Furniture Rentals for exactly 25 years (and the company has been around for a whopping 66 years) and I’ve been in the industry for 35,” says Parkinson.

Interestingly enough, she was working for a family company when Mark Miller, the owner of Executive, said she would work for him one day.

“When the recession hit, Mark approached me,” she says. “And now I’m still here.”

As for why Miller chose to nominate Parkinson, the decision was an easy one. Parkinson has over 20 years experience servicing clients and creating complete home packages on a temporary basis. On average, her home packages are created within 48 hours and promptly delivered – an astounding turnaround time.

“Ruth has gained many compliments from expats relocating temporarily because she has the acute skill to listen to their needs and create instant solutions that meet their lifestyle,” her nomination form reads. “This ranges from presidents and CEOs of major corporations as well as professional athletes to newly arrived Canadian immigrants. All are treated with utmost respect and in fact, Ruth has often become their first Canadian friend.

Since Parkinson is helping people feel at home when home is far away, her friendly approach is invaluable.

“I look after people relocating to Toronto,” she says. “I think the most exciting client I had was Kirstie Alley. She was a designer before she was an actor, so it was exciting to meet her and furnish her home for six months.”

Parkinson doesn’t just furnish temporary homes, she truly goes out of her way to befriend and take care of her clients.

“I get to know them and their families. There’s a big design element, so you have to know the person. Do they want comfortable furniture? Do they have children? You’re getting to know the families.”

Over the course of her impressive career, Parkinson has received some recognition for her work. Recently, Parkinson received the U.S.-based Cort Furniture Rentals’ annual Superior Customer Service Award.

“It was pretty exciting to get two awards in one year,” she says.

As for what she does outside of work, Parkinson said her hobbies do not involve visiting furniture stores on weekends. That said, she never gets tired of housing.

“Real estate is an interest for sure, we deal with a lot of agents, so that’s a big part of our business.”

In terms of what’s most rewarding, Parkinson says getting to know people sets the job apart.

“I really feel that some of these families don’t know anyone, they’re coming with their spouse for work and the first person they meet might be me. I keep in contact and it’s hard to say goodbye. I had to say goodbye to someone who was here with Nike for three years.”

The company also makes work fun.

“My boss is amazing, he’s good to me and always has been. He’s very fair and honest and we’re very fortunate. After 35 years, it’s great to be recognized by your peers. It’s been an excellent experience.”

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