© 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.