AHFA 2017 Regulatory Summit Looked to Unravel Complexities of Furniture Regs

October 2017—

The American Home Furnishings Alliance hosted its annual regulatory summit here in N.C. yesterday at the Guilford Technical Community College’s Colfax campus, and although most of the nearly 175 attendees were manufacturers, there were many takeaways for retailers.

Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle reaffirmed the priorities she shared with AHFA and the Home Furnishings Association during our fly-in this May. (Read more about why retailers should care about the CPSC here.) Those priorities remain to collaborate and engage with the industry, to “rely on the experts in their fields,” she said, and to educate and provide information campaigns rather than rely on “sensationalism.” Buerkle also said relying on data and science rather than emotion when forming standards and regulations is imperative.

Buerkle, who is now the lone Republican in the five-member agency since Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic left the CPSC last week, has said previously that her views on tip-over, specifically regarding the industry’s voluntary standard, are to rely on the data and science to determine if changes to the standards are required. She said CPSC plans for 2018 are to use an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR)—the first step in any rule-making process—to further engage with the furniture industry. She encouraged attendees and the industry to participate in this process, share data, and keep the lines of communication open.

Attendees also heard updates from the Erik Winchester, Fiber & Oraganics Brach Chief at the EPA on the federal formaldehyde rule, (HFA members should refer to their monthly updates for ongoing coverage of this issue) and about the legislative and regulatory climate in Washington from Chris Andresen of Dutko GR, the AHFA and HFA lobbyist.

Representatives from Amazon, Mark Fellin, and Wayfair, Christine Zanella, discussed how their brands manage regulatory compliance and the complexities of doing so. Regardless of your footprint—be it large or small, online or off—retailers, especially those who direct import or sell direct imports, should be informed of the regulations.

Womble Carlyle’s managing partner Mike Sullivan and attorney Christa Burger addressed compliance and risk management. They outlined levels of legal strategy, from avoidance (not recommended), to compliance (which is the very basic) to prevention (you’re complying and going above and beyond) to advantage (you’re doing all of these and using it to financial advantage to distinguish your company) to transformation (a rare achievement).

Avoidance and compliance are at the low-end of the spectrum. You don’t have to look any further than the headlines of the IKEA recalls ($50 million settlements) or Lumber Liquidator ($30 million settlement) to realize how this issue isn’t just a manufacturer’s issue.