Join the GRAT Band

November/December 2017—

HFA’s collaborative team works the crowd

Advocacy—by definition, means active support for a cause. There are lots of causes; lots of things to care about and lots of groups to support them. There are state and national retail associations, retail leader groups and industry associations. Each of these groups brings something to the table and the Home Furnishings Association works with many of them on common issues. But there’s only one group that looks out specifically for furniture retailers—and that’s the HFA. Even more specifically it’s the HFA’s Government Relations Action Team (GRAT).

Each year we’re growing our advocacy efforts and getting stronger—thanks to those retailers who see the importance of talking to legislators about the issues and explaining how their votes on the Hill affect their constituents and businesses at home. Those efforts are growing because retailers are working together.

I found some great quotes about working together:

  • “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford
  • “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” James Cash Penney
  • “We’re all working together; that’s the secret.” Sam Walton
  • “We cannot accomplish all that we need to do without working together.” Bill Richardson
  • “The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better.” Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

But I liked this one from Little Steven Van Zandt the best: “Band members have a special bond. A great band is more than just some people working together. It’s like a highly specialized army unit, or a winning sports team. A unique combination of elements that becomes stronger together than apart.”

This year our band had some pretty successful gigs.

We started the year by polling members about the issues that were important to them—Marketplace Fairness, over-time rule, deferred interest financing options, labor laws, debit swipe fees, furniture safety—many of the same tunes we’ve been singing for years.

Although the debit card swipe fee issue had been settled for the better part of a decade, it popped up like that horrible groupie you can’t seem to shake. There was a threat of repealing the provisions we, and so many other retail groups, had fought for. Luckily, retailers rallied again. HFA members met with legislators during our annual fly-in; they made calls and sent letters and we thwarted the repeal.

Then there was the threat of a Border Adjustment Tax—this one-hit wonder seemingly popped up over night. The GRAT jumped on it and held an emergency meeting of top 100 retailers during the April High Point Market. Members discussed this issue with legislators in D.C.; they made calls and sent letters. The Association joined a coalition of other retail organizations to add the industry’s voice to the growing number of groups opposed to the BAT. And we buried it.

In May we held our third annual fly-in. This is the time of year when a group of HFA members goes to Washington, D.C. to tell legislators about the issues that impact their bottom lines. It’s their chance to make a difference. After two solid days of meetings, I was a little surprised not to look back into a sea of lighters raised in our honor as we left the city.

Wherever we go and whoever we talk to, Marketplace Fairness is on the set list—and 2017 was no different. We played that tune loud and clear—we want a legislative solution that provides a remote sales and use tax that levels the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers. We’ll play it until it becomes that earwig Congress can’t shake until it passes a law.

The lead members of the band—the GRAT—know we can be even more successful if more of you get involved. Our grassroots efforts are growing, as more members see the value and importance of working toward a common goal.

“We’ve always believed in the power of the retail voice,” says Wogie Badcock, of Mulberry, Fla.-based Badcock Furniture & More. “You have to be at the table to get things done. You have to call your congressmen, meet with them, make sure they know how they vote on the issues affects your business. Because if you are not at the table, you may be the meal!”

Another member, Eric Blackledge, of Blackledge Furniture in Corvallis, Ore., says, “When you understand how much state and federal governmental decisions impact the economy and your business, you know you need to be involved, both personally and through HFA.”

GRAT members include: Brian Adams, Ashley Furniture, Wogie Badcock, WS Badcock Corp., Eric Blackledge, Blackledge Furniture, Lisa Chord Keyes, Naturwood Furniture, Rob Davis, Diakon Logistics, David Gunn, Knight Furniture, Dru Jeppe, Reed’s Furniture, Jim Kittle, Kittle’s Furniture, Tom Olinde, Olinde’s Furniture, Chris Pfeiffer Homestead House, Sherry Sheely, Sheely’s Furniture & Appliance, and Jacob Shevin, Standard Furniture.

Many of these members have been working on advocacy for decades—working for the industry; working for you. Isn’t it time you joined the band?