The plan was hatched not under cover of darkness, but in a back office during lunch.
HFA member Riley Griffiths wanted to reward his employees at Riley’s Furniture & Mattress in Monroe, Ohio, for a successful year, but he also wanted to celebrate in a way that would help move the store forward in 2019. After a few bites it hit him: Why not take the staff—the entire staff—to the High Point Furniture Market in October?
And that’s how 30 Riley’s Furniture employees found themselves on a private jet being whisked from Cincinnati to Greensboro, N.C., where a private bus met them on the tarmac at Piedmont Triad International Airport for the short ride to market.
“This is the best work day of my life,” said Laura Chaney, a member of Riley’s sales staff as she toured Bed Gear’s showroom in Plaza Suites.
That’s right: work day. Griffiths closed the store Monday, but his employees were still on the clock for the trip to High Point.
“It’s been great,” said Griffiths. “A lot of [employees] said they were so excited they didn’t go to sleep because they didn’t want to miss the flight. The High Point Market Authority has been absolute wonderful in taking care of us. We should have done this long ago.”
Hiring a chartered jet for the trip to market cost Griffiths about $16,000—a steal considering all the information his employees gleaned from the trip.
It really helps to hear from the manufacturers and see the furniture, especially in another fabric,” said Chaney. “It’s one thing to show a customer a swatch, but to see an entire sofa covered in that swatch is something else. Now I can go to a customer and tell them with confidence that they might want to try the sofa in a specific fabric.”
While touring the La-Z-Boy showroom with other team members, Jettie Bailey, who works in Riley’s warehouse, learned a lot about the new USB charging ports in the manufacturer’s recliner sofas. Sales associates learned the coding that must be included on an order if the client wants to include a charging port in their sofa, as well.
And since Bailey also makes deliveries, he was glad to learn that one of La-Z-Boy’s most popular sofas at Riley’s is now being made out of a new steel that makes the sofa 30 pounds lighter. “That was the best news from the trip,” Bailey joked.
While touring Bed Gear, a manufacturing partner with Griffiths, Riley’s employees were given a pillow customized to their sleeping habits. Another manufacturing partner, La-Z-Boy, drew the names of three Riley’s employees from a bag. The winners will receive a free La-Z-Boy recliner later this year.
By 6 p.m. Monday, Riley’s employees were back on the bus for the airport and their private jet. Employees were back home 12 hours after they left.
And while they had fun in High Point, there was a serious side to the day. Griffiths said brick-and-mortar stores like his need to find an edge over his ever-increasing online competitors like Amazon and Wayfair.
“The best place we can gain that edge is through the customer experience,” Griffiths said. “We can offer the customers something they’ll never get sitting on their sofa at home looking online. That’s why it’s important for our staff to be hear and learn as much as they can about what we sell. If we have a customer tell us they’re looking for a particular style of sofa and one of our employees can say, ‘You know, I think I saw the perfect sofa for you at High Point market last month.’ That’s a story we have that no online competitor can touch.”