Talk about getting thrown into the fire. Mike Derro joined the Nationwide Marketing Group team as the new Vice President of Furniture and Bedding on October 12 — exactly two weeks before we kicked off our first-ever Virtual PrimeTime event.
Luckily for Derro, he has been very familiar with Nationwide and PrimeTime well before his first official day on the job. In the year prior to joining Nationwide, Derro was the Chief Sales Officer of FloWater — a clean water startup that’s worth a quick google to get to know. But prior to that, Derro spent 17 years with Serta and the SSB team as Vice President of Sales.
Over that time, Derro held leadership positions at the local, regional and national levels. He also managed the SSB Retail division, which focused on partnerships with the Independent retail channel. Derro helped to develop solutions for Independent retailers that helped to drive top- and bottom-line results.
After getting a minute to catch his breath, Derro spent some time sharing his thoughts on the furniture and bedding categories and where he sees the channel heading.
Independent Thinking: First days on the job and you dove right into our first-ever Virtual PrimeTime. What was that experience like?
Derro: It was amazing! I was lucky enough to be a part of many Nationwide PrimeTime shows in person and so I think all of us were a little uncertain of how the first virtual primetime was going to go. I was really excited about how positive the messages that I was getting personally from many of our vendors, manufacturers, and our independent retailers.
You came into this at an interesting time for furniture and bedding. What’s your view of the market, currently?
The furniture and bedding business in general saw tremendous pickup in Q3 and Q4. I see this industry as a whole continuing to be strong. I am optimistic about 2021 for a few different reasons. What we have seen in the last few months, the real estate transactions that drive growth in this space continue to increase. New home construction has seen double digit increases for the last few months, and interest rates have been at historic lows. I think there are a lot of tailwinds that we head into 2021 with as an industry and as an independent retail channel.
Will there be a “return to normal” once vaccines hit critical mass, or has furniture and bedding retail changed for good?
I think some segments of the old normal are gone forever. From a digital platform perspective, finding the customer where she is looking for that new dining room table or the new mattress, she is starting online. Digital platforms, including social media and Google searches, are something that are going to be with us forever and will probably just accelerate. Those retailers that have worked with our organization to develop these programs will continue to be successful. That will not change even when we are able to go back outside, travel and not social distance as much as we currently are.
How about on the supply chain side? What are you seeing there?
In the first part of this year, we expect there to be improvement in what we are seeing right now. We are already seeing huge improvements on the bedding side. We all feel that probably over Q1 and into Q2, those supply chain challenges will be back to normal levels. On the furniture side, it will probably be a little bit of a slower comeback. We have still seen huge improvement, but that lead time is still unfortunately pretty far out. We see that being lessened in Q2 and then by Q3 should return to more normal levels. Even though we have seen huge growth over the last few months, it could have been larger for independent retailers if supply chain wasn’t as big of a challenge as it is. That will subside going into the back half of next year. We strongly feel that ‘21 is going to be a powerful year for independent retailers.
Nationwide Marketing Group works on behalf of thousands of independent appliance, furniture, bedding, electronics, specialty electronics, custom installation and rent-to-own dealers helping them grow their businesses and thrive on their own terms. With more than 5,000 members operating some 14,000 storefronts, Nationwide Marketing Group is the largest buying, marketing and business support organization of its kind, representing billions in combined annual sales across the membership. For nearly 50 years, the organization has remained committed to the independent channel, empowering members with the scale, sophistication and efficiencies they need to compete while delivering the unmatched business intelligence, tools and resources required to win in an ever-changing business environment.