Barely two weeks into his new role as director of furniture and outdoor for Nationwide Marketing Group, David Niedzielski found himself roaming the buildings and showrooms at High Point Market. Post-show, we sat down with him to talk about joining Nationwide and what excites him about the opportunity to go to work for the independent retail channel.
Rob Stott: All right, we are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast and back-to-back weeks we got to talk to someone named David. And last week it was David Watt, our new senior director of the CE team. And this week it’s David Niedzielski, director of Furniture and Outdoor for Nationwide Marketing Group. Two guys starting around the same time, I think actually on the same day. Is that right? Did you guys start on the same day?
David Niedzielski: That’s correct. Same day.
Rob Stott: Well see. You got, not even just names, but your date of hire is tied together, so that’s pretty awesome. So how’s it going man? How you doing?
David Niedzielski: Good man, it’s been great. It’s been a whirlwind but loving every minute of it. It’s been a great process.
Rob Stott: No, we’re excited. I know. Very excited to have you on the team. Obviously those that have been to primetime, you’ll be a familiar face, but for those that don’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself and get the introduction out of the way and talk about your path to Nationwide Marketing Group.
David Niedzielski: Yeah, yeah, thanks Rob. So yeah, a little bit about myself. Prior to this I was with Traeger Grills with Traeger Wood Pellet Grills for about five and a half years and essentially running all buying groups for North America and really brought on with an emphasis of what we call the Appliance and Furniture Channel. And it actually all really started with Nationwide. My first call in the channel introducing myself was with the wonderful John Lang. Really gave me a rundown in Nationwide. I was like, “Man, this sounds pretty cool as far as appliance can sound.” Right? And then I just remember attending my first primetime show and I was like, “Wow, okay, there’s something here.” So really that was my beginning with Nationwide and with Traeger. I mean it all started and ended with Nationwide. So fast-forward five and a half years and now I’m on the other side.
Rob Stott: It’s all right. Being on that other side, what’s that thing that excites you now about being here, part of the Nationwide team and going from the vendor side to the buying group side?
David Niedzielski: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of things. I mean, working with the retailers was honestly one of my favorite parts of the job at Traeger. Now we had reps that called on people, but my favorite thing is I went to every event meeting everything from primetime to the east, to the west, to the southwest meetings. I love getting intertwined with the retailers. I mean really talking with the members on what was working was always great, but more importantly, what wasn’t working. I loved it. I was the guy that loved jumping in conversation going, “Hey, why do we suck?” That’s intriguing to me. How can we better help the members? How can we better help the retailers? And the independent channel was just one of my favorites to work with, lot of passion. I love that part of the job, love learning, how can we take it to another step and now I get to do it in a bigger way with more vendors and really working a lot closer with the membership.
Rob Stott: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. And well you mentioned the primetime being an introduction to this space and obviously we’re coming off of Dallas about a month ago as we’re sitting here, maybe a little over a month ago since we left Dallas. But it was an interesting time. We talked about it before this started, how you were, it was kind of two hats. You weren’t officially part of Nationwide yet, but you knew that it was coming. So to be there, what was that experience like for you to be at that show and see things literally from both sides?
David Niedzielski: Yeah, as you mentioned, it was a little bit of a confusing whirlwind of a show. Definitely never attended a primetime like that, kind of was wearing two hats. I knew my end with Traeger was coming, but I was still working the event as Traeger making sure that to keep that relationship with the members, with the retailers and with the group and just making sure handing off my baby a little bit was going smoothly. But primetime Dallas was seriously amazing. I mean, what a turnout. I mean so many members from every group, especially Southwest Dennis and team really crushed it.
I mean, I was busy bell to bell, could not have been busier. Our booth was insanely packed and then you add in the backyard cooking space, that was phenomenal. John Lane did such a great job pulling so many of these vendors together. I mean it was just awesome. We were out there slinging samples. Every time I went out there, chefs were just constantly slinging food and looking at all the other vendors slinging food. I mean it was truly a fun time. And if you missed it, you definitely missed a great opportunity to have some fun out in the sun with us in primetime. There’s just with the Backyard Barbecue, it was just even that bigger of a spotlight on outdoor. Watching how many more… I’ve never seen so many outdoor vendors participate in the cooking before Traeger’s been doing it for five and a half years and just watching the other guys join in, like Royal King was crushing it, you had all the different pizza ovens from Gozney, Alfa to Blackstone. I mean it was an incredible event.
Rob Stott: No, it’s a lot of fun to your point, to see how that’s grown. And you threw a name in there, John, Mr. Laing, who spearheaded the introduction really of outdoor to Nationwide and talk about being able to interact with a guy like that, the knowledge he brings to the table and sort of what your… I can imagine you’re soaking up a lot of that knowledge from him as you’re diving into this role.
David Niedzielski: I mean, John Laing, what a wonderful human and the best in class, his job. Truly, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. So, a little shout-out John Laing, thank you for everything. I mean, he really was my guide. I mean the passion that he has for the membership, no one comes close. There’s a lot of great people. But John Laing, I mean big shout out to you John.
Rob Stott: I mean the Backyard is honestly his concept, his baby born to life that he’s passing off to over to you. So no pressure. Yeah, none whatsoever.
David Niedzielski: None at all. None at all.
Rob Stott: No, we know you guys. I mean he set the table and you’re there to deliver it home and everything. We’re kind really excited I think to see the next steps and what you’ll be bringing to it. But think it back. Something mentioned a little bit ago about the opportunities in this space and specifically for the retailers, you do a lot of… On the vendor side, obviously you saw a lot of like you mentioned they come to you saying, “What do we suck at? What can we do better?” But for the retailers, where are those opportunities? What are the things that you’re excited to start guiding these outdoor dealers towards or have them do in their stores that maybe they’re not right now?
David Niedzielski: Yeah, absolutely. And definitely don’t want to forget about my furniture part of it too. So outdoors, easy to talk about coming from the Traeger world, the furniture space is pretty new to me. Just got back from High Point, learned a lot. But honestly, there’s so much opportunity within the outdoor and furniture space for the independent retailer right now. I mean adding more segments to your business to capture even more of an audience is so important. You’re just capturing so many more consumers and just I believe with the higher margins retailers gain in the furniture and outdoor space, I mean there’s a lot of margin there for our retailers to really make some money and also to cover different facets. It’s kind of one of those everyone needs to eat, sit and sleep, right? So why not be a designation to cover all three? So I truly believe if you’re a retailer of ours, you should be in each of those categories. There’s too many positives to not at least take a look and look into these categories. So the opportunity’s just growing.
Rob Stott: I’m glad you called me out on it with… we talk about outdoor, but it is the outdoor and furniture set at the top with your title. Talk about the combination of those two. Is that something that… the positioning of that, is there an advantage to that having you be over both of those segments?
David Niedzielski: Yeah. Learning the indoor furniture is going to be the interesting part because obviously outdoor furniture and outdoor barbecue and outdoor heating and just everything all goes together. But really learning the indoor space, it’s going to be fun. It’s a fun new challenge in my career and I’m excited. Again, going back to High Point, I got to meet a lot of the vendors, a lot of the passion in the industry that I didn’t know was there. These showrooms are beautiful sets. I think it just comes together with furniture of think about your home. It’s your home where you invite your friends, your family, everything from inside to outside of where do you sit and eat and have a nice dinner you just cooked on your backyard and your outdoor patio now, where does everyone go and sit and eat in inside your home of really just bringing the connectivity of people and that passion of, it’s you’re bringing the neighborhood together a little bit. I think they all go hand in hand.
Rob Stott: I love that. And you mentioned High Point that what better way to let… For some reason in this space, it always seems like when people are starting and there’s always some event that they can go to that they can just get completely overwhelmed with information. So whether it’s coming to primetime for a lot of our… It just always happens that a lot of NMG team members start around primetime and what better way to learn. And you talk about diving into a new industry, you’re at High Point. What was that experience like? Just talk about walking around all those buildings and the showrooms and just what that experience was like for you.
David Niedzielski: It’s a little wild to be honest with you. I’ve been to a lot of trade shows of every walks and kinds except for this, my first furniture one especially High Point. I mean it’s a big city. It’s a city with the most beautiful showrooms from the best vendors in the industry. I mean it was surreal. I mean I’d be lying to say I wasn’t confused, lost and intimidated all at once, but at the same time, excited by how big the industry is, how much potential is there. I know we have a lot of great vendors within the group right now in the furniture space. There’s even more we’re looking at to constantly join and evolve and adapt and I mean it was wild. It was just… If you’ve never been, you should attend.
Rob Stott: I love that plug. And now as a first timer go into that, what was your… obviously you know going into it, you’re trying to learn and get familiar with this space, but how do you as a first timer approach it or what was your approach going into that show? Or did you have no expectations?
David Niedzielski: There was a lot of talking with people that have attended. Obviously Jeff Rose from our team, Vice President of F&B and Outdoor and then Chad Fisher. I had a lot of people to really guide me, help me work with the vendors. A lot of my introductions over the last few weeks to my vendor partners of setting this schedule because you really do got to be dialed at High Point because it’s so big. What I hear is roughly 10 million square feet of showroom space in there and it’s not all in just one building. And on top of that, each building’s confusing. They know how to let you in, but you can’t figure out how to get out. It was wild.
Rob Stott: That’s probably by design.
David Niedzielski: But yeah. Oh, yeah. It’s like a casino in Vegas. They don’t want you to leave. That’s how High Point is. But really I had a lot of guidance. We have a lot of great people on the team that have had a lot of experience at High Point. So really relying on them, the onboarding’s been incredible guiding me to help me be successful at the event. So first day I spent with Jeff Rose, he knows it like the back of his hand, got to see a lot of our awesome vendors and then the next two days I was on my own. It was a get dropped off from a shuttle downtown at the meeting. It was like, “All right, here’s my list, let’s get going,” and get to see all of my vendors. And then-
Rob Stott: Fly little birdie is like, just go. It’s yours now.
David Niedzielski: Trial by fire for sure.
Rob Stott: What a better way.
David Niedzielski: I definitely got lost more times than I’d like to admit. Walking around, grown man in a suit asking for, “Please ma’am, can you help me find my way?”
Rob Stott: Well hey, but that’s probably a fun way to bump into some potential vendors or products like that you never thought you might. Just do get lost.
David Niedzielski: Yeah, that was the idea. My goal was to get lost and submerge myself as much as possible. Wander into showrooms that, “Oh, not even part of our group, but it looks like you should be.” Who do I got to talk to? I mean, it was a great experience. I met a lot of amazing people too at the event that, I mean truly I’ve gotten texts and calls from people I just met sales reps, other vendors, other groups that are just like, “Hey, you need help in the space.” It’s a very warm welcome.
Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome to hear. And like you said, what better way to do it And even before we get together for our next primetime in Nashville in August, you’ve got another market event, you’ll be at Vegas where we have a showroom room too. So what are you looking forward to about that and diving into that market?
David Niedzielski: Same thing, kind of don’t know what to expect. So furniture market in Vegas, I believe it’s in July. Yeah, I’ll be getting lost in there. I’ll be there for a full week. We have a booth, so I’m excited to see our own booth. So watching everyone come through and interact that way and then getting out there with Jeff and team and some of our MSMs that attend and really get to sit down with the vendors and dive in even deeper because High Point, a lot of it was spent of, “Hi, I’m your new guy.” And so to dive in even more on programs and get more specific on ways to help our membership. I’m excited to see it.
Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. Well, I want to kind of bring it full circle here and talk about the retail side. And as you dive in, I know again, you have that vendor experience of seeing how these retailers are from the vendor side, but what are some things that you think they’ve done well as it relates to the outdoor, obviously you have the perspective of the outdoor space and you’re diving into furniture, but what are some of the things that you think they do well? We’ll start there and then you can talk about the areas that you think they can improve.
David Niedzielski: Yeah, absolutely. So like I mentioned previously, working with independent retailers is truly one of my favorites. Everyone’s so invested. Every one of them, whether it’s a one door mom and pop operation or a 50 door chain, they’re all offering a unique value to their communities and their customers. I mean, it’s truly inspiring some of them how they’re intertwined in their communities. I just truly love it. I love how well they’re involved and connected and how they always add a special touch. That’s something they’ve always owned and why they’re still in business, why some of them have been around for generations, 100 years or less, more, everything in between offering services, delivery, install, I mean, all that white club experience of why do you go in there, it’s a destination. They have these customers that have their dad used to call on. It’s all generational. It is so cool. And they do such a great job at that. So I mean it’s just really becoming a destination in a town, whether it’s a small town out in the middle of Nebraska or if it’s New York City. It’s inspiring.
Rob Stott: It goes to that, the whole theme and I’m not sure how tuned in you were with having the two hats on during primetime, but that customer obsessed theme of putting that customer at the center of the experience. And I think a lot of what you’re describing, and we just had a not too long ago from this podcast, a webinar that we’re trying to continue those conversations because 5,000 members, there’s 5,000 unique ways that these retailers are putting the customer at the heart of that retail experience. So to everything you’re saying, it sort of feels a lot like that for sure.
David Niedzielski: 100%. It’s truly they’re the masters of customer service. If you want to feel at home, it’s like we all have that neighborhood bar restaurant that we feel welcome in, right? Well these independent retailers are that on the retail side, there’s a reason their customers are going in there. The big box, I guess there’s value there, but I mean you don’t feel warm and fuzzy when you walk in there, but you’re going to an independent store, you feel at home, you’re never feeling out of place. They know how to make you welcome and they have the services and knowledge to back it up.
Rob Stott: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. Well, and then looking ahead too, because this is a chance to set the stage, make it official on the… this is your platform, right? This is the campaign trail of where it kicks off. So it’s not official until you say it on the Independent Thinking Podcast. But what are some of those areas that you’re excited to get your hands on where they can improve and do better that you’re excited to really get in the weeds with them and work on to help these retailers in their business?
David Niedzielski: Yeah, I’m hoping to drive some value of making sure we have the vendors in the furniture space, we have the vendors in the outdoor space of how making sure our members have the correct assortments, offering that variety to the customers of… the customer already trust the retailer to be their destination. The retailer’s trusting Nationwide to have the assortments having the program, so really working with them to drive even more value I think is something I’m really looking forward to in one of my strong suits. And just one of those things that could always be worked on and independent is staying on top of the digital age, continuing the advertising, especially taking advantage of the digital space and the market. The marketing consumers are continuing to migrate towards it. So I think making sure they have a destination website that matches their in-store experience and beyond, you’re feeling warm and fuzzy walking inside the store.
Let’s make sure your website’s up-to-date with the correct assets, pricing, everything like that. There’ll always be ways to continuously improve your business as it’s ever evolving. My big recommendation to our retailers and members is really stay connected. Stay on top of the latest trends. Stay connected to the podcast, things coming out of these shows, latest news from Member Net. Continue to show value on why you are who you are. Why are consumers continuing to put trust in you and your products? I mean, it’s their home, it’s their life. Continue to show value.
Rob Stott: No, I love it. And you heard him, hit subscribe. If you’re not already, hit subscribe. You got to do it for your membership. It’s how you get better at business is by subscribing and listening to this podcast religiously every week.
David Niedzielski: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Rob Stott: Sit here first. No, that’s awesome man. Well, like we said at the top, we’re excited to have you on board and we’ve seen over the years of the great things you’ve been able to do, building that relationship on the other side, on the dark side. But we’re excited to have you on this side now, so look forward to watching you continue to do what you do and learn new spaces too. The furniture space is excited to have you for sure. So…
David Niedzielski: Awesome. Yeah, thanks Rob. Happy to be here. So happy to be on and join you anytime. And like you said, like, subscribe, share, let’s go people.
Rob Stott: That’s great. All right man, we appreciate it and we’ll certainly catch up again soon.
David Niedzielski: Awesome. Thanks Rob.