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The past few weeks haven’t been too kind to the independent furniture and bedding retailers around the country. As COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines, Nationwide’s F&B team — lead by Jeff Rose — has been hard at working giving dealers the resources they need to continue serving their communities.

Rob Stott: All right, we’re back on the independent thinking podcast and this actually Jeff, just so you know, this is our first time. I don’t want to call this quarantine edition, but this is the first time we’re recording a podcast under these circumstances. And you know with Microsoft, we have our Microsoft Teams that we use in everything. So Independent Thinking podcast at home. How’s that sound?

Jeff Rose: Hey, you know what? I don’t hate it. I don’t hate it. I’m just glad to be talking to somebody right now. I wish we were doing this in person, but you know, it’s great. I can only watch so many Disney movies with my daughter being home for two months now. Now don’t get me wrong.

Rob Stott: Frozen Two?

Jeff Rose: Frozen Two exactly. That’s been like the running joke with the company. Hey Rose, how many times did you watch Frozen last night? Well, it was four and a half. Okay, so.

Rob Stott: Are you ready to replace Idina Menzel if they do a Frozen three, is that?

Jeff Rose: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I’ve got some pipes, I can rock and roll, so I can … but my wife would kill me. Honey, I’m enjoying every moment. Okay. So it’s …

Rob Stott: Oh, I hear you … it’s something special. You know, it’s an interesting time, but we’re working through it and –

Jeff Rose: We are.

Rob Stott: Well for you and I see the thing is we work from home. You’re in Oklahoma, right?

Jeff Rose: Actually I’m in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Rob Stott: Oh, Mississippi. All right. So not too far away, right?

Jeff Rose: Were you thinking of the Tiger King in Oklahoma? Is that what –

Rob Stott: You know what I did. I did just get…

Jeff Rose: Is that what was going on there?

Rob Stott: I think so. I think so. I’ve got Oklahoma on the mind. Watched a little, I did binge. Have you been through it?

Jeff Rose: I got through one and a half episodes and it was just, I’m just like, this is not real. This is just make-believe land, but it’s real. So it’s –

Rob Stott: It’s unbelievable.

Jeff Rose: It is.

Rob Stott: Well, you know, needless to say, working from home is kind of the norm for us, but you know, obviously different circumstances these days. Man, how are you, first of all, how’s everything going?

Jeff Rose: Well Rob, thanks for asking. And so glad to be a part of this. You’ve been just a huge addition to the team and a communications team and Nationwide team. I mean we just, what you’re doing is great, so just appreciate everything first and foremost but thanks for asking how I’m doing. It’s you know, we were coming out of January and February, we were rolling, to be quite honest with you. Just business-wise, the furniture and bedding division was, I mean we had just an incredible furniture market. It was the largest attended furniture market we’ve had in the Nationwide space. I mean it was massive. And then we came out of PrimeTime and we had the biggest PrimeTime we’ve ever had sales-wise. And then we got smacked in the face with this COVID-19 craziness and then got to be home.

And so how am I personally? I’m good, everybody’s safe and healthy and I do work from home, but I mean I have been working from home for 15 years now, but we do travel a lot. And so my first quarter is always tough. And so honestly getting to be … I mean, I’ve been home for two months now and which is, which has been great to see, get to see my little girl and my wife and my wife’s actually eight months pregnant. And so –

Rob Stott: Congrats, man. I didn’t know that.

Jeff Rose: Yeah, thanks. And so we’re due in five weeks, which just blows my mind. And so that’s been good. But we’re all kind of going a little stir-crazy and, and that. So I’m doing well, family’s wonderful and things of that nature, but you know, on the business side of things, it’s just been tough.

It’s been tough to see our members. They’re struggling and we’re trying to get as much information out, trying to help them as best as possible. And then our vendor community. These are our key vendor partners and across all channels of Nationwide, they’re just struggling as well. And so we’re all in this together fighting. But it’s been … I think we’re seven weeks into this and it’s just, we’re hoping to start seeing the light, but you know, we’re hanging in. We know we’re fighting together. I got this to get this thing hashtag keep fighting and that’s what we’re doing buddy.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. And yeah, I mean you kind of mentioned some of the challenges there, but when you think about not being on the road, I think that’s probably a big one for you. And for anyone working from home, especially not being able to go see these members, but what has, aside from that maybe, what has been the biggest challenge for you as Director of Furniture and Bedding for Nationwide, in the first seven … crazy, it’s already been seven weeks, but –

Jeff Rose: It has.

Rob Stott: What’s been the biggest challenge for you?

Jeff Rose: Well, that’s a great … that’s a phenomenal question because you’ve got a … you assess the situation and then you take a step back and you got … I mean there’s so many. There’s the member part about it, the member struggles. There’s the vendor struggles. And then there’s just the overall, just landscape of life struggles that we’re all, trying to deal with. And I’d say the biggest challenge I’ve had of all this is trying to figure out when it’s going to end because you don’t want to start planning things too early to, to push out from members because there’s no one in the streets right now. And then you don’t want to wait too late. And so my team has been working extremely hard on getting that blueprint and game plan together for the membership.

It’s just trying to figure out the best time to launch it and push it out. And you know, we’re teetering on that line. We know May 1st is a big day. Hopefully, we get some good news in some of these states, shelter in place states open up. But I don’t think it’s going to be all at once. I think it’s going to be staggered … I think we’re going to have some states be able to go and then some not. That’s a beautiful part about our membership. It’s across all four corners of this US and we have such a great member base, but they’re in a wait and see mode too. But to answer your question is, I think the biggest struggle is just the not knowing when this is going to stop or at least be … have a lull.

Rob Stott: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean it’s tough then too because that as you mentioned I’m with you. I think the rolling sort of reopening is probably the route that this thing goes eventually. Who knows when that starts. So then when you’re talking to all these dealers that are in every corner of the globe, or of the US you know it’s tough to … some guy in middle America is going to have a different situation than someone that might’ve been based in New York or California in kind of how this thing reopens. So, I mean the message, I’m sure it’s tough to kind of pick out one theme or something that you’ve heard from members, but when you’ve been talking to dealers, what’s sort of that general consensus about … especially for anyone that’s been following our, the quick turn surveys that we’ve been doing for the membership, I mean the sentiment we’ve gotten from that, from the F and B space, we look at every product category by dealer and F and B has been kind of pummeled to put it lightly.

So I mean, what’s sort of the consensus that you’ve been hearing from dealers?

Jeff Rose: Yeah I mean, you are unfortunately correct. I mean my division, my industry, my whole professional life has been revolved around furniture and bedding and unfortunately, we were the first to really get smoked by this. I mean March was very difficult and April is going to be, unfortunately, going to be worse. And you know, the hardest part about this is seeing these not … our F and B dealers not being considered essential and them having and being forced to shut their doors. We have a lot of them out there that this has happened to and they are … and they’re so, that’s what I love about our membership, Rob, is they’re so resilient.

They’re reaching out to us. What can I do? What can I do? We’re opening up their chat on their websites and we’re trying to work on helping push out somewhat digital advertising where they can maybe do some commerce over a phone or through email or something and some of it’s working. I mean some of them are. I have, I have this saying, we were talking about talking before, hashtag keep fighting. That’s been my motto for … since this thing started. And these unbelievable retailers, they are just fighting. They’re fighting for every sale and they’re fighting for just every bit that they can get out there.

And I just, every conversation I have when we end, we all talk and said this will end and business will get back together and you know what, you’re going to be stronger for this. You’re going to be ready. And we were the first, I think to get hit by this, but I also think we’re going to be one of the first to come back. I mean, you’ve got to think of all the moms and dads and sisters and brothers that have been … that have had to stay home and they’ve been sitting on that sofa now for two months and they’ve been eating at that table every single night and sleeping in that bed. No travel has been going on and you know what, they’re probably, I truly believe they’re going to be looking at each other and you know they’re going to say, “You know what, it’s time to maybe go buy that sofa or it’s time to replace that mattress.” And I think our retailers will be ready for them.

Rob Stott: Yeah. A couple of things. First of all, your passion for it’s infectious. I love it. It gets me fired up sitting here. I want to go buy a whole new living room set from one of these guys when I’m done for not only because of your passion but also I’ve been sitting, you mentioned it, I sit on a couch every night now watching Netflix. I’m sticking to this thing. It’s like you realize now how uncomfortable these things are when you have to use it every day.

Jeff Rose: No. Oh yeah. Yeah.

Rob Stott: No, but you mentioned some of the things too, digital and I know you’ve been pushing a lot of new opportunities to these dealers. So what are some of the things from the F and B side that you’re making available to dealers to sort of help them through this time?

Jeff Rose: Yeah, no, that’s great. So I know, so when this, when this, like we were talking, talking about the beginning, what’s your biggest challenge, Jeff? It’s the not knowing when this will be lifted. And so we’ve been trying to look at different scenarios and trying to try and predict when is commerce really going to start coming back? And so we wanted to test for the first time ever, some different financing options for our dealers to be able to push out to consumers. And so my team and some of our key vendor partners with SSB and TSI we sat down and we looked and we said, “You know what, let’s for the first time ever watch some 72 month financing for the month of April.” And so that actually launched yesterday and it’s going to the end of the month.

So our dealers are being aware of that and now they’re able to push that out to consumers who maybe are not really sure. Hey, I can’t go throw $2000 down right now, but you know, what, 72 months sounds really, really tempting and engaging. And so maybe that sparked some, commerce for the last part of this month. And so we were excited about that and then you know what we started thinking, well, you know what, April sounds great, but Memorial day, that’s really the heart of when the selling season starts in bedding. And so, you know what, let’s push it out to May as well. And so we actually announced yesterday that we’re going to continue that 72-month financing into the back half of May into Memorial day. And so we were extremely excited about that. And so that’s something that we’re definitely going to be pushing out. And then another really exciting thing that we’re doing is furniture market live. And so … well, hello. It’s my daughter, just walking in. What are you doing?

Rob Stott: Not watching Frozen Two apparently.

Jeff Rose: Not watching Frozen. So yeah, that was my daughter. So she was, anyway, we won’t even get into that. So furniture market live. This was an idea that my team and I were thinking of about a month and a half ago when High Point Furniture Market announced that they were postponing the April show.

Rob Stott: Only postponing at that point and now –

Jeff Rose: Exactly.

Rob Stott: Not to jump the gun or steal any thunder from you, but today we’re actually talking on the day where they announced that they are canceling this.

Jeff Rose: They were canceling it. Yep. You are correct. And so what is furniture market live? So what this is is when High Point announced the postponement of the market, my team and I, we said, “You know what? These are very interesting times. Some crazy times. Let’s launch a virtual furniture market and let’s give the opportunity to our vendor community to show new and current products to our membership.”

Our membership is going to be cooped up. A lot of these stores are closed or they’re home or the consumers aren’t coming in, and so let’s maybe give them a chance to feel a little bit normal again at the end of April and show some product and show some opportunity to look and buy some product to maybe hopefully get some consumers in May. And so we launched that registration, we launched that a couple of weeks ago and registration went live on Monday and today is Wednesday at 12:45 Central Time and we have over 320 members that have signed up for this already and we still got a week and a half still for registration.

Rob Stott: Wow. That is impressive. That is impressive. And I know, just kind of seeing things, emails go back and forth on the back behind the scenes part of this, it’s been a lot of effort put into pulling this together. I think we have what a dozen vendors are involved?

Jeff Rose: We do, we’ve got 12 vendors involved. We’ve got some, our key mattress vendors in Corsicana and Serta Simmons bedding and TSI. We’ve got Malouf. We’ve got, I don’t know, a lot of our members have Wondersign. It’s a signage, endless aisle signage opportunity, they’re going to be presenting. And then on the furniture side we’ve got key vendor partners like Flexsteel and Elements and Magnussen Home. Coaster is going to be a part of it. So we have a great, great lineup of vendors that are eager to show product to retailers. And so all you got to do is go to MemberNet to sign up who all is listening. And there are 45-minute classes and it’s absolutely free for everybody.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. And now I know this is, it came together under some unique circumstances, but given the excitement around it, and I’m sure going back, we’ll look at how things went, what it was like, and is this … can this be considered an inaugural type event where you may look to repeat in the future or is it kind of take this opportunity and see how it does?

Jeff Rose: That’s a great question, Rob. And to be honest with you, I don’t know. I just, I don’t know. I mean, this is, we’re three days into registration. We bet we have over 300 members that have done this. I mean, if we get 500, 700 and a thousand members to participate in this, and then I get feedback from the vendor community saying, “This is unbelievable.” It’s definitely something that I would a hundred percent look at for in the future. I mean, Rob, what has happened over the past seven weeks is going to change everything. It’s going to change how we do our job. It’s going to change how we shop, how we go to restaurants. I mean it’s just going to change everything.

And so the question is, I don’t know. I mean, I just, I know at this moment and this time, and at the end of April, I just want our communities to feel some type of normalcy. We have no idea what’s going to happen in May, but I know for those three days, if we can give our vendor community and our membership the opportunity just to feel like they’re back in the furniture industry, looking at product strategizing, hey, will that work for me and my store? That’s all this was. But it’s a great question and I might be having a conversation in six months saying, “This is the greatest thing ever. We’re doing it again.”

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. You know one thing, I’ve taken up a lot of your time. I want to get back into –

Jeff Rose: No you’re good. You’re good.

Rob Stott: So one thing I wanted to be sure to ask and kind of close on. We talked about it a little bit, how in this … I mean it’s a trying time, a challenging time, but some of the ways that dealers and some of the vendors as well have stepped up. We always talk about Nationwide, the idea of community and coming together and giving back is always front and center. I mean, you see what we’ve done with No Child Hungry and those great partnerships. But watching some dealers like one that comes to mind in particular, I know Sweet Dreams has stepped up and did some phenomenal things in their community with using their trucks to deliver food in the community. We’ve seen some vendors, I think it was on the appliance side, giving washers and dryers to a couple of EMS outposts and stuff. So, I mean, what … And then on the vendor side too, I know a couple of our vendors, I think Serta Simmons Bedding was one they donated some mattresses.

Jeff Rose: They donated, the first act of kindness was they donated 10,000 beds to New York hospitals. You got ESI donating masks and beds as well. I mean it’s great, but go ahead. Go ahead, what-

Rob Stott: No, but I mean you, when you see that, that kind of just willingness and eagerness for a store using, going back to Sweet Dreams that might’ve been considered nonessential to still no matter, despite that fact, still doing something and opening their doors in a way that just shows that they’re trying to make a difference in their community, whether they are able to sell a bed or not. So I mean, just what’s sort of the reaction to that or are there any other stories that you can think of that you can call out?

Jeff Rose: Yeah, I mean, well first off, my reaction is especially on Sweet Dreams, those guys are amazing. Greg and Katie, I mean they just get it, but not just them. We have thousands of, within our membership that I have, I can honestly say Rob, I’ve never been over the past, I mean I’ve been with Nationwide for almost nine years now. I’m very fortunate where I get to get up every day and I love what I do. And I love being challenged by the membership. I love being challenged by the vendor community, but I just love, love working for Nationwide. And one of the main reasons that I love what I do, it is seeing our membership thrive in good times and in difficult times. And what I’ve never been more proud of my company and I’ve never been more proud of the membership during this time.

I mean, just the positivity that is coming out of just challenging times has been infectious. It’s been, it makes me want to get up and get down to the computer and say, “All right, what can I do to help this membership out?” And you know, it’s just amazing. I mean, one awesome story I’ve heard a member down in Louisiana, they had to close their stores, but they were able to go in and they did a Facebook live auction of product and people were chiming in bidding and doing that and they took those sales and they provided meals for some of the hospital staffs.

Rob Stott: That’s incredible.

Jeff Rose: And then they were matching, they matched whatever the community bought on the auction. I mean, it’s just stuff like that, it’s just like amazing and just the creative ways to help. I mean, it’s just awesome. It just speaks volumes that there’s just good people out there. I mean, that’s the main thing. I mean, there’s, we all like to do business with good people and I think we have 5400 incredibly good people in our network. And that just … it think that’s-

Rob Stott: Yeah. These members kind of restore your faith in humanity.

Jeff Rose: They do. It is unbelievable because we’ve all, I know every one of us has awakened one time during this day and they just didn’t … it was just one of those blah moments and like, gosh, and what’s going on? And then you open your computer to get to work and you hear some of these stories and it’s just like, okay, I’m ready. Let’s go. We don’t have time for it. And it’s just, we don’t have time to feel down or bad about anything. You just got to get to keep fighting and keep going.

Rob Stott: That’s awesome. I look forward to hearing more of those stories and I know they’ll continue. It doesn’t have to … it doesn’t take a quarantine or a global pandemic for the space to step up and show us true colors. It’s why it’s fun to cover and why it’s fun to talk to guys like you and our members and all that sort of stuff to kind of get a sense of what’s going on. So I know you’re a guy that’s in demand too. So this is what your second podcast in like a week? You talked to Dos Marcos guys?

Jeff Rose: Oh yeah. I love just catching up with you guys and talking and I love just spreading the good things that are going on right now because there’s a lot of just not so good things that are happening. And so anytime you can talk about some good things, some positive things just makes the world a better place, baby, that’s it.

Rob Stott: I’m glad I could find some … You could find some time in your star-studded schedule for me to chat

Jeff Rose: You know what, we don’t need this. One thing we will do, because I know we will talk again Rob, is I’m going to have to … we got to change locations for you because I just can’t keep staring at this Eagle stuff in the background.

Rob Stott: I’m sorry.

Jeff Rose: I’m so hurt. I’m a die-hard Saints fan and I’m still having issues with some of the stuff that has happened to my teams, anyway.

Rob Stott: I came down to this room just for you. Don’t worry about it.

Jeff Rose: I’m sure you did, my friend.

Rob Stott: No that’s awesome. Jeff. I, I totally appreciate it. Great chatting with you and best of luck with furniture market live, looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Jeff Rose: Thank you.

Rob Stott: Just keep kicking it, man. It’s been a lot of fun.

Jeff Rose: That’s it, baby. Just keep fighting. We’ll talk later.

Rob Stott: All right.

Jeff Rose: All right, brother. Bye.