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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Richard Barentine, January 28, 1999. Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Four components of the International Home Furnishing Marketing Association's mandate

Barrentine describes the four components of his association's mandate: promotion, coordination, communication, and administration. This excerpt offers some details of what Barrentine and his organization actually do before and during the International Home Furnishings Market.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Richard Barentine, January 28, 1999. Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: I'd like to make sure we get a good sense, in some good detail, of the actual detail of the work that you did. How you spent your time. If we're focussing on this period -- sort of post-'89 – [and its] tremendous growth, new challenges, internationalization, technology, the need to be certain that the infrastructure that supports the Market keeps up with the rate of growth, [I’d be] interested to have you talk about those things. Also, talk about any changes that you've seen in the size of the group that directs the Association [and] the nature of the membership perhaps, if it's essentially you see continuity without much change around the edges. Or perhaps there are some new types of faces who are participating? I don’t know. RB: Our mandate separates our responsibility into four main categories of activity. I think to answer those questions, I'm going to answer them kind of separately. Let's look at those. They are promotion, coordination, communication and administration. When you look at those four as a body of responsibility, then you must also look at those as having an internal audience that's within the home furnishings industry and this event. Then a vast external audience of these partners we have in the hospitality industry, in government, in local community organizations and those things. If I look back to 1977, that's where their problems were. They hadn't identified those four categories. They weren't communicating both internally to all of the players, and they certainly weren't communicating to the external audience. If we kind of take those, we'll just take them one at a time. The sponsor defines the event. The manufacturers are the owners of the event. It's here on behalf of their buyers. You need to promote the event. I told you the event is in a box because it can only be promoted to qualified retail home furnishings professionals. It's a wholesale market. It's never open to the public. You’re looking to promote the stature of the Market to potential exhibitors. You're looking to promote the Market to qualified retail furniture dealers, interior designers, and architects who can come to this event. You're here not to promote any one person's product, but you're here to promote the experience. What we have to do is manage access to the infrastructure. Our promotions cover discount airline arrangements. We started the Market's discount airline arrangements in the early '80s with Eastern Airlines as our first partner. It was our only partner. Then [we had] USAir. Remember, no airplane flies empty into North Carolina during Market. No airplane flies out of North Carolina empty during this market. To convince the airline industry that they should offer discounts during captive audience business periods -- peak business periods -- was a challenge. Eastern Airlines was willing to do it. Like many things, others followed, and now we have a full complement with the exception of United. United still feels, "Why should we discount it?” They don't have the market share that they used to have. They are not one of our discount partners. We have to have access to accommodations. We pioneered the use of WATTS line services. The Chamber of Commerce here in High Point has run a private home housing service for nobody knows how long. Just forever. Probably, for fifty years. It wasn't modernized. It wasn't mechanized. It was still kind of hometown. It was done on index cards. We wanted, in this effort, to tie the east and the west together to give people access to accommodations, so we instituted -- with the help of the Furniture Market Development committee, which is one of our partners -- putting those WATTs lines service in place and promoting those. We then assisted in the establishment of a hotel housing service. Where did I go to find out how to do that? [I went] right back over to Winston-Salem. [I] took a group of folks over. This is what we need to do. The International Home Furnishings Center ran the service until this Convention Bureau was formed. Then we moved it here because they get the room tax. That's what they're supported by. We promote access to hotel accommodations. [We tell folks] how to get the Market passes. We do it in the single voice of the sponsor. We provide the information to all of the publications that need it [and to] all the buildings that want to do promotions. It's consistent. You don't promote the Market without our information. You don't make up your own [promotions] because then people get confused. Critical to the success of the partnership style of business is your ability identify the concern. That's not always a problem, but it can be a concern. Then finding the logical agency to do that project, to pay for that project, and [to] convince them that it's their responsibility. That goes back to what I said about the manufacturers – [they they] didn't want simply to come in here and throw all the money that it would take to shellac these problems. They actually wanted these people to buy in. That's where we are in partnerships and that's how we use an external/internal audience. We will mail about 39,000 of these Friday. JM: Just for the tape, you're holding up the major new Market promotional. RB: We have a very precise schedule [with] repetitive behavior every six months. April Markets are promoted beginning the first of February. October Markets are promoted beginning the first of August. We all know when our deadlines are. All of this material is going to a vast external audience, as well with a letter that is called a Market Partner letter. That letter explains where we sent the promotion, who's getting it, why they're getting it, and it brings together all of our partners. Here we go. We're ready for the April Market. On this particular poster, we're spotlighting the dates to 2020. What a wonderful way to get our dates out into the corporate community. We're promoting internally and externally. We do it with a variety of publications, all having specific audiences. We track Market's economic impact. We set its dates and publicize that. We do a sheet of facts about the Market. [It lists] everything that we've talked about this morning [and] will fit on an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper. We distribute thousands of these with updated information every year to the internal and external audience. We have created a language. These people talk like I do when they say what they read off of here because I wrote all of this. It's important that the participants at the Market talk about it in current terms. They get this in a variety of ways, not all subtle. We don’t think they'll just read all of these posters. We send them a fact sheet. When they're talking about the Market, “You know, we've got people coming from 105 nations.” We even teach them that there are 192 in the world, so we know how far we are from being at the top. That's just good marketing. So promotion and communication, two of those four fit together. You're promoting the event for people who can come. You're promoting the event to people who can't come, but have a part to play and some point of pride in the fact that it's held in this area. They either earn a significant part of their income from the event or some part of their income from the event. We communicate. That language was what was missing in 1977. Nobody was saying the Southern Furniture Market. From Burlington to Lenoir, nobody said that. Now remember, I have said that we often do not say where the Market is held. That's the first thing we did in '77 was delete the names Hickory and High Point. They were flash points. They were contentious because they weren't exactly getting along with each other. We just stretched on down the road and adopted Burlington because people were staying in Burlington. We knew that Broyhill and Burnhart and Fairfield and others were showing in Lenoir. We just said, “Take the name out.” So [it became] the Southern Furniture Market from Burlington in the east to Lenoir in the west. It worked. It diffused, dampened that contentiousness between High Point and Hickory. Then when that closed down, we started introducing the name of Thomasville more into it. I used to spell them all off from Burlington to Lenoir with showrooms in High Point, Lexington, Thomasville, Hickory, Lenoir, and Statesville. We did it. We'd write it all out because the key to the partnerships was that everyone felt that they were being represented equitably. If that's a part of my legacy, it is that I have dealt with the event and its components all in an equitable way. I'm a very strong believer in integrity. I treat them all the same no matter how large the buildings are. They all get the same information. I don't believe in any kind of convoluted layered system because it will bite you. That's promotion [and] coordination. Our material now is produced is eleven different languages.