Ashley CEO Todd Wanek Urges E-Commerce During HFA Webinar

Ashley’s Wanek, left, and HFA’s Schumacher on last week’s e-commerce webinar.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

AVB CEO Jim Ristow has long stressed the importance of e-commerce capabilities in a rapidly changing retail world.

His message has assumed even greater urgency in the era of coronavirus, as homebound shoppers are shifting online at an exponential rate. What’s more, the digital habits they form while sheltering at home will remain ingrained long after the health crisis has passed, he has said.

Those arguments were strongly echoed last week by Todd Wanek, CEO of Ashley Furniture Industries. Speaking on “HFA Live Webinar,” a weekly webinar series hosted by the Home Furnishings Association, Wanek said furniture retailers in particular must offer consumers more ways to shop.

“There’s no question when the coronavirus hit, retail stores failed as a channel,” he told host Mark Schumacher, the trade group’s Executive Vice President. “If you’re in [a physical showroom only], that channel failed, and one of the things you don’t want to do is be single threaded as a businessperson and say, ‘I’m relying on one thing to determine my success or failure.’”

Related: Miskelly Credits AVB’s Transactional Website for Tiding it Over During Shutdown

Instead, he said, dealers need a diversified shopping platform that includes both brick-and-mortar and transactional websites to draw shoppers in whichever way they can.

“You’ve got to be agnostic [as] to what channel [customers] buy from,” Wanek continued. “I don’t think you can decide whether they should buy in a store or by e-commerce … If they’re going to come in through e-commerce and they want to buy a pillow, I’m going to let him buy a pillow.”

As part of that multichannel strategy, sales staffs should be able to draw customer data from their websites, he said, so they know in advance through a “unified cart” what a shopper is looking for when she visits the showroom.

The HFA, now in its 100th year, has been assisting furniture dealers during the COVID-19 crisis with a dedicated web page of Recovery Resources that includes the weekly webinar series. Dealers can sign up here for this Thursday’s discussion on “Getting Your Employees Back to Work” (Thursday, May 7, 3:00 p.m. ET), and can view previous webinars here.

Hat tip to HFA Content Editor Robert Bell.

AVB is the publisher of YSN.