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Strong start for Hooker
Marcia Collins (left) of Martinsville, director of market resources for Hooker Furniture, and Kim Shaver of High Point, N.C., marketing and public relations consultant, look over materials in the innovation lab in Hooker’s headquarters on Commonwealth Boulevard. The wall monitors display company videos, analytics and other information as fed by the iPads on the table. (Bulletin photo)
Friday, June 6, 2014
By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer
Hooker Furniture Corp. is off to a strong start in fiscal 2015 and is well-positioned to capture more market share, according to its president.
Hooker President Mike Delgatti, speaking at the company’s annual shareholders meeting Thursday at the company’s headquarters in Martinsville, said he based his optimism on several factors.
They include products, marketing and distribution strategies and practices; Asia suppliers as well as a warehouse in Vietnam that will serve large customers, allowing them to bypass some domestic shipping and save money; and a leading portfolio of brick-and-mortar dealers as well as a fast-growing e-commerce channel, he said.
Also, Hooker’s financial strength “allows us to continue to invest in growth initiatives. It also gives dealers peace of mind,” something they have not always had with other companies during recent volatile years, Delgatti said.
Also Thursday, Hooker announced first-quarter 2015 results. It had net sales of $61.4 million and net income of $2.8 million, or 26 cents per share, for its fiscal 2015 first quarter. Net sales were up 9.1 percent and net income was up 31.9 percent compared with the sale period in 2014. (See story, Page 6-B)
For fiscal 2014, Hooker had net sales of $228 million, net income of $7.9 million and earnings per share of 74 cents. That compared to fiscal 2013 figures of $218.4 million in net sales, $8.6 million in net income and earnings per share of 80 cents.
Paul Toms Jr., the chairman and chief executive officer of Hooker, recapped fiscal 2014 for shareholders. Among the accomplishments he listed for the year were increased sales across three divisions (Hooker Furniture, Sam Moore and Bradington-Young), improved core profitability, the launch of two new strategic initiatives and a major corporate innovation initiative, and investments in technology and processes.
He noted that Alan Cole retired as president of Hooker Furniture and called Cole’s contributions to the company “akin to Clyde Hooker (Jr.),” who was president of Hooker Furniture Corp. in Martinsville for 40 years.
Cole’s retirement opened up several opportunities for staff additions and promotions, Toms said, including Delgatti.
H. Contract and Homeware are the two strategic initiatives launched in 2014. H. Contract began in April and it was approaching the break-even point by the end of the year. It produces furniture for upscale senior living facilities, and the company is hoping for $4 million in volume in 2015, Toms said.
Homeware was introduced to the wholesale market last August and in retail markets in November, according to Johne Albanese, vice president of marketing. The e-commerce website offers ready-to-assemble furniture using a new locking system. He showed a video of one table that can be converted from a coffee table to a desk to a dining table in less than 30 seconds.
Albanese noted that Homeware is available on several websites such as wayfair.com, and it is being added on amazon.com and target.com.
Hooker also is moving from print advertising to all digital because more than 90 percent of furniture consumers use the Internet at some point during their purchase, Albanese said, whether it is to research products, confirm a purchase or some other action.
Hooker is adding visualization to its website to enable a visitor to plan a room, drape upholstery fabric on a piece and chat with a customer service representative, he said.
Hooker also has begun a corporate-wide focus on innovation, called “i2i” or Ideas to Innovation. This program solicits ideas from employees and works to bring the most viable ones to fruition. Initially, 25 ideas were submitted and 19 were deemed viable enough to advance to the next level of development, Albanese said.
To encourage that, the company has created an innovation lab in its headquarters where employees can meet, discuss and research ideas. The modern decor is a backdrop to a high-tech conference room with high definition video-conferencing capability, other areas for collaboration, white boards and wall monitors.
“There probably has never been a time when it was more important to be innovative all the time,” Albanese said, explaining that competition now is global, manufacturers have become retailers, and the customer expects a company to be sharper and smarter.
The company also invested more in systems and processes than Toms said he could remember in the past. Its goal is to have the companies’ systems integrated so they present one face to the customer, he said, adding that he hopes they will be on the same platform by the end of the year.
New software has been purchased in the areas of product development, forecasting, sales force automation, inventory management and others, he added.