HIGH POINT — In August, DiGio Leather Sofas announced it hired industry veteran Peter Halunen as president, sales and marketing for the North American market.
Replacing Steve Lush, the new chief operating officer at Classic Home, Halunen comes to the company with many years of wholesale and retail experience.
He was most recently with Natuzzi, where he was vice president, strategic accounts, and before that was vice president, product development and merchandising at Violino.
He was previously senior vice president, sales and merchandising at Manwah and before that was president, Kuka Home North America. He also previously served as vice president, sales and marketing at Natuzzi Americas.
He comes to DiGio with a strong retail background as well, having served in executive roles at Taunton, Massachusetts-based Jordan’s Furniture, Seekonk, Massachusetts-based Alpert’s, Fort Myers, Florida-based Robb & Stucky and Pompano Beach, Florida -based Baer’s.
Halunen recently shared some thoughts with Home News Now about his newest role in the industry. Here is snapshot of that conversation.
Home News Now: Can you share with us your thoughts about the new position?
Halunen: I am extremely pleased with the support and the warm welcome the DiGio team has given me from the beginning as well as the positive reaction from so many customers and colleagues in the industry regarding my new position.
What will your main responsibilities be in your new role?
Halunen: My role is to lead the sales team for the Americas, with a primary focus at this time in the U.S. and Canada. I also will be working with DiGio President Giovanni Sforza and the team to identify trends and product opportunities best suited for the North American market. Product is my passion, and I am a retailer at heart given my years at retail starting at a young age in my family’s business and then working with industry greats Jordan’s, Baer’s and Robb & Stucky. So I learned from the best and I am hoping to use my experiences to grow DiGio’s presence.
Can you share some of the goals you would like to accomplish in this position?
Halunen: My main goal is to work with DiGio to be a retail-friendly company that provides solutions at retail in today’s challenging times. By this I mean product platforms that can drive bigger sales per square foot, as well as tools for the front line sales associate to be more successful in selling DiGio products as well as an Italian solution to the challenges in importing.
What is it you look forward to most in the new role?
Halunen: After many years working for Natuzzi and knowing their focus is on their own retail stores, I am excited to work for a quality Italian manufacturer that is solely focused on building a wholesale business. While it would be great to see the DiGio brand grow in North America, we know that the retailer is the primary brand to the end consumer, and we would be happy to ride along with the brands they built to give consumers a quality product they can enjoy for many years.
From our conversation at Premarket, it sounds like you plan to bring some of your previous retail experience in merchandising and product to this new position. Can you explain how this background will help you and the company succeed moving forward?
Halunen: As mentioned earlier, we want to develop programs that are deep in SKUs and solutions. For example we have a model called Ponce that we offer as a stationary sofa and sectional as well as a stand-alone sleeper with our awesome Italian mechanism that has been a big success at retail. We also are looking to add motion SKUs so the dealer can have the opportunity to satisfy the end consumer no matter what their needs will be. Going forward we look to develop more “programs” and less items.
What do you think are Di Gio’s biggest strengths right now? We hear that Italian leather is still a high value in the marketplace.
Halunen: DiGio has seen great growth as retailers look for solutions outside of Asian imports. With all the supply challenges over the last couple of years as well as tariffs, retailers have turned to looking for solutions. This is why we have seen such great success in our sleepers. We have not been immune to higher freight rates, but we are excited to see our freight dropping almost daily. Outside of that, being an Italian-made product using exclusively Italian leathers we offer a quality product with what I have found to be the most comfortable seating I have experienced in some time. Our team puts a lot of effort into the details to ensure we have the right proportions to ensure there is a great sit in our sofas.
What is DiGio’s big story for the October High Point Market? Can you share any details?
Halunen: We are excited to launch two new leathers as well as several other new products. We also continue to adapt our sleeper mechanism into many styles. Our newest project is a division we will be launching called “Ambiente” (last market we had a soft launch under the name Today’s Sofa). This division will focus on more aggressively priced goods both in stationary and motion and is made in our new plant in Albania. Giovanni and the team also have developed a fantastic Euro-style chair program that will offer both manual and power options and can be ordered in leather and fabric