Hillsdale Furniture dismantles independent rep network

Company tells dealers it will service them directly through its new in-house customer service department

Louisville, KY — In a letter sent to customers this week (Jan. 11), case goods and accessories supplier Hillsdale Furniture said it had terminated virtually all of its independent sales representatives.

While the exact number of affected reps was not known, sources estimate that the overall independent rep network was in excess of 30. The company did not respond to Home News Now’s requests for comment by press time.

Doug Devine, Hillsdale’s chief revenue officer, told retailers in the letter that there were multiple reasons why they would now be served directly by the company’s new in-house customer service department led by Kyle Warden.

Devine said that as the market continues to evolve and becomes “increasingly more competitive,” the company felt it imperative to forge even closer relations with customers to ensure they received the best possible service to support their growth.

While crediting Hillsdale’s independent reps with being “nothing but professional” and acknowledging that “we could not have achieved the success we did without them,” Devine said the company wants its sales team to devote and dedicate 100% of their time to serving customers, something he said was “not feasible” from a rep who carried multiple lines.

However, Devine added that “for strategic reasons, in select markets only, the territory managers will continue to work alongside a very limited number of independent reps.”

A few of the reps impacted told Home News Now that their dismissals came with no warning.

“The news came out of the blue,” said one former Hillside rep, adding, “but I guess this is what can happen when private equity is calling the shots.”

On Jan. 24, 2013, private equity firm Brookside Equity Partners acquired furniture company Hillsdale Furniture from Clearview Capital and Ironbridge Capital.

Devine also used the letter to alert customers to a series of investments in technology, training and support the company made during the past 18 months.

Citing specifics, Devine mentioned the recent opening of the Hillsdale Design Center in its High Point showroom, where it onboarded a new director of design and director of merchandising.

The letter also stated that Hillsdale has added two new vice presidents: Chip Vanderford for the West and Jason Neal for the East.

In addition, the company has created three territory manager positions that are managed by Ryan Smith (Northeast), Kimber Smith (Southeast) and Kelly Hand (Plains).

Devine also confirmed that the company’s customer service team is now using the newly launched Hillsdale Sales Portal which he says will provide customers with greater self-service through order placement, locating invoices, checking product availability and running reports.

7 thoughts on “Hillsdale Furniture dismantles independent rep network

  1. That’s the first sign that they are on their way out. I remember when Thomasville did that and that was the beginning of their downfall. Without sales reps in the furniture industry , you can’t make it.
    Maybe the owners should have looked at their own management team to see why things were not working. I don’t know Hillsdale Furniture at all. But I do know that good sales reps can make a company very successful when given the chance.

  2. Well, best of luck with that strategy, it’s been tried a few times over the years. Last company I remember pulling it off was Ethan Allen, perhaps the industries next Nat Ancell is getting ready to emerge.

  3. When you have management that disregards decades of accomplishments and squanders the achievement of taking down your largest competitor, Fashion Beg Group, for a new “collections” approach that the company has already been doing for 20 years you’ve clearly picked the wrong team to lead. Spending millions on a new portal and new approach that mirrors Amazon when you can’t even print a catalog, and it doesn’t even work. In house sales that consists of 3 or 4 managers with less experience than one of the newest fired reps, there’s a problem. The arrogance is stunning to say the least. The acronym crowd has no place in the furniture industry. Regardless of who the buyers are, big or small, you need people on the ground and faces to talk to. I don’t wish them good luck as their ship has sailed. What a waste…

  4. I think this is a positive move for Hillsdale. Covid taught them many things about their business, the vulnerabilities they faced internally, challenges with the factories they worked with, their customer base and their product development needs. Change is always met with criticism, but I feel they are making changes to try and strengthen their relationships and customer service all the way around. Having a sales team that is solely focused on their business and improved ordering processes will help them better maintain their current customer base while they develop new product and categories. This will also make them more important to the factories that supply them and improve their in-stock position.
    More than likely, they are currently a limited category supplier to most of their customers. This should afford them the ability to work with and maintain their current customer base while they transition and grow to bigger and better things. I believe their transition is both calculated and well thought out.
    As a current customer we will continue to buy from them and support their vision of growth. I hope the majority of their current customer base feels the same and will continue to stick with them as they grow.

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