A conversation with Caroline Hipple

Home News Now talks with the new chief creative officer of Hooker Furnishings about her goals and priorities in the new position

This week, Hooker Furniture ramped up its executive team naming industry veteran Caroline Hipple to the newly created post of chief creative officer.

To better understand her new role, HNN’s Ray Allegrezza sat down with Hipple to do a deep dive regarding her joining Hooker, what her role entails, what she hopes to accomplish, both short and long term and more.

HNN: Congratulations, Caroline. How does it feel to have joined Hooker Furniture?

Hipple: I am excited, thrilled and energized. For me, this is a remarkable, once-in-a-generation opportunity to take this venerable company that’s 100 years old this year and to look at all it has done. Now, with this great team, and the tools of technology and coordination, our goal is to help take a great company to an even higher level.

Initially, how do you plan on doing that?

Hipple: Our biggest asset is our people, and this amazing team has a compatible goal, which is to be an even better and productive resource to our customers. So initially, it is like looking through a kaleidoscope and by changing the perspective just a little bit you can sharpen the focus and enhance the clarity. But the best thing is that all the tools, the people and the technology are here.

What does that look like on a more granular scale?

Hipple: Earlier on, before the internet and social media, brands were run as separate divisions. But today, the goal is to reassort our lines and take the extra steps to enhance the coordination and cohesiveness of all the products into compelling lifestyles that are targeted to the end consumers that our dealers and designers and partners are trying to sell to and satisfy.

Drill down some and tell me how you and your team will do that.

Hipple: Our strength is the depth and breadth of our lines. So, we can make statements by creating moods, statements and lifestyles that are compelling, both from a color standpoint but also from a merchandising and storytelling standpoint. We can blend our beautiful leather upholstery with our case goods and accent lines to tell unlimited stories.

Our goal is to create a story that relates to the consumer today, fully fleshed out with case goods, accents, lighting and upholstery from all the divisions. My job is going to be to put the structure in place. With these talented people working together, our goal is to celebrate the individuality of the legacy brands while showcasing how cohesively they work together.

 What else is a priority as you settle in?

Hipple: Another thing we really want to help facilitate is product education. You know selling case goods is a little different than selling upholstery. So, making sure we have all the support for all our different offerings is critical.

Hooker is active in so many categories — case goods, upholstery, outdoor, leather, lighting and accessories. How do you get your arms around all of those and create a cohesive, collaborative merchanting program?

Hipple: I know you know that Pathway to Profit was about building the culture, so it starts there … finding your North Star. Once you do, you reenvision and create the most compelling lifestyle statements by, for example, taking the best from Bradinton Young, the best from HF Custom and so forth. You also create that collaborative merchanting program by doing research to truly understand who our customers are and what they want. You’ve always heard me say that a supplier must be a tool kit. As manufacturers, our job is to be a toolkit for the retailers and designers.  

As you develop and execute this cohesive program how do you see that impacting overall sales?

Hipple: The goal is to certainly grow ourselves and grow our earnings through compelling offerings.

What about short- and long-term goals?

Hipple: Short term, we are newbies, so we must do our research, we have to go to all the divisions, meet with all the merchants. We are having some big meetings together which will allow us to establish a communication architecture. People can give information and receive information on a regular basis and then clarity of goals happens, and we work through those goals. Long term, we are going to collectively come up with three to five big ideas based on input and vision from all our divisions, then execute them.

What do you think your biggest challenge may be?

Hipple: The biggest challenge may be communication because this is a big company with lots of moving parts, lots of product categories and lots of customer service. It’s not like we can just close the door and say OK, we are going to reimagine everything and reconfigure every plant. That’s not how it works. There are times when you really have to change the propeller while you are flying the plane.

What do you see as your biggest opportunity?

Hipple: I guess our biggest opportunity is to ask, ‘Has anybody ever done it this way?’ That is our opportunity because we have the right products, the right people and that gives us the opportunity to create magic — magic in the form of the product, the merchandising, the relationships between us and our dealers and the magic in the stories that you tell. This business is a marriage of art and science. The art allows us to create products that consumers want in their homes, so you must solve the beauty aspect of what we do. But you also must be practical and solve the intellectual questions about price and styling and specs and so forth. When you pull them together, you’ve created the magic.

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