The New Chairman's Challenge – Building Back Our Business

HIGH POINT, N.C. - "Helping our retailer members get back to their level of pre-COVID health is my number one priority," said Harold Hudson, president of Summer Classics Private Label and incoming Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Casual Furnishings Association. "Our strategic initiatives for 2021 and 2022 will promote their recovery and compel more retailers to join as they recognize the value of this dedicated support. We'll continue to create and enhance the networking, educational and philanthropic opportunities that make the ICFA so vital to professional success for every segment of our membership."

Harold's illustrious industry career includes 29 years with Summer Classics and active membership and board positions with ICFA as well as the Hearth Products and Barbecue Association. He has served on the ICFA nominating and executive committees last year and was among the self-named "Gang of Five" who researched and facilitated the weighty decision to move the annual Casual Market trade show from Chicago to Atlanta in 2023. "Our team represented a good mix of members. Each worked hard, traveling to the sites and carefully considering all the proposed options to make the best decision for our organization," he said.


Hudson

In his 29 years at Summer Classics, Harold has served as controller, operations manager, vice president of sales and now president of Summer Classics Private Label. "Our 'hybrid' business model gives me a unique perspective on the relationship between manufacturers and retailers. I understand the challenges facing both in the best of times. In 2020, like all the other brick-and-mortar retailers, our sales were impacted by the pandemic. Our company-owned and licensee stores have maintained their recovery by implementing best practices, including ongoing education and receptiveness to change," he remarked.

"Well-trained, highly effective sales teams are crucial to any retailer's success,” he continued. “The ICFA recently conducted a survey that indicated this is a concern and area for improvement across our membership. This year we'll start developing training specifically tailored for casual furnishings sales associates, and the timing couldn't be better. This will be a valuable tool for orienting new associates and will serve as a refresher course for experienced salespeople whose skills may have become rusty during business slowdowns."

Under Harold's leadership, expanding educational opportunities will continue to be a priority for the Board. "Although our 2021 Educational Conference was canceled, we'll more than make up for it with 'Innovate and Elevate' scheduled for February 14-17, 2022, at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando," he said. "As anyone who has participated in the four previous educational conferences will agree, you don't want to miss the world-class speakers, exceptional workshops and fabulous social events in gorgeous venues."   

Harold praises the Richard Frinier Design Scholarship for creating a way for the ICFA to recognize those college students whose outstanding design talent position them as leaders of the next generation of our industry. "Richard and his wife and partner, Catherine, have built a significant legacy with this distinguished scholarship. My goal is to attract more generous benefactors so we may increase the number of scholarship recipients to more than one student per year."

The ICFA's enduring support of the City of Hope is another point of pride for Harold. "Two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the campus in the Los Angeles area with other board members. Until then, I didn't grasp the enormous reach of this renowned hospital whose research and treatment protocols advance care for those who have cancer, diabetes and other chronic, life-threatening diseases. I saw firsthand the miracles they are achieving. I anticipate we will seek ways to expand our philanthropic efforts for this well-deserving institution in the years ahead," he said.

Harold blames COVID-19 for robbing members of the many benefits of networking in 2020. "The pandemic drastically limited our in-person meetings," said Harold. "We will be so grateful for the opportunity to mix and mingle when we can get back together. I have countless examples of quiet moments of connection during ICFA events that resulted in longstanding relationships and close friendships. Whether it's working out issues with vendors or sharing business concerns with peers, you can't replicate the impact of those in real-life meetings on the phone or through emails."

Harold’s wife and daughter graduated from the University of Alabama, so he was “forced” to be a 'Bama fan. Given the fact they have won 17 national championships that is easy. Harold grew up in Muscle Shoals, Ala., and graduated with a degree in accounting from the University of North Alabama in Florence. He and Amy, his wife of 28 years, have two grown children. His son, John, is a sales executive and manager of sponsor relations with Bassmaster, and his daughter, Emma, works in small business sales at Dell Computer in Nashville.