All in the family: Mark, Jason and Jessica Phillips on what works and what doesn’t in the home furnishings business

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HIGH POINT — The Phillips Collection showroom features arguably one of the most distinctive product selections at market with a mix of furniture and décor bound by an eclectic signature aesthetic, curated by a family leadership team that includes Mark and Julie Phillips as well as their children, Jason and Jessica.

At the conclusion of the recent High Point Market, three out of four of the Phillips family spoke with Furniture Today about their take on the current business environment as well as how they are planning for the future.

Furniture Today: First, how would you characterize this High Point Market? Busy? Back to normal? Enthusiastic? Optimistic?

Jessica, Mark and Jason Phillips in years gone by.

Mark Phillips: I though market was busy, not yet back to normal, and cautious rather than optimistic.

Jessica Phillips: Market felt enthusiastic, lots of familiar faces that came with genuine hugs. There was also an encouraging amount of first-time visitors to High Point, as well as newly opened accounts. We always love hosting customers with our daily Southern Hospitality food and drinks, and our showroom was packed. We also had a great deal of people visit our warehouses right down the road from market.

Jason Phillips: The energy was palpable, and we had a great show. Back to normal would be inaccurate but optimistic certainly fits the bill. 

FT: Did you see Top 100 retailers, boutique retailers, designers or all of the above at this market?

Mark: We saw all three. Our strength has always been with designers and boutique retailers, but it seems like top 100 retailers are also paying attention to our leadership and sense of style and we are designing many more programs with them as we continue to grow.

Jason: Designers were in full force at market, as were boutique retailers. It was the largest stores that had less open-to-buy, but we were still pleasantly surprised by their numbers.

FT: What is one thing you would change about markets?

Mark: Change the communication. This must be friendly, concise and 21st century. All doors should open like Paris and Milan. Signage should be clearer, and most important, cell service needs to be boosted. My father always said, “Practice the art of the possible,” and this might not be possible, but let’s put it out there.

One thing that would be invaluable would be to upgrade the badges to rfid. Let’s make the registration process modern and not invasive. Our company has invested in the software that allows us to instantly import our visitors as customers so we can start the order immediately. This shouldn’t have to be our responsibility if the data was more complete and retrievable.

Jessica: Vetted customers, buyers, retailers, etc., are invaluable. This market is to-the-trade, and that helps us.

Jason:  I think we’d all love it to end on a Friday so we can go right into the weekend! Nothing worse than wrapping up on a Wednesday and not being able to sleep in!

FT: Reflecting on the home furnishings industry at large, what do you think is going to be a “must” with regard to product for the Millennial and Gen Z consumer when it comes to furnishing a home?

Mark: We have to come to grips with the mentality and expectation of these ascendant buyers.  They get their info digitally on their phone, and we have to be there with a first rate understanding of this. They are not buying these pieces as heirlooms and permanence takes on a different meaning. We need to make sure our offering includes properly sized pieces that exude the quality and difference they are looking for.

Jason: Technology is the future of our industry. While a computer cannot replace the in-person experience, we all need to be aware that things have moved online in a big way. Embracing and investing in technology has paid off for us in many ways. The way we access our data, images, inventory and customer history has a big effect on how our brand is perceived by stores, designers and consumers.

FT: What is your company doing well to tell its story to an omnichannel audience (digital/social/print)? How are you planning to improve in 2023 and beyond?

Mark: I have made the brilliant decision to get out of the way of my tuned-in staff. Jason and Jessica Phillips understand the way their peers are reached and influenced. Pursuant to that we have doubled down on great photography and are fully embracing the digital transformation facilitated by software from Step-Up Today.

We now mine data, reach out to customers in an automated and tailored way, and empower our reps with seamless live inventory and support. Speeding up all processes and automating repetitive tasks has allowed us to test and monitor and refine our omnichannel marketing.

Jason: We take omnichannel very seriously. Knowing that our customers interact with us on different platforms and that each requires a specific recipe for success is key. What we share on Instagram and TikTok has a different tone than what we say on our website and in our catalogs. We’re still storytellers, however the message tweaks to fit the audience.

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