They started making furniture in China, and we competed very well through the 1990s. All of this changed dramatically in 2001 when they became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Once they were in the WTO, their prices plummeted, and the bottom dropped out of the market. By that time, I had left the Bassett Industries and joined my wife's family furniture company called Vaughan-Bassett Furniture on January 1, 1983. I was over here at the time, but the whole furniture industry in wood was affected. Factories were closing left and right. Thousands of people were being laid off. There was panic. That's the only way to explain it.
In this episode of the , I chat with John Bassett III, chairman of the board of the . We talk about globalization and the effect it's had on the furniture industry, the international trade battle he waged (which was written about by Beth Macy in her book ), Bassett's book , and what entrepreneurs need to know to succeed in business today.
I recently had my first experience with Furniture USA. I normally don't like furniture shopping because its almost like shopping for a car. Sales associates all over just waiting to hunt you down. I went in on Saturday evening and was not greeted and was left to roam the store in peace. Later a gentleman, Kenny Royal, approached and asked if we had been helped, at which that time, we had not. Kenny said first of all, Welcome. Then proceeded to ask us "if its ok, I'd like to ask your permission to come back and check on you in a little bit." That was the first positive experience in the store. Second, as we were looking around Kenny then came back and asked, "since you are a guest in my house, can I offer you some water?" Again, so courteous I was really impressed by that too. I ended up having questions about some of the pieces on the floor and Kenny was very very knowledgable. The only thing that prevented me from purchasing the couch that day was I had to measure to ensure that it would fit the space I have. I then returned the second day and re-sat in all the furniture from the previous day to ensure I found the right couch. I was a little indecisive but Kenny was very supportive, helped me make the most informed and best decision and was extremely friendly throughout the entire process. I purchased the couch from them on Sunday and I can't wait to get it. He then took us to the sales desk at which point Lily finished the transaction and was very helpful and friendly and talked us through all the paperwork and again offered us something to drink. The only reason for the 4 out of 5 stars is due to changing my order from delivery to pick up. I was told in store I could pick up on Tuesday but when I called to confirm, I was told that was not possible. I then had to change my reservation with Uhaul 3 times because when I called back to confirm that was correct, I was told it was ok to pick up on Tuesdays. So there was a bit of confusion that changed my plans 3 times before we got it back on track. Overall, I would definitely shop again at Furniture USA but most importantly I'd make sure to work with Kenny again on my next purchase!
Instead, in the Green Mountain State you’ll see the real thing: a tradition of simple (but precise) elegance in furniture making. Fine quality construction, high value raw materials, local skilled labor, fair wages, human rights and environmental responsibility are hallmarks of Vermont’s fine furniture industry. The that comes out of Vermont has a certain charm, grace, delicacy and simplicity reflecting those values and it just cannot be duplicated by mass production.