Sales agents play a vital role in the furniture industry, acting as invaluable conduits between suppliers and retailers, and boasting a depth of experience that can only be derived from representing various, cross-sector accounts. In this article, Furniture News meets Mark Kreamer

Describe your approach in five words

Considered, informed, dependable, energetic, experienced.

Why/how did you get into this line of work?

I started in retail furniture as a salesman in the 1980s, and quickly identified that a life on the open road was for me. Whilst working in the store, I had recognised that, of all of the products we displayed in the shop, the ones that sold better and with more confidence were those where we had a regular contact with the manufacturers’ representative. 

What have been the high and low points of your career to date?

I have never been one to get too carried away by high points, as these are often circumstantial. Equally, this pragmatism means that I don’t get too many real low points either. With that said, I do get a tremendous thrill from taking a retailer from being a prospect account to being a fully fledged stockist that benefits from steady repeat orders with one of my manufacturers.

How can retailers make the most of your services?

A retailer working with a manufacturer is definitely a partnership. And by engaging in open dialogue and really getting behind the product, we can hope to maximise the true repeat potential of a product. The retailer’s interest and knowledge of any particular item will result in increased sales. Also, a better understanding of their suppliers’ strengths and weaknesses will overcome many challenges that may occur down the line.

… and how can suppliers working with you achieve the best outcomes?

I have found, over the years, that buyers like to see a clear and simplistic presentation of any given supplier’s wares. Nothing works better than being able to show an up-to-date image with clear pricing alongside it. If I can present the features and benefits of the product in such a way that it takes little time for a retailer to comprehend, then it stands to reason that in turn the retailer will be able to re-present this information to their customers, when meeting their specific requirements.

Are you seeing anything going against the industry grain right now?

Something that I have begun to see in the past year or so is suppliers looking into D2C. Some have their own websites, sometimes through a third party they own, and others are looking at the retail partner route, whereby the retail price is fixed and the retailer earns what is, in effect, a commission on sales leads they generate. The supplier generally is offering DHD, so there is little retailer involvement outside of the store display and sale. 

How do you spend your free time?

For the past 20 years I have been getting very marginally better at road cycling (yes, another MAMIL, see November’s Furniture News!), culminating in riding up Mount Ventoux. 

My wife (of 30 years) and I are very fortunate to have family living in that area of France, and we spend as much time there as we can. We have two daughters – one a barrister, and the other a teacher. My football team is Charlton Athletic, where there always seems to be something interesting happening (sometimes it’s even on the pitch!).

What’s the secret of your success?

I am not sure that success is a secret, but I have tried to work with retailers and understand their points of view. The retailer has a very tricky customer base nowadays, one that can visit the store armed with a smartphone and attempt to dictate terms and conditions. If I can help the retailer overcome as many objections as possible, then I have given them the best opportunity to make that sale.

Mark's current agencies are The Old English Bed Company, Digiò Leather, Swyft and Nordic C. Mark is looking for a bedroom furniture manufacturer to represent.