Welcome to segment two of our mini-series—A Brief History of NBF. In this article, we’ll touch on some of the major events that took place between 1985 and 1995 that shaped National Business Furniture’s future, helping to make it what it is today. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out segment one of this series, which covers the company’s start in 1975 through 1985.
The New Marketing Techniques
In the late 80s and early 90s, National Business Furniture leaders inventively utilized evolving marketing processes within the print media industry in an effort to connect with customers outside of the existing catalog distribution. From newspaper inserts and tabloid-size direct mail periodicals to miniature catalogs of targeted product lines, NBF stayed on top of emerging trends, always staying a step ahead of the competition. Participation in cooperative catalogs with other mail order companies was tested, and NBF eventually developed a descriptive newsletter that showed customers the vast furniture expertise they could expect from us.
The Company Acquisitions
During this decade, NBF acquired three other businesses, all of which were focused on some aspect of the furniture industry. First, a Massachusetts-based business by the name of Office Furniture Center was acquired in 1985. This company, which had a print catalog as well as showrooms in Boston, Nashua, Chicago and New York, brought a 25-person outside sales team to National Business Furniture. The OFC catalog was assimilated by NBF’s corporate office and distributed through 1991.
In 1989, NBF acquired yet another catalog company, this one called Factory Direct Furniture. Factory Direct Furniture advertised “Guaranteed Lowest Factory Prices,” which was a huge sales vehicle for NBF at the time. Production of the FDF catalogs was assimilated by NBF’s corporate office and distributed through 2002.
In 1990, NBF acquired a leading church and school furniture catalog company called Dallas Midwest. This purchase offered an established headquarters for new regional sales in the southwestern part of the United States and an expansion of the general mailing lists for the other catalogs. In addition, the company had a firm footing in the sale of furniture products to the church market, a lucrative customer base that had been previously untapped by the other NBF companies. Dallas Midwest remains in production today both in print and online, and it is still widely considered to be one of the low price leaders in the church and school furniture industry.
The NBF Stoplight
If you pay a visit to NBF’s Milwaukee headquarters today, you’ll notice a strange and striking piece of decor as you walk down the rows of offices. Randy Farrah, NBF’s VP of Merchandising, is the proud keeper of the NBF Stoplight—a 25-year-old symbol of NBF’s commitment to top-notch customer service. The stoplight program was developed by founder George Mosher to be used as a simple tool for communicating a visiting supplier’s standing with NBF. Before a manufacturer comes in for a meeting, they are judged based on a long list of elements on our stoplight scorecard and then given a green, yellow or red rating. A supplier with great products and superior service is considered a green light, which is the level that all manufacturers aim to achieve. Yellow and red light suppliers are typically given a cautionary warning to improve their status before their products are removed from the NBF offering. The NBF light system is still proudly used today.
From innovation in marketing to a dedication to the best quality products and service, not much has changed over the last few decades. Out with the old and in with the new may be a necessary motto in some avenues, but here at National Business Furniture, we’re proud of where we came from and where our hard work and innovation has taken us.
Stay tuned next month for the third installment in our brief history series!