We’ve gotten such positive feedback on our Industry Rockstar profiles and are so happy about that. We love our brand partners and the amazing personalities behind them. Last week we told you about Stephen & Anne Jensen from Maxwood Furniture , and we couldn’t help but go home and play with Legos after reading all about them!
The Latest Industry Rockstars:
Tim & Ashley Newton, Watermark Living
This week, meet our favorite couple from the outdoor furniture world, Tim & Ashley Newton, Watermark Living. They touch so many areas of our industry, but most importantly, they’re truly good-hearted people.
Having been in the industry on the retail/buyer side, what is it like being on the MFR side and introducing a new brand at HPMKT?
We have always manufactured product. Our roots are in rattan, manufacturing and importing it, and we manufacture our own cushions, so we have been doing light manufacturing in the U.S. for 40 years. Operationally speaking, there is no difference. We’re trying to make great product that has a great story and meets consumer demand for furnishings that can withstand the harsh environment that’s unique to where we happen to be located.
That said, as retailers we sort of slipped into the wholesale arena due to requests from other retailers. Long before the age of the Internet and everybody competing with everybody else, retailers were much more regional. In other words, a retailer in Georgia didn’t compete with a retailer in Florida, and there was much greater sharing of ideas. Retailers would get together and talk about what was working for their stores and what wasn’t. And a lot of that happened at industry conferences that took place in Florida, and while they were in town, other retailers would visit our stores and ask, ‘Where did you get this from? I’d like something like that for my store.’ When we were designing product, we were simply filling voids we saw in the industry for our own stores. We never really thought about it as something we would sell to other retailers.
All these years later, being a retailer and a manufacturer creating products for other retailers makes us very empathetic. We understand the needs of independent stores and we know how important it is for them to be the authorities in their marketplaces. We understand that they have to differentiate to survive.
What's it like working with your spouse in this industry?
Personally, I love it. I think it’s really special when your life goals are intertwined. There’s obviously a lot of pressure in a family business because both of our lives are tied to it, but if we sink we sink together, and if we swim, we swim together. Lots of people love their spouses, their contributions to the family and the relationship they have with them, and they have respect for them on a number of levels, but they never really get to see how they spend the other half of their lives, which is at work. I’m attracted to passionate people, so I think I would actually feel I was kind of missing out if I was not able to share my passion for what I do with my other half. Along the way, I’ve learned to respect my husband Tim in ways that I would never have known existed if we didn’t work together, if I didn’t see him working with other people, designing product, making tough decisions and working out solutions. I really see it as a privilege.
Tell us about your philanthropic work with All Children's Hospital in Florida.
We’ve always done ‘stuff,’ whether it was working with the local sheriff’s department when they’re trying to get a domestic abuse victim out of the house and settled somewhere else, or the Veteran’s Association. We get a lot of requests and it’s hard to say yes to everything and we had to start saying no sometimes. So last year we decided that we really needed to make a more coordinated effort. We’d been silently working with All Children’s all along, and while we realize that a lot of really terrible things happen to really great people, a lot of bad things happen because they made a bad decision. But children don’t have a choice; they don’t get to choose the lives they start with. All Children’s is local to our stores and they have a wonderful reputation, so we’ve begun donating a percentage of all of our delivery fees every quarter. We don’t make a big deal about it, there’s just a little sign in our stores that lets people know that a percentage of their fee will be donated. The hospital includes us on their radio telethon and a lot of people on our team volunteered for that, so it’s become a fun marriage and a wonderful way for employees to get involved.
What product(s) are you most excited about having in your showroom in October?
We’re excited about variety in aesthetic with smaller-scale, shelter-back silhouettes for residential and commercial spaces, and at the other end of the spectrum, larger, woven pieces that integrate with our PoliSoul™ timber with really high-back comfort. We’re different in that everything we design integrates with other pieces in our line which allows for a more eclectic approach to decorating outdoor spaces. People don’t want to walk into a store and buy everything from one collection and then plop it in their living room. Those days are over, and consumers much prefer to collect things they love over years. It’s also becoming more important with open-plan design, where the outdoor space needs to flow seamlessly from the indoor. Our approach makes it easy for designers to help their clients achieve the look they want.
What showrooms do you always make a point to visit?
I love the accessories showrooms at Market. I think the decorative accessories companies are the most innovative and take more risks in what they present in terms of color palette, mix of materials and themes. Part of that may be because they are a little quicker to market, but those showrooms are always exciting. They really do a brilliant job of telling a lot of stories in a small space.
Join Watermark Living for a special panel designed just for our Market Insiders. It's going to be a provocative and fast-paced panel of independent retailers who'll share their insights into what consumers want now. Ideal for those already capitalizing on the fast-growing outdoor category! Moderated by Norman Hamilton, former publisher of Casual Living.