WAUKESHA, Wis. — New company President Andrew Steinhafel is very excited to take the reins as the fourth generation to run Steinhafels Furniture.
“It’s a unique thing today for a family business to be able to get to the fourth generation,” Steinhafel said. “A low percentage of businesses get to this point where it’s almost been 90 years. It’s an incredible opportunity.”
The previous president, Gary Steinhafel, has transitioned away from the day-to-day responsibilities but will remain on the executive team and the board of directors. Andrew Steinhafel said the family members involved in the business have worked well together over the generations, which has contributed to the company’s success and growth.
“Actually, one of the things that the third generation put into place formally, that the second generation started, is that each stakeholder never votes their shares,” he said. “They decided that it needed to be a unanimous decision or they wouldn’t move forward with any growth opportunity, which often led to taking time to make the right decision.”
Steinhafel has served as vice president, partner and leader of the executive team for the company since 2013. His goal is to lead the company towards a future combining the strength of the retail stores while investing in advanced digital tools, including a new website that will debut this summer in partnership with Blueport Commerce.
“We plan to up our game with e-commerce,” he said. “This has been a big part of our success over the past year in being able to meet the customer where they are. The pandemic is hopefully a once in a lifetime occurrence, and we were relatively well-positioned for it.”
Before the start of the pandemic, Steinhafel said the company’s website was doing well, bringing in about 2% to 3% of business. But, when the company was forced to temporarily close the brick-and-mortar stores last March, the focus shifted entirely to the website.
“We knew that we had to figure this out, so we quickly added new features such as a virtual room planner and online financing,” he said. “Both have been very successful.”
While the focus is mainly on e-commerce, Steinhafel said the company does have two new stores on the horizon: one this fall coming to Downers Grove, Ill. and one early next year in Green Bay, Wis.
“We are adding two new stores in 12 months, which is quite an undertaking,” he added. “The new locations will mark the furthest south and the furthest north stores.”
The idea is to create an omnichannel experience, he said, to be able to meet the customer with products they need while blending the digital and in-person aspects. “That’s where the interesting things are happening,” he added. “How do you start online, then bring them in store, then offer them the opportunity to either buy either in store or online?”
The company is also using these new digital tools to enhance the in-store experience by rolling out iPads to all associates with full accessibility to all inventory. This allows them to walk around with the customer in-store and then check the customer out on the iPad, including offering them the opportunity to apply on-the-spot for financing, according to Steinhafel.
When you look at the statistics, he said, most customers want to come into the store and experience the furniture since it’s a considered purchase. “It’s one of the most expensive purchases outside of autos and homes,” he said.
Steinhafel firmly believes that the new technology available has been a great benefit to the entire industry and that Steinhafels needs to embrace it if it wants to continue to grow. “All the online guys have changed the expectations of shoppers,” he said. “In some cases, we are playing catch-up and need to capitalize on our unique mix of offering both in-store and online.”
The pandemic also caused the company to become much more familiar with its supply chain since it is seeing issues throughout the cycle that is hasn’t had before.
“It does speak to the importance of the partnership with our vendors in the industry, many of which have gone above and beyond over the past year,” said Steinhafel. “They have done things to secure goods and help us to be in stock as much as possible.”
He believes that the pandemic has caused a culture shift with a continued emphasis that will be put back on the home and on improving our living spaces.
The third generation of the Steinhafel family — Gary Steinhafel as well as Ellen Steinhafel-Lappe, current chief financial officer, and Mark Steinhafel, current chief operating officer and Andrew Steinhafel’s father — will remain in the same positions and on the board of directors.
Since 1934, Steinhafels Furniture has been a family-owned, locally-operated business providing home furnishings, mattresses and home décor to southeastern Wisconsin. The company now has more than 550 associates and 16 locations in throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
“I am honored to lead my family’s business, serving both our loyal customers and associates,” said Steinhafel. “I look forward to guiding the company into the future while honoring the great legacy and reputation our family has built.”