D&WC: Please give a
detailed description of your company and its history.
Keith Lee, president: The CALHOOK business, that of supplying CALHOOK Sample Management Products™ to the drapery, fabric and interiors trades, began in 1980. It was originated by Marv Emerling, who continues to be a consultant out of Los Altos, CA. The business was acquired by Thompson Merchandinsing & Supply (TMS) in September 1997. The CALHOOK business had a kinship with TMS’s business, and today we offer our specialized products using the name CALHOOK-TMS™.
TMS began in 1970 supplying pricing equipment to the grocery industry and diversified over the years to include a wider selection of items for every kind of retailer and distributor including store and display fixturing, point-of-sale (POS) equipment, shopping bags, gift wrapping materials, personalized promotional items—most every type of store equipment including the SmartRegister retail computer/ cash register systems.
With 40 employees, TMS currently operates from its main location in 50,000 square feet of space in Kent, WA, in the Seattle area; Denver, CO; and Honolulu, HI, each with its own warehouse and showroom.
TMS is a privately-held company. Sales volume is not disclosed. Gerri Norris is our vice president in charge of marketing.
D&WC: Is your business computerized? Do you have a company Web site, and how is it used to communicate with customers?
Lee: The company tracks accounting, inventory, customer orders and accounts with a highly developed computer system. Two Web sites are available: www.calhook.com shows the sample management products and www.make youhappy.com (a primary TMS company theme) illustrates the broader range of general retailer products and services, which include store design products.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
Lee: Customers for CALHOOK and the broad range of TMS products are found throughout the United States and Canada.
D&WC: How many salespeople do you employ?
Lee: We have 16 trained sales representatives to assist customers with orders.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began? Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now? Are there additional areas within the industry that you would like to get involved in?
Lee: For the CALHOOK business, the customer base continues largely to be specialty designers and retailers. However, as chain stores have entered the field they have shown interest in these products as well.
TMS’s full product lines have always enjoyed success across the board with every type of retailer. Products and services remain fairly constant in the display and POS business but, of course, computer system technology has surely become a necessity for survival in the last 10 years, and so we as a company plan to continue to play a leading role in supplying and educating retailers to its benefits.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace? What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Lee: Before CALHOOKs there was no fixturing made for displaying and handling fabric samples. The CALHOOK special niche has always been sample management, a concept the company fostered from its beginning.
Today, the full line includes all kinds of floor racks, wall fixtures and specialty hangers to make samples easier to display and use, which complements TMS’s product lines that claims to be “everything you need to run your store.”
D&WC: What advice would you give to other window coverings professionals?
Lee: Diversification, exemplified by the way CALHOOK’s product lines combine with TMS’s broader-based but related product lines, has been very beneficial. That seems to be the main theme in the company’s success that other suppliers and retailers might emulate. Such a synergism helps to smooth the bumpy roads that can occur in business.
The other theme employed by TMS is simple, but highly effective. Each employee in the company is trained to ask, “What can I do to make you happy?” They know it is their job to be sure each customer is happy every time they contact TMS.
TMS newsletters, which are sent out to customers, lead off with articles targeted to help them learn more about doing good business. I publish a direct line telephone number in each newsletter so customers can get my attention on any problem or question. It’s (253) 859-7310.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Lee: We distinguish ourselves from competition by superb service. To provide knowledgeable order taking and prompt shipment, we make a point of keeping our sales reps well trained on our inventory so that they can answer questions and give the customer accurate information about the products, stock availability and shipping dates.
We never debate customers when it comes to complaints. We do make every one satisfied, no mater what. That may be our strong suit and what distinguishes us.
D&WC: Do you offer any products other than window coverings?
Lee: TMS has added a new retailer-oriented promotional product line of advertising and marketing specialties featuring name-on giveaway items such as mugs, calendars, T-shirts, rulers, employee identity items and lots more.
TMS has a complete design service for stores available, but no other home furnishing products.
D&WC: Do you educate your customers?
Lee: TMS regularly provides educational programs, and newsletters often include helpful articles to aid the storeowner. The CALHOOK line includes books and aids for that purpose, as well.
D&WC: Do you work through distributors or sell direct to the retailer?
Lee: The CALHOOK line is primarily sold direct to our customers, though there are some fabric distributors who stock our items.
6205 S. 231st St.
Kent, WA 98032
Fax: (253) 859-7300