Rooms To Go’s Hosein uses two Florida ports in model supply chain for top furniture retailer

By: | Issue #620 | at 09:55 AM | Channel(s): People  Industry Profiles  International Trade  Ports & Terminals  

Cindy Crawford, Sofia Vergara and Ali Hosein…

Hosein may not be quite as famous as the first two, but he, too, is a model spokesperson for America’s No. 1 independent furniture company.

Ali Hosein strikes a pose on a couch, briefly relaxing from his role as vice president of international freight and merchandising for Rooms To Go.
Ali Hosein strikes a pose on a couch, briefly relaxing from his role as vice president of international freight and merchandising for Rooms To Go.

As vice president of international freight and merchandising for Rooms To Go, based in Seffner, Fla., a Tampa suburb, Hosein speaks proudly of the supply chain he runs “like clockwork.” In an interview with the American Journal of Transportation, the longtime Rooms To Go executive talks of logistical efficiencies via both the Port of Jacksonville and Port Tampa Bay, as well as non-Florida seaport gateways; discusses the work ethic instilled in him by his father, and laments that he never finds enough time for golf.

How does use of multiple Florida port gateways add efficiencies to the Rooms To Go supply chain?

Utilizing both the ports of Jacksonville and Tampa allows us to better flow our containers into our two Florida DCs [distribution centers in Lakeland and Seffner]. With different sailing and arrival times, we’re able to, for lack of a better word, stagger the arrivals without overwhelming our DC operations.

It’s a positive thing, in lieu of all the containers arriving at one port, which would be very limiting. We’re able to work out of both ports, and that’s very helpful for operations.

Having distribution centers as far west as Texas, I believe you also mini-landbridge shipments via the West Coast; how important, in an era of port labor uncertainties and ocean carrier vicissitudes, is it to rely upon a multitude of routings as you maintain the nation’s largest furniture inventory?

It’s very important. With DCs in Texas, Louisiana, the Southeast [with the newest in Dunn, N.C., and one in Georgia] and the two in Florida, we utilize all the available lanes of shipping, to maximize service to our seven DCs. And that includes the West Coast via mini-landbridge.

With services over the West Coast, the Gulf and the East Coast, it gives us many options that will alleviate any issues if a crisis occurs at any one port. We are well-diversified in that aspect.

How does this fit with the inherent challenges of furniture industry logistics, including relatively high logistics spend compared with other consumer goods and the need to minimize potential damage by keeping down the number of times product is handled?

We ship directly to the seven DCs from the factories, with the shipments going to the specific DC per order requirements. From those DCs, it goes directly to the consumer.

Transfer of product between DCs is very minimal. Shipments are from the factory to the DC, then directly to the customer.

The focus is to get the product to the correct DC, and that helps with the impacts you just mentioned. With any furniture company or high-volume products, I think we are about as proficient and cost-effective in handling efficiency as we can be by moving the product from the factory to the DC directly to the customer.

How has the shift of much furniture industry production from China to countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia impacted the Rooms To Go supply chain?

Again, it’s all positive. With the shortage of labor and raw materials in China, it’s shifted down to Southeast Asia – Vietnam in particular and Malaysia and Indonesia – where labor is not an issue and raw materials are plentiful.

It has all worked as a positive for Rooms To Go. We have direct service from Southeast Asia into the East Coast, so there’s no effect on shipping times or lead times in product coming out from Southeast Asia trans-Suez into Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston.

Most of the East Coast product comes in via the Suez Canal. Zim [Integrated Shipping Services] and some other carriers call in the Gulf, which basically comes in through the Panama Canal, but the Suez is very important right now.

Does the Rooms To Go concept of selling whole-room packages have any effect upon the company’s logistics, and, if so, how?

Everything we do, we have done well. We started with the package concept, and there are none better at it, that goes without saying.

In fact, this year we are celebrating our 25th anniversary of our first store opening in Florida [in Orlando], and the concept of selling whole-room packages continues to be a very integral part of our business.

It’s like clockwork. You order the right product for the right places to match the right packages, and it flows very smoothly, so there are no issues there for us. It’s something we execute week after week, month after month.

OK, I’ve go to ask: Have you ever met Cindy Crawford or Sofia Vergara – whose names are on Rooms To Go’s leading collections – and, if so, what are they really like in person?

I have met Cindy. I attended a function with her and we had a group dinner. Cindy is a very beautiful, personable and accommodating businesswoman. She is a consummate professional, and we are fortunate to have her in our marketing plan.

I have not yet met Sofia. She too is beautiful, charming, charismatic and talented. Sofia is a valuable asset to Rooms To Go, and I’m hoping to meet her one day.

Who has most influenced you in your personal and professional life and why?

To me, it’s something homegrown. I would say, of course, my father. He has instilled in me hard work, pride in all you do, no matter how trivial the task may be, and to always look ahead to your destination.

That is what drives me today and has driven me for the last 25 years at Rooms To Go – just trying to do bigger and better things efficiently.

What might we find you doing in your nonwork hours, besides curling up on a comfy couch?

I love spending time with friends and family. I also enjoy going to sporting events. In Tampa Bay, we have a great hockey team [the Lightning] and a football team [the Buccaneers].

Whenever I get a chance, I love to do those things. But golf, there’s nothing better, especially with the great year-round climate in Florida.

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American Journal of Transportation

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.