AFW has been providing customers with the best prices and widest selection of furniture for more than 40 years by doing things a little differently, whether that’s buying large volumes of products directly from factories or constantly working behind-the-scenes to create the best possible experiences for our customers. We sat down with some long-time AFW employees to get their inside perspective on what makes AFW unique and insight on AFW’s long-term success.
Jon Neuenschwander, Systems Director
Jon Neuenschwander is AFW’s current Systems Director and the former Director of Inventory Operations. In the 37 years Neuenschwander has been with the company, he has seen it transform from a small furniture business into a huge, multi-store operation. He believes AFW’s commitment to technology that makes the company more efficient and helps maintain a low cost point for customers is one of the key reasons AFW is unique. Neuenschwander points out that AFW President and CEO Jake Jabs isn’t afraid to spend money in pursuit of this goal, which is why AFW is “the most efficient furniture operation in the business” with the least amount of inventory problems. AFW keeps careful track of all inventory from the time it is purchased up until the point it reaches a customer’s home. While this may sound like a purely internal matter, this efficiency translates into happy customers. It gives sales associates access to reliable information about inventory, keeping them from disappointing customers with mistakes like unknowingly selling a product that AFW no longer has in stock. Keeping tight control over inventory also helps AFW keep prices low for customers because the company doesn’t have to factor in the cost of lost inventory.
On a more personal note, Neuenschwander states that “I feel that the work that I put in here is one of the reasons why [AFW] has been so successful.” As the company has grown over time—sometimes at the stunning pace of 20% per year—the technological systems the company runs on have scaled to support that growth. This has enabled AFW to consistently maintain a high level of customer service even during a period when other operations would find this difficult.
Tony Mitchell, AFW Buyer and eCommerce Director
Tony Mitchell is an AFW buyer in charge of vintage, industrial, and rustic furniture, online exclusive items, and electronics. He also oversees AFW’s online presence and manages behind-the scenes processes that impact the customer experience. Thanks to his 24 years of experience with the company, Mitchell believes that AFW’s shopping experience is what really sets it apart from the competition. He points out that unlike an impersonal online-only retailer, AFW offers a seamless online and in-store experience with people you can meet face to face. He also states that AFW has continually invested in the infrastructure necessary to create a culture of consistently meeting customer expectations at the best price.
Mitchell also emphasizes the unique culture of honesty and transparency that Jake has created, asserting that AFW strives to educate customers so that they can make informed buying decisions. The information tags AFW places on potentially misunderstood items like vintage or rustic furniture—which often features intentional cracks, dents, and chipped paint that could be misinterpreted as damage—are a prime example of this. Mitchell states that AFW would rather avoid selling an item that isn’t fully understood by the customer than sell them something that would ultimately disappoint them. This is indicative of AFW’s focus on what serves the customer—not the company—before, during, and after the sale.
Alexis Smith, AFW Buyer
Alexis Smith is an AFW buyer in charge of upholstered goods and accent pillows. In her fifteen years with AFW Smith has seen many aspects of the company before her current position, which involves travelling the world to visit furniture markets and factories to find fashionable products customers will love. She believes that AFW is unique because of “the pricing structure that we work on” with its “low margins and high volume. It’s all about passing the savings on to the customer.” She attributes AFW’s success to the fact that Jake has “established a name and a brand. Customers know that they will find great values, great selection and they can take it home today because we stock the merchandise.”
The common thread in all these discussions is the vision set forth by Jake of a business that consistently serves customers by providing them with low prices and excellent experiences. By employing efficient systems, cultivating honesty with customers, and working with a unique pricing structure, AFW has been able to uniquely and successfully serve customers for decades.