Good News for Furniture Stores

The weather for Memorial Day weekend had a negative effect on retail businesses around the country, as potential shoppers spent the weekend at the beach.

CEO of Houston-based Mattress Firm said, “Our Memorial Day event was very solid and consistent throughout the chain. It appears that the consumer is beginning to respond to our category as this recession is beginning to subside.”

Good weather was bad news for the Fred’s Beds store in Wilmington, N.C. Lisa, vice president said,”That was no surprise. The weather was beautiful and it’s really hard to get people away from the beaches.”

However, the retail stores located in the central Raleigh area had a better outcome.

Lael Thompson, chief operating officer for BroyHill Home Collections stated, “Also, while lots of people just assume that Memorial Day weekend is one of those slam-dunk weekends for retailers, this holiday along with others has become far less predictable in terms of sales opportunities. Even so, we were pretty much on par with last year’s Memorial Day sales.”

Thompson also stated that despite the lack of a specific event sale for the store, it advertised a 20% discount off the manufacturer’s prices which he believed attracted customers.

Beautiful weather took a bit of the shine off Memorial Day weekend results for Johnny Janosik, a Top 100 retailer based in Laurel, Del., said CEO David Koehler. Sales were strong the week leading into the holiday, including Friday and Saturday, but were a little behind last year on Sunday and Monday as the sun drew shoppers to the beaches.

In a promotion Johnny Janosik ran May 21 through June 7, the big categories were upholstery — motion, recliners and stationary — along with master bedding and bedroom, he said.

“Customers are still cautious but we are starting to see a move towards trading up slightly to better products, versus trading down to inexpensive starting price points,” Koehler said.

John Wanat, a co-owner of two-location closeout home furnishings retailer FWS in western New York, said the retail store had “unbelievable” traffic on Memorial Day weekend. FWS started a two-week tent sale at its Buffalo, N.Y., store that weekend to work through excess inventory to make way for new products.

While the jury was still out on whether dollar sales would beat last year, the number of furniture pieces sold during the weekend was up, Wanat said.

Memorial Day was the biggest weekend in the five-year history of I.O. Metro, the 16-store midpriced lifestyle specialty retailer based in Rogers, Ark., said CEO Jay Howard.

“The consumer was very excited and eager to buy, and buy now. We did not have a huge sale, but rather heavily discounted our aged accessories,” he said. “While we did move a lot of those, the majority of our purchases were larger furniture, so higher ticket items were selling(although they were not on sale).”

Robert Levin, president of Smithton, Pa.-based Levin Furniture, with 13 stores in greater Pittsburgh and the Cleveland, Canton and Akron, Ohio, areas, said his business was up over last year. He added that Levin did some deep discounting as well as a five-year, no-interest financing offer for its main promotion, which ran Friday through Monday.

“We were up against not overly difficult comps, but we beat it handily,” he said, adding that the holiday weekend business “helped reverse an otherwise unimpressive May.”

Asked if he sees the improvement as any indication of business to come, Levin emphatically said no.

“It’s too hard to predict right now whether it’s just a function of shoppers shopping on holiday weekends. Those generally have been strong for us,” he said. “The future is very unclear whether that is a leading indicator of any kind (of future) business. We will continue to be as aggressive as we need to be.”

Mitch Keller, director of stores for Dayton, N.J.-based Value City Stores, said Memorial Day sales “were very strong.” However, the good weekend weather didn’t make it easy on the retailers.

“We have a number of stores close to the beach and with the weather as good as it was I was initially worried that shoppers might choose the beach over shopping. But when all was said and done, we had a strong turnout with sales up a bit over last year,” he said.

Giff Gates, president of Gates Home Furnishings in Grants Pass, Ore., said business was hampered by beautiful weather, which kept people outdoors and away from stores.

“Saturday and Monday were pretty good, but Sunday was dead,” Gates said.

He added that consumers responded to a financing promotion that offered no down payment and no interest until 2012. And despite the mediocre weekend, he’s upbeat about the direction the business has taken. He said that in 10 of the past 11 months, sales have been higher than in the comparable month the previous year.

“That is very encouraging,” Gates said. “We seem to be going in the right direction.”

(Source: Furniture/Today, 06/07/10)

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