Bejnar's Fine Furniture is competing against the big guys. Efficient warehousing and delivery does make a difference.
In a world where everyone thinks BIG, the typical USA furniture retailer sells less than two million dollars annually according to NHFA statistics. This article is a success story for a single location retailer operating in that environment.
Bejnar's Fine Furniture is in a metropolitan Detroit Michigan bedroom community, Shelby Township, an area that is booming in it's own right. The retailer is a highway location, away from shopping centers. Within ten miles, there are over 100 competitors ranging from very small to furniture retailing giants. Virtually all Bejnar's (pronounced Bay-Nar's) customers are within that ten mile radius.
The company was founded in 1918 by M.M Bejnar. His son, Henry Bejnar assumed control and moved the store to the current location in 1954. The business is now operated by the third and fourth generations, Dick Bejnar and his son, Mark. All four generations of the Bejnar family have found the business to be challenging and personally rewarding.
The business is the oldest store in the area and has a long-standing reputation in the community for service and honesty. The showroom is approximately 8,000 square feet. They are open 48 hours each week and are closed Wednesday and Sunday. This makes it possible for owners to be available for customer contact and still "have a life." Special orders represent approximately 70% of total volume.
Dick feels that most customers can see and appreciate the materials and workmanship offered by Bejnar's Fine Furniture and are willing to pay a reasonable price for superior products with service. Sounds simple, but it takes hard work and expertise to accomplish. Warehouse and delivery are strong contributors to the effort.
The warehouse is only 3,600 square feet and includes offices, restrooms and shop. The difference is the 24-foot height with cantilever racks with five levels. To accomplish the same capacity at 16 feet clear height would require 8,000 square feet. It was built in 1988 and has several unique features. Michigan's weather carries its own reputation so the building was built with foam filled concrete block with an R-38 insulated ceiling. A gas unit heater provides ample heat. The site did not permit a conventional receiving/shipping dock but there is ample maneuvering room for today's highway trucks to a 14 by 14-foot overhead door. This also allows bringing smaller vehicles inside when necessary.
Only two people are in the entire warehouse/delivery staff. If they are out on a delivery and a factory shipment arrives, receiving is done by either Dick or his son Mark. All furniture is inspected on receipt and before delivery so any factory or shipping problems are corrected before leaving the warehouse. Extra inspection and prep time is most cost effective in the long run and creates less hassle for everyone concerned. When a customer spots a problem, it has to be twice as good a repair job.
With so many customers concentrated within 10 miles, a Ford F-350 does the job nicely. The frame is low profile and the box is 16 feet with 84-inch clear height with roll up door. A pullout ramp eases handling heavy pieces. The overall profile is low enough so overhanging branches and wires are not a problem. Chrome mirrors and bumper enhances the image. A Ford Windstar is used for service.
An automatic transmission was chosen because few potential employees can handle a manual shift. Maintenance and a distraction from safe driving are reduced with the investment in an automatic transmission.
Bottom line, small can be beautiful if you pay attention to the details and work each day to build your reputation, one customer at a time. That's been the plan for Bejnar's Fine Furniture for four generations and this basic premise will go on to subsequent generations.
Competing against the Big Guys
Select the best of the best lines from other great family-run companies.
Price the products at what they should sell for, ignoring unrealistic list prices and huge discounts.
Hire the most knowledgeable staff for each department.
Respect the customer's time, promptly showing them the best choices for their needs.
Schedule deliveries within a two-hour window at customer's convenience.
Deliver the entire order in perfect condition so follow up service calls aren't necessary.
Make the actual delivery a delight for the customer.
Advertise your business with clean trucks carrying your logo.
Daniel Bolger of The Bolger Group helps companies achieve improved transportation, warehousing and logistics. Questions can be directed to Mr. Bolger care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.