Members optimistic about retail business heading
HFA members don’t appear to be suffering from post-holiday blues. These members and other furniture retailers who were bullish on 2019 are just as optimistic about the New Year.
A survey of furniture retailers by TD Bank found that the 45 percent (a plurality) who expected furniture sales to increase through 2019 are just as optimistic in 2020.
How optimistic? HFA member Chuck Wood owns Brite Ideas, a home-staging business in Sacramento, California, that stages new furniture in houses on the market. He’s thinking of adding furniture sales to his business in 2020.
HFA’s centennial is a celebration of our members — their voices and accomplishments, and their contributions to addressing the big challenges of the past century. It’s especially a celebration of the next 100 years and what we’ll do together to continue that success.
“We keep getting people who see what we’ve staged and they ask, ‘Hey, can we buy that furniture?’ We’ve just never had the inventory to accommodate, but the economy doesn’t show signs of slowing down, and that has me thinking maybe it’s time to get in.”
HFA member Louis Spatafore of Jack’s Furniture Center, says his Clarksburg, West Virginia, store finished the fourth quarter of 2019 strong, and he sees no economic indicators showing why that momentum can’t carry into 2020. “My customers are in a buying mood. I want them to stay that way.”
The survey found ways to make 2020 even better to a retailer’s bottom line.
The TD survey found that despite seeing the benefits, many furniture retailers don’t offer any form of financing. More than half of the survey respondents (52 percent) agree that financing programs help encourage customer loyalty and grow sales – a large jump from 32 percent in 2018. Yet 77 percent don’t offer financing programs for their customers. Additionally:
- Of those who offer financing programs, 48 percent say their customers see paying off the purchase slowly over time to be the key benefit, followed by the ability to make larger purchases (44 percent).
- One out of every four respondents who don’t offer financing didn’t even know it was an option.
One of the HFA’s most popular benefits for members is the exclusive, industry-low rates provided by our main financing partner Synchrony. The Association also offers second-chance financing through many of its Solution Partners.
Going Green in 2020
This year's biggest furniture trend? Almost half of the respondents (46 percent) predicted the eco-friendly furniture trend will build the most momentum in 2020.
HFA's Concierge Program
When Home Furnishings Association member Carson Rowh needed help finding the right software for his Ashley HomeStore in Kearney, Nebraska, he knew just who to call – the HFA’s Concierge Program. Within a few short weeks, the Association lined him up with the perfect solution.
Time is money. HFA’s Concierge Program saves retailers both.
Rowh had a problem: He needed a new ERP software program for his new store, but finding the time to research a six-figure decision while running a furniture store was proving difficult.
“I’d start the research and then something in the store would pull me away and I’d get sidetracked,” says Rowh. “I like to think I’m pretty good at multi-tasking, but, man, you can only do so many things at once. This was a big decision, and I wasn’t about to make it without having all the information in front of me. I just couldn’t seem to find the time to get all that information.”
It turns out, all Rowh had to do was call the HFA’s Concierge Program. Within weeks, he had the perfect ERP software for his store.
To the list of financing, networking and educational programs the HFA offers its members, Rowh now adds a new best benefit. “I’m a huge fan of this service,” he says. “I’d do backflips for it if I could.”
Jordan Boyst, the HFA’s Director of Partnerships, says the program, which launched last year, is the Association’s latest benefit to connect with members “and do whatever is necessary to address their needs.”
Boyst says the Association talks extensively with retailers to find out what their needs are before looking for the right solutions. “Getting our hands dirty and understanding the retailers’ pain points allows us to present them with an unbiased solution that fits their business," he says.
The way Rowh sees it, every minute the Association worked on his behalf was another minute he or someone on his staff could be out in the showroom selling furniture. “The amount of time I saved turning that research over, more than paid for my annual membership,” says Rowh.
I’d start the research and then something in the store would pull me away and I’d get sidetracked. I like to think I’m pretty good
at multi-tasking, but, man, you can only do so many things at once."
- Carson Rowh, Ashley HomeStore.
- Carson Rowh, Ashley HomeStore.
New HFA member Bill Hass agrees. When Hass decided last year to open a mattress store, he didn’t know where to start. The HFA’s Concierge Program is a big reason he joined the Association. Hass’ first store opens next month in Delano, California, but only after the HFA’s Concierge Program set him up with the right experts to help him along the way.
“I was a little lost,” says Hass. “I needed some direction with store setup, basic principles like a mission statement and a selling philosophy. I told them what I needed and they jumped right on it. I’m already a little late in opening, but I don’t know where I’d be without the concierge’s help. It’s a huge benefit to members.”
Using the HFA’s Concierge Program is like hiring a new employee – at no cost to members, says Boyst. “Whether it’s a pressing problem or something that is always on the back burner, we’ll dive in and do the research to take some of that burden off the retailer,” Boyst says.
Let’s begin with beers at the bar: How about a couple of Two Hearted Ales from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan?
Moving to our table, we’ll order salads: the Michigan beet stack, house goat boursin, cass basil and Larry Mawby “sex” vinaigrette.
Three Cats merges a dining room with a
furniture showroom and gift shop featuring Michigan items. Your dining table may be
For our entrée: Roadhouse Michigan lake perch stack, London chop house pancho sauce, Yukon mash, fall vegetables. Accompanied by a bottle of Shady Lane, a semi-dry Riesling from Suttons Bay, Michigan.
Finally, a sweet: warm Michigan cherry bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
We must be enjoying a meal at one of Michigan’s finer restaurants. Which happens to be part of the Leon & Lulu complex in downtown Clawson, 18 miles north of Detroit.
Home Furnishings Association member Leon & Lulu is one of a kind. In 2006, Mary Liz Curtin and husband Stephen Scannell converted the former Ambassador Roller Rink into a retail mecca, offering furniture, clothing, gifts and more in a 15,000-square-foot space.
Pictured is Mary Liz Curtin welcoming guests to Three Cats in Clawson, Michigan.
Curtin brought more than 20 years of retail and small business experience to the project. She’s also a consultant, speaker and humorist, amusing and informing audiences at trade shows, sales meetings and conventions with her insights about brand-building and marketing.
Leon & Lulu was an immediate success, but Curtin and Scannell didn’t stop with a reclaimed roller rink. They purchased an old movie theater next door, adding retail space and installing the Three Cats Café in 2016. In 2019, they upgraded the restaurant and dropped the “café” from its name. The upscale eatery opened in September.
“Three Cats is a collaboration between Mary Liz Curtin, co-owner of the popular Leon & Lulu boutique in downtown Clawson, and longtime Michigan restaurateur Matt Prentice,” The Detroit Free Press reported at the time.
“I have admired Matt’s food and knack for service for many years,” Curtin said in a statement. “I cannot imagine starting a restaurant with anyone else. Three Cats will make Leon & Lulu a complete destination where guests can enjoy a fine meal as well as great shopping.”
Prentice creates menus of American cuisine served on small plates – or modest-sized portions. Fish from Michigan waters is featured when available. The food is complemented by American wines, including a Michigan selection, and beer crafted by Michigan brewers.
Three Cats merges a dining room with a furniture showroom and gift shop featuring Michigan items. Your dining table may be for sale. As you eat, you’ll see shoppers browsing or visitors snapping pictures of the eye-catching decor. Old movies play on a large TV screen, preserving the theater motif. Recently, an art show provided more entertainment.
When in-store retail is all about experience, Leon & Lulu offers plenty to satisfy all tastes and appetites. It isn’t the only furniture retailer to offer food and drink on premises, but it’s surely one of the best.
Only a couple of years ago, Stan Pickett was tossing dirt with Ron and Todd Wanek and the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.
They were celebrating a great day for Mesquite, Texas, a city of 150,000 people a few miles east of Dallas. Ashley Furniture Industries had selected Mesquite for a huge economic development project. The October 2017 groundbreaking drew Ashley’s top executives as well as the governor and other officials. Pickett was mayor.
“Economic development and job creation are two of the City Council’s top policy issues,” Pickett said when he announced Ashley’s decision a few months earlier. “We could not be more proud and excited that Ashley Furniture Industries Inc., has chosen the Mesquite community to call home for their next distribution and fulfillment facility.”
Pickett could appreciate Ashley’s impact more than most. He’s in the same business, as owner of Quality Furniture & Appliance for more than 30 years. Quality and Ashley are both members of the Home Furnishings Association. As mayor since 2015, Pickett was concerned that the city was still “a little stagnant” several years after the Great Recession and needed a boost. He pushed hard to convince Ashley’s leaders that Mesquite was the right location. He was successful.
"The city of Mesquite has embraced our company and has proven to be a business-friendly environment with a strong workforce, allowing ample opportunity for growth," Todd Wanek, Ashley’s president and CEO, said at the time.
The reward was a $65 million investment in an 877,230-square-foot facility and 350 jobs, just to start. Ashley is expanding its network of HomeStores so the future looks bright.
But political fortunes are fickle. While Mesquite made good progress on several initiatives under Pickett’s leadership, the Dallas Morning News wrote in an editorial endorsing his re-election, the mayor lost a close race in November.
Pickett took defeat in stride. “I got involved in politics to give back to the community,” he said. “I’ve already been approached by several people asking me to serve on boards and nonprofits. I will continue to do that.”
He advises other furniture retailers to do the same – maybe not in elective politics but in ways that build up their communities. In the long run, that will help their businesses, too.
Now that he isn’t mayor, Pickett’s new roles will include serving as vice president of HFA’s Board of Directors in 2020, putting him on a path to become president of the association in a couple of years.
And Ashley’s facility? As expected, it’s growing quickly, with employment already reaching 650, according to Mesquite’s economic development office. That will be one part of Pickett’s legacy of service to his city.
A feature about Home Furnishings Association's retail members, legislation affecting the furniture industry and other retail news from HFA.