Upholstered Furniture a boon for stores
Upholstered Furniture a Boon for Stores
Furniture retailers have received an unexpected fourth-quarter bonus: upholstered furniture sales (i.e., upholstered sofas, recliners, or mattresses) are either running ahead of last year or are down less than they’d anticipated.
Sales of stationary and motion furniture, traditionally slow as the holidays approach, have been buoyed by aggressive retail promotions, notably one-day events. “Upholstered furniture has been strong, in contrast to our previously released overall figures that show decreases,” said Bob Blackwell, senior buyer, JC Penney.
“We have had strong double-digit gains for three weeks in November. After that, figures aren’t final but look very good. We’re promoting more, using one-day sales, but not giving it away. It’s not just the usual Christmas items that are selling, like recliners and sleepers, but other categories of upholstered furniture,” he added.
“business is healthy–it’s been tough, but we’re writing large-ticket living room later in the year than ever before,” said Alan Rosenberg, senior vice president of Seaman’s, New York. “People are buying sensible items such table and dining chair sets, the ones that show, such as living room and dining room.” Successful promotions have included one-day events, coupons and interest-free sales.
Jerry Marlin, vice president of Farmer Furniture, the Dublin, Ga.-based chain, said he’s been surprised by strong sales of non-gift upholstered furniture in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve had a strong November, not only in gift items such as recliners and cedar chests, but upholstered furniture,” he said. “October was also strong in upholstered, but it usually is. We’ve been surprised by our gains in upholstered and dining room.” The 100-store chain recently instituted television advertising in its major markets, but Marlin said results are hard to quantify.
Motion and leather Furniture
Lou Rippner, president of Compass Furniture, New Orleans, said, “Our upholstered business has been good across the board, but leather and motion lead the category. We’ve been in motion since the beginning with our Peoplounger gallery, and results have been excellent. We’re going to have out second best year in our history.”
“We’re flat in November, which isn’t bad,” said an eastern department store executive. “Motion and leather along with some promotions have saved the month. I expected worse. Margins are still holding up.”
Blackwell of Penney’s termed motion “very strong–I could probably use some more,” and cited a group from Action as a strong seller.
Many of the retailers whose fourth-quarter sales are off said they’re taking some consolation in the fact that declines have not been as steep as they’d expected. “The fourth quarter is running about 5 percent behind last year,” said Jack Brehm, vice president, soft lines, Levitz. “We’re not happy with it, but we could be running 20 to 30 percent behind. It does put more pressure on us to produce profits. Upholstered is running slightly ahead of last year, but not enough to crow about.”
Rhodes Furniture, the Atlanta-based chain, is experiencing a “difficult” fourth quarter, but noted the chain is up against a 17 percent sales gain in 1989, according to Irwin Lowenstein, president and chief executive officer.
For a more detail, look at How to Design an Upholstered Furniture Frame
“Last year, we had all that extra business from people rebuilding after the hurricane. Second, we have a very strong presence in some of the towns with military bases–Savannah, Louisville– and with the husband in Saudi Arabia, the wife and kids have either moved back with the relatives or aren’t looking to buy furniture.”
Rhodes Southern stores, notably those in Florida, have performed best, while stores in the Midwest have lagged behind.
Most retailers are looking forward to the first quarter, traditionally a strong selling season for furniture.
“January is a key month for selling big-ticket items in furniture, upholstered and case goods,” said Rosenberg of Seaman’s. “We’ll have 6 new stores coming on stream in the next 45 to 60 days and we’re looking for a strong start to 1991.”
“The first quarter home sale is very important,” said a department store executive. “They contribute a great deal to furniture results for the entire year.”