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Clint Engel

Gallery planning third store

HOUSTON - Gallery Furniture plans to open a third, 80,000- square-foot store in the west Houston area about a year from now, with an eye on making the showroom as much fun for kids as it is enjoyable for parents.
     Jim McIngvale, co-owner of the Top 100 company with his wife, Linda, said Gallery is closing on real estate for the store between Katy and Sugar Land, Texas, and will build from the ground up.
     "If they get me out of the way, we'll design a very revolutionary furniture store and try some things that are different, customer friendly, more intuitive for the customer to get around," he said. "It should be fun."
     McIngvale said the trend is away from big-box furniture stores, "but we're going to do a big box and see what happens."
     He said the project, an estimated $8 million to $10 million investment, is expected to open in summer or early fall of next year on property near West Belt Toll Road.
     Gallery has long been eyeing the western suburbs of Houston, a high-growth, "young consumer" part of town about 40 miles from the main store, an approximately 90,000-square-foot facility on the north side of Houston, he said.
     "We don't think it will cannibalize this store much," he said. "In fact, it should complement this store, if anything."
     The retailer also has a 22,000-square-foot store in the Galleria mall area on Post Oak Boulevard in central Houston. A western store, McIngvale said, will give Gallery better coverage of the market "with the same amount of media spend and the same amount of warehouse cost."
     Asked for a sales projection for the new stores, McIngvale said, "In this economy anything is going to be a blessing." He said expects annual sales for the retailer this year will be flat with 2011, when Gallery did an estimated $115.7 million in furniture, bedding and accessories sales.
     "We'd like to do $100 million out of this (new) store, but that's a homerun store, so we'll see what happens.
     "We're just going to put a dynamic store there and make sure people want to drive 100 miles to go there, like they have to this one for years."
     The retailer plans to use the same vendors for the new location, although the actual mix of goods will probably be about 40% different product - just like in the central Houston satellite store, which skews to higher price points.
     Gallery's key suppliers include Tempur-Pedic and Sealy in bedding; Texasbased furniture suppliers such as Mayo, Carlton and United Leather; Howard Miller, Stanley, Broyhill and others.
     The Katy/Sugar Land area may skew a little higher-end than the main store, but Mc- Ingvale said his main focus will be more on creating "just a family-friendly furniture store that kids love to go to."
     He didn't elaborate on exactly what's coming, but said, "We want to have the only furniture store in the world where kids cry when they have to leave."

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