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Gardner-White Furniture to open test stores in Best Buy

WARREN, Mich. — Gardner-White Furniture will open two test stores within Best Buy stores in greater Detroit this year, building on its relationship with the consumer electronics powerhouse while casting a wider net for furniture and bedding sales.

In a first for the industry, the Warren, Mich.-based Top 100 company is taking a 12,000-square-foot space in the Twelve Oaks Mall Best Buy in Novi, Mich., and a 10,000-square-foot space in the Bloomfield Hills locations, said Gardner-White President Steve Tronstein.

Both stores will open this fall, carrying a combination of bedding and living room furniture at promotional and middle price points. Tronstein declined to disclose the terms of the arrangement or detailed sale projections, but said the furniture retailer is looking for the new format to do at least $400 a square foot.

"It's an opportunity to reach out to a large group of consumers we're not currently serving," Tronstein said.

He added that with the bedding category in particular, Gardner-White will be exposing its lineup in a high-traffic environment to consumers who may need new bedding but have yet to start shopping for it in stores. The store-within-a-store format will feature 30 to 40 bedding sets from Serta, including its iComfort line, Tempur-Pedic, Simmons Beautyrest and Restonic.

Sources for some 20 to 30 stationary and motion upholstery groups on display will include Futura Leather, Simon Li, Man Wah/Cheers, Ashley, Klaussner, Fairmont Designs, Lifestyle Enterprise, Corinthian and Lane. The stores also will feature occasional tables, entertainment centers, lamps and area rugs for complete living room presentation, Tronstein said.

With the deal, Gardner White is furthering its relationship with Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy. In 2009, the home furnishings added Best Buy walls of HDTV's in all seven of its Detroit area locations. The retailer buys the TVs from Best Buy and offers them to consumers as part of home furnishings room packages, along with Kindle Fire tablets, game systems and other electronics from Best Buy.

Tronstein said that after three years, it "continues to be a very successful program," adding, "They're great partners."

He declined to say how long the two retailers will test the new format or what the next step would be if it proves successful. Best Buy operates more than 1,100 stores in the United States.

Gardner-White is No. 59 on Furniture/Today's Top 100 with estimated furniture, bedding and accessories sales of $95 million last year, up 6.7% from 2010.

The retailer, celebrating its 100th year in business this year, has begun moving inventory into its new 455,000-square-foot distribution centers, corporate office and outlet store complex in Auburn Hills, Mich. Tronstein said Gardner-White will begin delivering from the facility in two weeks. The retailer will move into its new corporate office in August and opened the attached 90,000-square-foot outlet in August or September.

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