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  • Clint Engel

RoomPlace, Gardner-White form merchandising, marketing alliance

CHICAGO — The RoomPlace here and Gardner-White of Detroit have formed a merchandising and marketing strategic alliance, aiming to strengthen their positions in their respective markets.

While the two Top 100 companies did not allude to it in a joint press release, the move comes as Warren, Mich.-based Art Van Furniture plans to enter the Chicago market this summer.

In the release, the two noted that they are both family-owned business, both celebrated 100 years in business last year and that they "will join forces in purchasing and sharing of best practices in order to build upon their leadership positions in the markets they serve."

Lombard, Ill.-based The RoomPlace operates 20 stores in greater Chicago and had estimated sales last year of about $150 million, according to Furniture/Today research. It plans to open its 21st store in Carmel, Ind., soon. Gardner-White operates 10 Detroit-area showrooms, including two inside Best Buy stores, and had estimated furniture, bedding and accessories sales of $100 million in 2012.

"The multi-generational relationship between our families has definitely inspired this alliance," RoomPlace owner Bruce Berman said in the release. "Our companies have shared similar journeys and because of that we hold many of the same values and goals as not only businesses but as active members in our communities."

Gardener-White President Steve Tronstein said the two retailers are "eager to learn from each other to grow and expand our presence in both of our respective markets.

"We are leveraging our 202 collective years of experience, knowledge and expertise in the buying and marketing arena with this alliance. Both Bruce and myself are positive this relationship will lead to a brighter and bigger future for both companies," he said.

Neither addressed Art Van - with an estimated $515 million in sales at its Michigan and Indiana stores last year - which Gardner-White has competed with for years. But in interviews with Furniture/Today, they said the move shows combined strength as the two retailers head to this week's High Point Market and shop for new, exclusive product, and that the two already have a lot of supplier overlap.

Among the suppliers the two share are Corinthian, Man Wah/Cheers, Lifestyle Enterprise, Ashley, Simmons and Tempur-Pedic.

Tronstein said that the industry is seeing increasing concentration of stores, with strength among the largest chains.

He said this alliance is a way for two regional players with similar operations to come together so that both are more successful and efficient, building on each other's strengths in a mini buying group of sorts.

Buyers from the RoomPlace and Gardner-White won't be shopping the market together, Tronstein said, but they will "compare notes and double back to places each recommends."

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