• Clint Engel

Exclusive growing fast

Exclusive Furniture’sExclusive Furniture’s sixth store in the Houston area will be the retailer’s largest at 52,000 square feet.
HOUSTON - Exclusive Furniture will open two new stores next year, part of an aggressive expansion plan expected to propel the family-owned retailer into the Top 100.
     The four-store promotional to midpriced Houston-area company has signed a lease on the 40,000-square-foot former Room- Store location in the north Houston suburb of Humble, Texas.
     That store, at U.S. Highway 59 and FM 1960, is expected to open in February after a roughly $750,000 renovation project. It will add between $10 million and $11 million to the retailer's annual sales, said Sam Zavary, president and co-owner of the company.
     In addition, the retailer has acquired a 6.5-acre tract here in the Houston suburb of Richmond - between the Katy and Sugar Land suburbs - for its sixth and largest store, a 52,000-square-foot showroom on State Highway 99. That will be a $9.8 million project, with the store expected to open for business in October, adding another $20 million in sales in its first full year, Zavary said.
     The new stores should push the retailer - listed in Furniture/Today's Beyond the Top 100 report - into the Top 100 furniture store ranks based on 2014 projected sales. Zavary said the company will do about $33 million in sales this year. He expects that number will grow to $50 million to $52 million next year and to $60 million in 2015, after both stores have been open for more than a year.
     Zavary, who contended Exclusive is "the fastest growing locally owned and operated furniture store in Houston," predicts the retailer will be a $100 million company by 2020.
     In Richmond, the retailer is building from the ground up with a fresh design that he said will be the model look for its future stores, including the Room Store location.
     New features will include a larger than usual youth furniture area and galleries dedicated to certain suppliers, he said. Among the sources Exclusive is considering for dedicated departments is case goods and upholstery source AICO, which would be a new supplier, and existing supplier Fairmont Designs.
     Zavary said Exclusive also will broaden price spectrum, stepping up the price-point ladder. Fabric sofas will still start at a promotional $399, but the top end will likely move from the current $1,099 to the $1,299 to $1,499 range, he said.
     Other key suppliers include Ashley, Franklin, HTL, Southern Motion, Sandberg, New Classic, Cramco, Lifestyle Enterprise, Dickson, Coaster and Serta in bedding.
     Zavary and his father, A.Q. Zavary, opened the first Exclusive Furniture store in 1995, shortly after Sam's 21st birthday, in a less than 2,000-square-foot space in Almeda Mall on the south side of Houston. They were joined in late 1998 by Sam Zavary's brother Fawad Zavary, now a co-owner.
     The retailer opened additional locations, growing to three units in 2001. But after Sept. 11, Sam Zavary said, "We found ourselves in a vulnerable place with limited working capital and strained cash flow."
     The family closed the original store and held cash raising sales at its remaining locations on the southeast and northwest sides of Houston.
     Zavary said the company struggled for a few years before business started improving. In 2005, it bought a warehouse location in southwest Houston that also became its home office. Exclusive is in the midst of expansion there, too, doubling the warehouse size to 71,000 square feet as it prep
Sam ZavaryBrothers Sam Zavary, left, and Fawad Zavary are co-owners of the promotional to mid-priced Exclusive Furniture in Houston.
s for store expansion.
     In 2006, the company expanded its Northwest Freeway store and opened a third showroom on the perimeter of Almeda Mall.
     But the recession the following year took its toll on the business once again and sales remained difficult for a few years. On top of this, Zavary lost his father on Father's Day in 2009. It finished the year with sales of slightly more than $9 million compared to the more than $30 million it will do this year.
     "After going through some soul searching and some deep thinking, I decided to take my business to the next level," Zavary said. Exclusive hit on success with the addition televisions to its room packages and worked to make the room packages and "houseful of furniture" packages "affordable to the normal working man," he said.
     It started catering more to the cash-strapped consumer, offering new and varied credit programs, including second chance financing through sources such as RMC Retail, and no-credit-check financing through Okinus. Today it advertises, "If we can't approve you, no one can."
     Exclusive also began using a slogan in its advertising that Zavary said has become familiar in the marketplace, defining itself as the store "Where Low Prices Live."
     Since 2009 it has been moving deliberately into a niche that had been owned by Houston's Gallery Furniture, but one Zavary said was getting less attention from the Top 100 retailer as it added more higher-end lines.
     He said that despite Exclusive's heavy credit push, financed purchases account for only 40% of total sales as the retailer also offers discount incentives to customers who pay cash.
     Exclusive opened its fourth store in May on the west side of Houston - its smallest location to date at 12,000 square feet.
    "The atmosphere in our stores is different from other stores in our city," Zavary said. "We don't hover over customers and force them into purchasing something. We create a relaxed and friendly environment ... which is why our repeat customer and referral base is high."
     Exclusive Furniture also remains a family affair. In addition to co-owners Sam and Fawad Zavary, sister Fauzia Zavary overlooks logistics and operations, while a younger brother, Sheroo Zavary, works in operations at the warehouse while also attending the University of Houston.
     "We plan to become the premier furniture destination for Houston residents and its surrounding cities," Sam Zavary said. "We want Exclusive Furniture to be the first place customers think of when they are looking to furnish their home."

Clint EngelClint Engel | Senior Retail Editor, Furniture Today

Please feel free to email or call me with all of your retail news and tips, including expansion news, successful merchandising and marketing strategies and anything else you would like to see covered by Furniture/Today.  Contact me directly at cengel@furnituretoday.com or 336-605-1129.

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