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Haynes, the dump Buyer takes chances

Cindy HodnettCindy Hodnett - Upholstery Editor
Welcome to the Retail Upholstery Playbook! This new feature, set to run in conjunction with the Power of Upholstery special reports, highlights successful retailers and provides an in-depth look at the marketing and merchandising strategies helping to make their retail floors resonate with their customers.
     Top 100 privately owned Haynes Furniture, which also operates The Dump, began as a small Norfolk, Va. furniture store in 1930. Founded by Ellis Strelitz and still owned by the Strelitz family, Haynes Furniture, according to our most recent Top 100 report, generated $269 million in furniture, bedding and accessory sales in 2012, up 2.7% from 2011. Haynes and The Dump have stores in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois
     Angela Hamilton is the upholstery, occasional table and sofa-sleeper buyer for Haynes Furniture and The Dump. In an exclusive interview with Furniture/Today, Hamilton discussed how she creates excitement on the retail floor by providing a variety of fabric, style and price options for consumers.
     "For our stores, it is always about the value proposition and whether it makes sense for our concept," Hamilton said. "At The Dump, we have the ability to bring in an array of fashion to the consumers that many conventional furniture stores cannot since we constantly turn our floors to bring in the next best deal. We also cover the gamut in price points, so at every level, I look for a quality piece of furniture - which includes the fabric, tailoring and construction - that our customers would be proud to display in their homes."

     Many upholstery retailers try to figure out the balance between creating excitement on the retail floor and presenting saleable products. Hamilton, however, thinks that too many retailers may be missing the mark by not going out on a merchandising limb.
     "In my opinion, the common mistake that retailers make is playing it safe," she said. "We all know that brown is the color that sells the most, but with a sea of brown on your floor, there is little to no excitement to inspire the customer. They may love the bright orange sofa, debate over it and decide that they just cannot bring themselves to buy it, buy the ‘safe' brown one instead, but feel good about their decision."
     Speaking of color, Hamilton said that gray is the new brown when it comes to trending colors. She added that the diverse shades of gray available at all price points makes the color a strong consumer choice, noting that Haynes Furniture and The Dump showcase a rainbow of colors.

Haynes Furniture upholstery buyer Angela Hamilton said consumers are venturing outside of the brown box and choosing new color options in upholstery.
Haynes Furniture
Haynes FurnitureThe sectional styles selected for Haynes Furniture stores varies from region to region

     "You will find a bit of everything on our floors - green, blue, red, cream, orange, and if you don't like what you see, there is always an option to custom order. The ability to make it your own is really resonating with our customers," Hamilton said.
     When asked about some top consumer choices, Hamilton said that while an oversized "very brown" sofa is a "workhorse," she has also seen consumers venturing into the non-brown color spectrum.
     "A pale green microfiber with floral pillows continues to shine in our room package department, a wood-trimmed sofa in a golden hue does well and finally, an aqua performance fabric in a smaller scaled frame has surprised me. It may be the over-the-top offering that draws them in; after that, it is up to the consumer to decide what they can live with."
     Hamilton said her upholstery selection for the stores varies for each region. Sleeper sofas and sectionals continue to do well across the board, and Hamilton thinks consumer lifestyle factors will continue to drive the upholstery category.
     "Sleepers have come a long way, and the day of the bar in the back is long gone, at least in our stores," she said. "Consumers are willing to pay a little more for a memory foam mattress so their overnight guest is comfortable. We are even introducing a line that sits as good as a sofa and for the longest time, that was unheard of. You always knew you were sitting on a sleeper.

Numerous shades of gray have taken the hue to the top of consumer preference lists.
Numerous Shades
TransitionalTransitional has surpassed traditional in popularity, Hamilton said.

     "Sectionals do play a large part in my assortment and in varying sizes. In Texas, the bigger, the better, but that same sectional may not appeal in Philadelphia. I have found that the comfort found in feather-down seating appeals to a large part of the population. As we watch our spending, consumers are foregoing pricewy vacations to outfit their homes comfortably for the family."
     In a post-recession economy, Hamilton said that price is an important factor, but adds that there isn't a one-price-fits-all answer for consumers.
     "For some consumers, if the group is fashionable and a good price, durability sometimes takes a back seat," Hamilton said. "Many consumers cannot tell the difference between a quality piece of furniture that could be passed down for generations and something that could wear out in a year's time.
     "On the flip side, some consumers have no interest in passing furniture down and know their taste in fashion or the industry's lead will change in a few years, so spending what they perceive as a fair price on something that lasts three to five years works for them. It all depends on the needs of the consumer. Those not affected by the recession are looking for a quality piece of furniture at a good deal."

Retailers must offer “an amazingly fashionable product that is tailored well at a fair price,” says buyer Angela Hamilton.
Retailers

     And to grow business in a competitive environment, Hamilton recommends a simple marketing strategy.
     "Lead with the best of all facets of the category," she said. "For upholstery, offer the customer amazingly fashionable products that are tailored well at a fair price. Make the department inviting. They may have come in for a bedroom, but as they walk past the upholstery, make it so appealing and inspiring that the consumer is now trying to justify an additional purchase."

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