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Clint Engel

Gallery gamble pays off

McIngvaleMcIngvale
Houston - Gallery Furniture's Jim McIngvale could've spent $8 million for two 30-second commercials during the Super Bowl earlier this month.
     Instead he's spending $7 million to make more than 1,000 customers extremely happy while getting more national and local media attention than most furniture retailers could ever imagine.
     During the two weeks heading into the big game, the Top 100 Houston retailer ran "Pigskin Promotion #2." Any customers purchasing $6,000 or more in furniture and accessories before the Super Bowl kickoff would receive a full refund if the Seattle Seahawks (who were slight underdogs) won the game.
     The Seahawks handed the Denver Broncos one of the worst Super Bowl beatings in recent memory, winning 43-8.
     Gallery's $7 million payout comes after it refunded more than $600,000 in purchases for the other too easy "Pigskin Promotion #1," where customers had to correctly pick the winners of the NFL league championship games to get their $5,000 or more in furniture purchases for free. (About 80% of the customers got that one right.)
     Gallery co-owner McIngvale doesn't appear to be sweating the large cash layouts in the least. In fact, he said he couldn't have asked for better publicity.
     The promotion was a media sensation for days following the game, with coverage on all the major networks as well as online at BusinessInsider.com and many other news channels. The story even ran on the BBC and Australian media. It has also been Tweeted and posted on Face book by many happy customers and other fans.
     "One of the things (this industry) is missing is buzz," McIngvale told Furniture/Today. "We've got the buzz, baby."
     About 80% of the approximately 1,000 customers that took Gallery up on the latest offer had never been to the store before, he said. One lucky customer spent about $40,000 and will be getting it all back.
     "A majority of them were young Millennials, affluent Millennials, which is a super target audience for us," he added.
     "And the comments were, ‘I never dreamed you had this big of a selection,' ‘I'm very impressed the quality,' ‘We'll always come back.'
     "That's what this whole thing was about - to bring in a new generation of customers. Obviously we do very well with Baby Boomers, but they're fading a little bit; the Millennials are coming on strong. That's who this whole thing was targeted to, and from that standpoint, it was extremely successful," McIngvale said.
     Gallery didn't have insurance backing this promotion nor the earlier playoff promotion. No insurance company would play those odds, he said. But McIngvale did, and the reward was a packed store and ecstatic customers. He said this has made the winners Gallery customers for life.
     "They will be talking about this 20 years from now," McIngvale said.
     Gallery will be getting another round of publicity with "refund parties," to give customers back what they paid, on Feb. 9 and Feb. 23 at the store. The idea is to get people back to the store, "get them to bring their friends and reengage," he said.
     Despite the short-term hit to profits, all the publicity and all the goodwill has helped McIngvale keep his sense of humor.
     "One of our goals for 2014 was to get our inventory down," he quipped. "Next time I come to High Point, I'll have to stay at the Motel 6."

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