• Clint Engel

Good but not record Labor Day for most furniture stores

Power motion, bedding drive average ticket increases

HIGH POINT— Long-term financing and discounts helped draw consumers to stores for the long holiday weekend, though sales results were mixed.

That’s the early read from retailers contacted for this story. Labor Day weekend is one of the top sales periods, if not the top, for many furniture stores and with this this year’s promotions, retailers aimed to keep it that way — but with varying degrees of success.

miskelly labor day front“Labor Day is still our biggest day of the year and has been for the last three years,” said Oscar Miskelly, partner in the six-store Miskelly Furniture of Jackson, Miss. “We set a record back in 2015, and we have not quite topped it yet. That was our goal.

“But we’re in the ball park,” he quickly added, as the retailer beat the three-day period last year by 3% (the stores are closed on Sunday).

Miskelly ran a multi-tiered promotion, as it has for the past few years, that included Labor Day Monday hourly prize giveaways — culminating in a $5,000 shopping spree — in which consumers had to be present to win. Announced winners had three minutes to claim their prizes, and Miskelly said the crowd was really getting into it, counting down the last 20 seconds for those who had yet to show.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “Some of them stayed all day. Some didn’t buy anything, but a lot of them did.”

Miskelly also offered 60-month interest-free financing plus a $250 savings coupon on purchases of $1,999 or more. In its circular, the retailer promoted a transitional sofa from Fusion Furniture for $399 and a back page of doorbusters ranging from a $75 accent chair to a $299 queen upholstered bed.

While Miskelly didn’t reach a new sales record, it did set an average ticket record for a holiday weekend at about $1,300 or about 5% ahead of last year.

“With a lot of popular doorbusters, you have to do a big numbers to get that average,” Miskelly noted.

He labeled this holiday, “Power to the People” because power motion and power adjustable bases for mattresses were the key drivers to that average ticket increase. Flexsteel, HomeStretch and Franklin were the big stars in the power motion category, and in adjustable power bases, Tempur-Pedic was hot.

Mattress sales overall accounted for about 25% of total sales, up from the average of about 23%.

City Furniture

After reading about Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Texas all week, Hurricane Irma’s impending approach was on consumers’ minds in South Florida over Labor Day weekend. Keith Koenig, president of Tamarac-Fla.-based City Furniture, was pleased with results under the circumstances.

“We did great considering people here are worrying about a hurricane coming,” he said. “Everyone in South Florida has been watching what happened with Harvey, but our business was close to last year’s” Labor Day sales." He added that City has been trending double-digit increases in sales all year.

Irma also will affect servicing those Labor Day sales.

“The people who were buying were delaying delivery,” Koenig said. “They want to wait till the hurricane has passed before getting the furniture to their homes.”

Harkness Furniture

At Tacoma, Wash.-based Harkness Furniture, sales for the four-day holiday period fell short of a 2016 record weekend.

“It was good (considering) the current environment,” said Dave Harkness, owner. “All year we’ve kind of struggled a bit. Last year was so spectacular that it’s difficult for us to recreate those figures, so anything close is a moral victory.”

Harkness ran its “You get it all” promotions as it does during most holidays — with the “all” being no sales tax, interest-free financing for six month and free local delivery.

“Motion continues to be strong, especially with the new adjustable headrests and all the bells and whistles in (the category),” he said. “And we’re kind of bucking the stream in mattresses, which are ahead as well.”

Harkness said the latter may be due to the retailer’s increasing attachment rate for adjustable bases.

And while Harkness didn’t top Labor Day 2016, like Miskelly, it did see a nice uptick in the average ticket — up by about $200 or about 10%.

“But as usual traffic continues to be a struggle,” he said, something Miskelly also mentioned.

“I think most retailers feel really upbeat” about the business climate, Harkness said, noting that Tacoma’s housing market remains very strong and other indicators point to business that should be better than it is.

“But 2016 on all levels seems to be a record while 2017 has been more of a struggle to reach those numbers” he said, adding that international and political turmoil seem to be causing uneasiness among consumers.

FFO Home

For the 44-store FFO Home of Fort Smith, Ark., “Business was excellent” for the four-day holiday period, said President and CEO Larry Zigerelli. He declined to provided percentage growth or sales numbers but said holiday business was up by high single digits on top of solid comps the year before.

“Week-to-week momentum continues on comp stores and new stores,” he said, noting that the retailer’s 45th showroom is ready to open in Ada, Okla., Friday and that a Warrensburg, Mo., store will follow in the first week of October.

The promotional to mid-priced FFO offered 60-month interest-free financing during the holiday, and according to Zigerelli, sales were strong across all categories.

Senior Editor Powell Slaughter contributed to this report.

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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