• Clint Engel

Huntsville Wholesale adds 2 Ashley HomeStores

Continues build-out in smaller cities around Birmingham, Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Ashley HomeStore licensee Huntsville Wholesale Furniture has opened new stores in Scottsboro and Cullman, Ala., further filling out its coverage in the north and central regions of the state.

huntsville cullmanHuntsville Wholesale's team gathers to cut the ribbon on the retailer's 21,000-square-foot Ashley HomeStore in Cullman, Ala.
The stores — a 20,0000-square-foot showroom on John T. Reid Parkway in Scottsboro and a 21,000-square-foot space on Town Square Boulevard in Cullman — are stores No. 7 and 8 for Huntsville Wholesale. They mark a continuation of the HomeStore operator’s successful strategy of growth through small-market penetration around the Huntsville and Birmingham demographic marketing areas.

Huntsville Wholesale is owned by Woody Marks, grandson of David Marks, the founder of the former Marks Fitzgerald furniture company that sold to Rhodes in the 1990s. The Marks name has been associated with furniture in Alabama for nearly 80 years.

The company declined to disclose sales projection for the new stores, but CEO Chris Caune told Furniture Today the new showrooms will help push the retailer’s overall sale this year to a projected $50 million, up double digits from 2016, and enough to likely place the company into the Top 100.

Caune said the Cullman store soft-opened about two months ago, and results have been “double our expectations.” The Scottsboro store, meanwhile, only recently opened its doors so it’s too early to grade its performance.

huntsville wholesaleHuntsville Wholesale Furniture's leadership team Meredith Johnson, left, Woody Marks, Chris Caune, Jason Seavers and Mark Kimbrough.
Scottsboro and Cullman are located in what Huntsville Wholesale called “strategic, underserved gaps in the greater Huntsville and Birmingham, Ala., marketing areas. It’s a strategy the retailer began in 2014 with the opening of its Florence, Ala., showroom about 73 miles west of Huntsville, and continued in October of last year with the opening of a store in Anniston, Ala., about 63 miles east of Birmingham.

“Moving into smaller communities has been a cost-effective decision that increases our market share in Alabama,” Caune said. “We already had the distribution and corporate infrastructure built, so we were ready for growth and now have the opportunity to maximize our potential and serve customers in nearly every part of north and central Alabama.” (The company operates a 55,000-square-foot distribution center in Birmingham that serves all markets.)

In every case, the stores have “exceeded expectations by quite a bit,” he said.

“We knew they were underserved (areas), and that’s why we went there. We just didn’t expect them to do as well as they did."

Scottsboro HomeStoreThe Huntsville Wholesale team gathers at the just-opened Ashley HomeStore in Scottsboro, Ala.
At 20,000 to 25,000 square feet, the smaller market stores are half the size or smaller than the retailer’s largest showrooms in Huntsville and Hoover, Ala., and smaller than the 40,000-square-foot HomeStores it operates in Tuscaloosa and Fultondale. But Caune said Ashley has a model that “can fit a 40,000-square-foot assortment into a 20,000- to 25,000-square-foot box.”

“Then, you have to be very careful to make sure you’re carrying winners,” he said. “And you also have the endless aisle with technology within the store.”

While the smaller market populations are a fraction of the size of the populations of Birmingham and Huntsville, Caune noted they pull from a much larger geographic area than the larger market showrooms.

The retailer is looking into opening two more smaller market stores, he said, including one that could open by the end of this year, but Caune declined to disclose the markets under consideration.

In a release, Marks noted his love for the people of North Alabama and how his company has great relationships in each of the communities it serves.

"We’re proud to serve both the Scottsboro and Cullman communities as the number one furniture store brand, and we look forward to earning their loyalty and trust," he said.

During last week’s ribbon-cutting ceremonies, Huntsville Wholesale presented donations to the nonprofit Food for Thought, which works to end childhood hunger in greater Scottsboro, and to the United Way in Cullman County.

The retailer's other community outreach efforts include feeding more than 3,200 families at the holidays with the Ashley Holiday Basket Brigade. Every year Ashley employees collect food and create baskets of food that contain a complete family holiday dinner, including a turkey provided by Tempur Sealy international.

In addition, the Huntsville location has provided more than 3,000 bicycles for the Marine Toys for Tots Program program. Ashley’s “Bikes or Bust” is one of Toys for Tots’ biggest toy raising events in North Alabama, held the weekend before Thanksgiving each year.

“We try to give back to our communities and help others,” Marks said.

Clint EngelClint Engel | Senior Retail Editor, Furniture Today
cengel@furnituretoday.com

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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