City Furniture goes higher end by adding Bernhardt lines
Clint Engel -- Furniture Today, April 8, 2013
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — City Furniture is expanding into the high end with the rollout of a Bernhardt case goods, upholstery and occasional furniture in its City stores.
The Top 100 company, which operates City Furniture and Ashley Furniture HomeStores in South Florida, is adding five collections of case goods, about 13 upholstery groups and Bernhardt occasional furniture to all but one of 14 City stores, said Keith Koenig, president.
The new program already has been added to the headquarters store in Tamarac, Fla., and stores in Boca Raton, North Miami Beach and Wellington, Fla., and will roll out to the others through May or June.
"Bernhardt and City are excellent matches for each other," Koenig said, adding that City offers the manufacturer a new business opportunity, while the retailer "gets to layer on what we think is the best supplier in higher-end furniture."
He said both companies share similar values and "are striving to create brand recognition."
The primarily midpriced City has long offered a good, better, best furniture assortment, but with the addition of Bernhardt, Koenig said there is no doubt it's hitting some higher price points and driving a significantly higher average ticket.
In fabric sofas, for instance, City has retailed very few for more than $1,000, while most of the Bernhardt mix is retailing in the $1,299 to $1,799 range. Bernhardt leather sofas sell between $1,499 to $2,299 and dining rooms - just the table and chairs - can go for nearly $4,000.
"Those are higher" prices for City, Koenig said, "not dramatically, but better - and it's better furniture than what we've ever offered before."
He estimated that each City is dedicating about 3,000 square feet to a Bernhardt gallery. Among the collections represented are Commonwealth, Belgian Oak, Hudson, Landon and Belmont.
While the first galleries have been open for only a few weeks, Koenig said they've already been well received, despite little in the way of advertising. After the rollout is complete, City will launch a big marketing campaign that includes television spots, he said. Later, the retailer will begin advertising in shelter magazines, local design-oriented magazines and other places where consumers might expect to see Bernhardt advertised.
Koenig said South Florida includes many great high-end retailers and that just a few years ago, City wouldn't have been able to compete with them effectively. But over the past seven years or so, the retailer has invested heavily in new real estate, updates to existing stores and marketing and website improvements "to create the setting where we could be successful with Bernhardt."
"That's why I think we're seeing early success," he added.
Asked if City plans to expand deeper into high-end territory, possibly with other brands, Koenig said, "We're going to digest this and then see where the world takes us. We'll see how this performs, and right now, we're real excited."
He added that he's proud of how his team has pulled off the challenge of developing the new displays, branding Bernhardt within City and bringing the retailer's 300-plus sales associates up to speed on the new presentations and products "so that the whole customer experience is fulfilling."
The back-end handling has gone equally smoothly, he said, adding that the Bernhardt team deserves a lot of credit too.
"They're passionate people focused on creating beautiful furniture, and we're passionate about helping our customers create beautiful homes," Koenig said.