Black Friday: ‘Excellent’ season kick off

HIGH POINT — While consumers continued shifting their spending online to kick off the Black Friday holiday weekend, furniture stores were reporting an excellent start to the holiday season, too, with promotions that drew increased sales and showroom traffic.

Special financing, deep discounts and doorbuster items proved to be part of the winning formula for most of the retailers contacted Monday. Indianapolis-based Kittle’s Furniture, for instance, drew crowds with a Black Friday Sale circular that played up an Urbana sofa (with a free loveseat) for $699, regularly $1,740, and two-year interest-free financing with no money down on orders of more than $750.

The sofa-loveseat combo and other goods (such as a rocker recliner with massage for $299, Black Friday only) were advertised as limited quantity items, helping create a sense of urgency.

“We had an excellent Black Friday,” Kittle’s CEO Eric Easter told Furniture Today, noting that same-store sales were up 15% for the holiday weekend from the same period a year ago. “We offered compelling values that resonated with customers. While our average sale drops during this event, our close rate increases nicely.

“Black Friday continues to be good for us despite all the early openings and advertising that begin as soon as the calendar changes to November,” he added.

kittles black friday ad

Steve Rotman, president of Worcester, Mass.-based Rotmans, called Black Friday weekend business “phenomenal,” with traffic up about 5% ahead of last year and “a very high closing rate.”

“I think what happened was just a buildup in demand,” he said. “We put a lot of effort into electronic media advertising, and it was extremely successful in terms of getting traffic into the store.”

Rotmans blended special offers with a 6-month no interest, no down payment and no minimum purchase promotion. Customers were buying cross category more than usual, he said, helping to build the ticket, and consumers were “very upbeat in general.”

They also seem to be in good financial shape, he added, noting there were very few credit approval turndowns.

Category-wise, better quality bedding was among the hot sellers for the retailer, while more and more basic mattress sales appear to be going to online competitors including Casper, Leesa and Purple, who Rotman said have successfully branded themselves to compete with the traditional in-store brands consumers used to be able to rattle off — Sealy, Serta Simmons and Tempur-Pedic, for instance.

“We do see a tremendous uptick in the number of foundations we’re selling,” Rotman added. “That says to us that consumers are buying basic mattresses online and coming to the local store for the foundations.”

Bases are a more difficult to sell online either because they don’t collapse for easy shipping, or if they do collapse, they’re expensive, even in comparison to the better foundation tickets Rotmans has been seeing lately.

Michael Cohen, president of Las Vegas-based Walker Furniture, also characterized Black Friday weekend business as “phenomenal,” noting same-store sales increase by single digits over last year. Both Rotman and Cohen said business Friday and Saturday was stronger than Sunday.

Walker has moved to an everyday low-price strategy but promoted the holiday event heavily with television advertising as well as its traditional 12-page circular filled with doorbuster specials across all categories.

“We had a great weekend,” Cohen said noting the same-store sale increase was a nice surprise because the retailer has long been contending with sales-dampening road construction near its main store.

Cohen also believes Walker benefited from pent-up demand, noting the contentious mid-term election cycle made it tough to advertise and kept some consumers at home.

“So a lot of people who were on the sidelines came out,” he said.

In Henderson, Nev., where the retailer recently opened a new full-line superstore, the company also did extremely well, Cohen said, noting that a line of customers formed halfway down the shopping center waiting to get in Black Friday morning.

In its latest report on holiday shopping, Adobe Analytics said consumers’ online shopping on Black Friday increased nearly 24% from the previous year to $6.22 billion across the broad retail sector, and Cyber Monday sales were expected to set a new record, up nearly 20% to $7.9 billion.

Walker is aiming for a share of that latter figure. For the first time, it launched its own Cyber Monday event, he said. Cohen asked its buyers to come up with four items each that Walker is running (along with accessory specials) for the online-only promotion, promising two-week delivery.

“We’ll learn from this year and improve on it for the next,” he said.

For Coconis Furniture in South Zanesville, Ohio, “it was our biggest Black Friday by 30%,” said President Randy Coconis. “We had tremendous traffic.”

He thinks the big driver was 72 months of zero-percent financing, no minimum purchase. The retailer also had a lot of what Coconis called “burn items,” such as a reclining sofa at $399 from Ashley and a recliner for $197.

Plus, it offered a free power upgrade on adjustable bed bases and also gave a $50 store gift card to customers just for coming to the store on Friday, with no minimum purchase required.

The promotion wasn’t really anything different than they’ve done in the past, but business has been a struggle this summer, he said. “So I think the pent-up demand was there. And the customer was ready to buy.”

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