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From Home Furnishing Business

Pulling the Trigger

By Powell Slaughter

Midtown Furniture Superstore & Mattress Center has run some “wild and crazy” advertising over the years. The ads were attention getting, but Woody Whichard, president of the Madison, N.C., retailer, decided to try some new approaches over the past year. One, cutting back on the advertising budget, did not work. “Another is we called some of our customers and asked if they would like to come in and give a testimonial for a TV advertisement,” Whichard said. “We had quite a few to come in and do so. Instead of blasting price, wearing crazy costumes, and flying around on the TV, we let our customers speak for us.” Those ads generated positive comments from both new and existing customers at Midtown. “We shot the testimonials over 18 months ago and are still using them as we speak,” Whichard said. “They do not create the sense of urgency you look for in advertising, but it does plant a seed that we are the place to purchase furniture.”


Is a promotion the only way to get customers to a furniture store? How do retailers measure the effectiveness of their advertising? An effective way is to ask consumers if they considered the retailer and whether they shopped that retailer. Impact Consulting took a look at where consumers are shopping. (The results of this inquiry are shown by distribution channel in the accompanying graphic, “Most Recent Furniture Buys by Retail Channel.”) Another issue: Retailers must create a promotion that the consumer believes, and the graphic, also based on Impact’s research, “Believability Scale” indicates this is an area that needs a lot of work. And while Price (which is influenced by financing in terms of affordability) is important, Impact’s research indicates it is not the top factor in the furniture purchasing

process. (See accompanying graphic, “Purchase Motivators.”)


One way more retailers are building excitement at their stores without highlighting price is through sports- related promotions, that offer refunds on purchases made during a certain time frame should a team win a pennant, return a kickoff for a touchdown, or score a specified number of points. Gallery Furniture in Houston ran two NFL-related promotions this year. Pig Skin Promotion No. 1 offered a full refund to customers buying $5,000 or more of furniture during the contest period. Those correctly picking the winners of the National Football League Conference Championship games received refunds.

That event led to around $800,000 in refunds after all was said and done, according to Jim McIngvale, Gallery owner. That was just a start, though. Pig Skin Promotion No. 2 promised free furniture to customers who bought $6,000 or more and picked the winner of the Super Bowl game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, won by the latter. Denver might be closer to Houston geographically, but apparently there wasn’t much loyalty in that regard: “80 percent of the people who participated picked the right team,” McIngvale said. That second promotion paid out around $7.2 million in free furniture, he noted. “After that first promotion, we said, what the heck let’s do it for the big games this year. Baseball Promotion No. 1 will fully refund the first 500 customers who spend $6,300 or more at Gallery Furniture if the Astros win 63 games in the regular season.

The magic number, 63, honors McIngvale, who turned 63 years old in February.“Some might think this promotion isover the top, and they are right,” he said.“We want to give our customers another reason to get excited about our Houston Astros this season and even more excited about coming in to Gallery Furniture.” Customers across the continental United States also can buy mattresses online at at a $6300 value or more, and have it delivered to their home within seven days. Boston-area retailer Jordan’s Furniture is no stranger to sports-related promotions. Boston is a fanatical sports town, and the store has run programs promising free furniture for titles from the National Hockey League Bruins and American League Red Sox. The retailer has insured each of the sports promotions.

This year, “The Monster Repeat” promotion commits to free furniture—of any purchase amount—starting April 2 if the Red Sox bring home another World Series title. There is no limit on the amount of furniture or the selection of furniture. With the Red Sox winning it all in 2004, 2007 and 2013, it’s a safe bet the promotion will generate no small activity on Jordan’s floors. To build interest, the retailer will display the Red Sox trophies in stores. It’s the 8th year Jordan’s has run the promotion. The 2007 title ended up with customers getting $30 million in furniture. “We bought insurance so we are rooting for the Red Sox to do a repeat performance of 2013 and hope that we can give away $50 million dollars’ worth of furniture this year,” said President Eliot Tatelman. Television, radio and online ads are promoting the offer at Jordan’s. We’ve been talking the big leagues so far, but the fact is sports-related promotions are a possibility for a huge number of retailers—how many stores aren’t in a market area served by a minor league baseball team? Still, retailers need to make sure such a promotion fits their image and customer base. “I am a huge fan of my Lions and Tigers, but it’s still a fact that my customer is a woman age 35 to 65,” noted Jeff Selik, president of highend contemporary furniture store Hillside Furniture in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Not only that, such a promotion has to offer a fighting chance for a favorable team outcome: “For it to seem like an opportunity, there has to be a feasibility they’ll win a championship.”


Some retailers push the fact that they carry products made in America. If you’re one of those, that might be a natural for any Fourth of July promotions. Atlanta-based Imagine Advertising has developed a turn-key program to promote “Made in the U.S.A.” “The concept behind the promotion is for the dealer to be able to promote that they buy products from American manufacturers,” said Flora Stopher, Imagine Advertising owner. The circular Imagine developed for this event features augmented reality.“The customer will receive the ad in the mailbox, download an app on their phone and hover over the pictures on the circular to bring them to life,” she said. Customers can see other product features, other colors, view a store video and more. Stopher suggested American-themed BBQ aprons, BBQ utensils and flags, as instore giveaways to generate activity.

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