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From Home Furnishing Business

A Big Tent


Jerome’s Furniture Looks to Expand Its Customer Reach While Keeping Firm Hold of Its Base.

A family company that looked outside the fold is making waves in Southern California’s furniture retail scene.

Jerome’s Furniture in San Diego had built a thriving business, and while the Navarra family behind the company remains firmly in place, some new blood has added some pop.

CEO Lee Goodman  joined the company six years ago, bringing in a fresh face with furniture retailing chops developed at Bob’s Discount Furniture to bear on a promotional institution in the San Diego area.

Jerome’s is expanding into the Los Angeles market and bringing new retail concepts to bear in its efforts.

“Jerome’s has been in business in Southern California for 59 years,” Goodman said. “We are family owned and have a genuine relationship with the community. San Diego has seen Jerry Navarra (our chairman) on TV for the last 40 years, and now his sons Mark and Jim Navarra have begun to show up in some branding ads. “People know us and trust us. We honor our relationship with them by not participating in phony promotions and gimmicks. We have every day low prices.  It’s a much more respectful approach to the furniture buying process and our industry. As we expand into the L.A. market, where people are not as familiar with our brand, it presents a wealth of opportunity.”
What makes Jerome’s different from other home furnishings retailers in the markets it serves?
“To sum it up, it’s our people,” Goodman said.  “We have built a team here that is nothing short of phenomenal. Nothing works without the right people, their ability to execute our strategies at the level they do is extraordinary.
“It all starts with the Navarre family. Their warmth and generosity, coupled with their trust has created a relationship that allowed us to make the kinds of decisions we have to make to be successful.”
Those changes included a reorganization of management, but the biggest was a move away from running promotions and sales to working with the “Jerry’s everyday low price” that Goodman mentioned above.
A combination of an established retail brand and avoidance of gimmicky sales paid dividends during the recession.
“It was hard on us, just like it was on the rest of the world,” Goodman said. “We focused on doing the right things and staying disciplined to our model. During tough times, the trust our brand created through the years is seen as a real plus.”

Jerome’s has stepped up the shopping experience in its stores. In-store signage allows is helping customer to engage with the brand in an informative, fresh way.  
“In-store signage is now more design- and creative-oriented,” Goodman said. “It’s all under the umbrella of improving the customer experience, and we do serve a wide range of customers.
“You can’t be all things to all people, but with our large selection, we’re able to approach a lot of them.”
Finding that “right” selection of product so the consumer can find what she’s looking for is easier said than done, Goodman said. 
“After that, it becomes all about value. We pack a lot of features into our product for the dollar,” he said.  “We have decades of relationships with vendors, where it makes sense we go direct, and we negotiate great prices on behalf of our customers.  We work diligently with our partners to ensure value.
 “Merchandising is dependent on what sells best in each individual market.  We do notice style preferences shift from market to market, so it’s constantly reviewed.”

Jerome’s also gives sales associates the tools they need, such as tablets, to create relationships with customers and ensure they are making the right decisions for their home. The store also shares numbers to keep associates on track.
“We get closing rates at not only the store level but at the individual salesperson level—and we find out where they lost the sale, based on questions sales managers are trained to ask,” Goodman said. “We create a dashboard for people so they gain understanding and a perspective of where they stand.”
Metrics “are a big part of who we are,” he added. “We use them to help guide us in finding issues in our company. What products are (customers) coming in for? What’s the impact of our advertising?
“It allows us to make changes based on real information. (For example) We’re a little light on bedding compared to where we want to be. We’ll look at the numbers to see where we should be changing our product offerings.”

How does Jerome’s express its retail vision in marketing and advertising efforts?
 “We run several different messages at one time—branding, services, product focused—whatever we feel is most important for us to communicate at the moment,” Goodman said.  “Our target customer covers such a wide range of the American public, we want to be relevant to what they are looking for.”
In addition to television, radio testimonial ads and the occasional print ad, the retailer is exploring digital more and more, and it publishes an upscale custom magazine twice a year.
 “As far as digital goes, we’re on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and,” Goodman said. “We are constantly revamping our Web site.  We’re learning like everyone else, but I know those aspects of our business are only going to continue to get more and more important.”
The aim is to build a big tent that serves as wide a base of consumers as possible.
“No matter how much people make or how much they want to spend, we’re going to have something for most of them in our model,” Goodman said. “We can send out different types of messages to different people without losing who we are. It’s not class-based. All those different ingredients, all those different prices, reach a lot of people.”
Moving forward, Goodman pointed to strategic partnerships with suppliers “and a little thing called the World Wide Web” as keys to future growth.
 “We look at e-commerce as a tool to, first, engage customers; and then drive them into our stores,” he said. “The Internet is our focus. We’re going to expand our customer base but not lose our existing customers.” HFB

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