| Store adjusts to market changes
while maintaining customer service.
Story by Sandy Kerns
CEDAR GROVE -- Like the ideal design marriage of
form and function that
many furniture buyers desire, Cedar Grove Furniture has found the
balance between providing traditional service and adjusting to a
rapidly changing market.
Numerous furniture retailers once populated the
Kanawha Valley: the
Diamond, Dondale, J C Penney, Sears, Stone & Thomas and Woodrum's
to name a few that no longer are in the furniture business. Those
full-service businesses made it possible to outfit an entire home in
"Customers could purchase appliances, carpet,
draperies, TVs and other
electronics, air-conditioners and fans, as well as furniture, under one
roof, but the growth of specialty stores offering such goods over the
past 10 years has forced one adjustment," said Don Henry, owner of
Cedar Grove Furniture since 1976.
While furniture stores now are dedicated primarily
to furniture only,
not all furniture store sizes have dwindled. With 25,000 square feet of
showrooms and 14,000 square feet of warehouse, Henry puts to practice
his belief that "if you show more, you sell more."
"That's the name of the game," the Montgomery
native said. He believes
his large stock of inventory sets Cedar Grove Furniture apart from
other local stores.
While custom pieces are available through special
order, buyers have a
$2 million inventory available for immediate delivery, which satisfies
today's generation that is used to instant gratification.
Another challenge facing traditional furniture
stores such as Cedar
Grove is the influx of less expensive, privately labeled imports now on
the market, a result of recent economic downturns and globalization.
Henry explained that while yesterday's generation
sought to purchase
quality furniture that would last a lifetime, customers today are
buying less expensive merchandise. Today's consumer, he said, is more
price-driven and attuned to what retailers term "price points."
Even so, Henry has his own theme: "It's cheaper to
buy quality. My theme is quality at discount prices."
Still, attracting customers is the first order of
business. Cedar Grove
Furniture successfully uses a mix of circulars, billboards, newspapers,
radio and television advertising in the Beckley, Charleston and
Knowing where to advertise is important.
"We advertise almost everyday during the 'Martha
Stewart Show,'" Henry
said. Cedar Grove Furniture carries Martha Stewart Signature, a partner
with Bernhardt Furniture.
Henry estimated one-third of the store's business
comes from Putnam
County, one-third from the Charleston area and the remaining third from
Beckley, Summersville, Oak Hill, Fayetteville and Boone County.
Cedar Grove Furniture has used a Web site (an
advertising tool designed to draw younger customers) for one year.
While the business advertises on Google and sells
merchandise out of
state, Henry said the Web site is most often used by local customers
who preview items online, telephone the store to see whether they are
in stock and then visit the store.
"We get a lot of calls from people looking at our
site, but not many
people buy furniture online," he said. "Furniture, they have to feel
it. They have to see it."
Another challenge to attracting younger customers
"It's more difficult to attract younger people
because they are looking
for price," according to Henry. He said he believes Cedar Grove's
36-month free financing has been helpful in attracting new customers.
Although furniture stores no longer carry their
own accounts because of
the expense of doing so, most have financing arrangements with various
lenders. Cedar Grove Furniture's 36-month plan allows those on a budget
to still buy the quality furniture their parents did.
Forming long-term bonds with customers is
important to Henry and his
staff. Repeat business has been a significant factor in the store's
"Some customers tell me, 'Our entire home is
furnished with furniture from Cedar Grove,'" he said.
Henry's repeat business includes second-generation
customers, a benefit of a longstanding community presence.
Cedar Grove Furniture, established in 1948 by Sam
Farha as a discount
furniture store, continues to do well. It has nine full-time employees
and more than $2 million in annual sales.
But traditional multi-line furniture stores will
continue to face
challenges both nationally and locally. Furniture prices are expected
to increase as a result of increased energy prices. When consumer
confidence declines, so do big-ticket purchases like furniture.
Competition within the industry will increase.
manufacturers are expanding into retail to recoup profits lost to
imports by opening "dedicated" stores. Consumers are familiar with
La-Z-Boy and Ethan Allen stores, but others are joining them. For
example Bassett and Broyhill have opened single-brand furniture
galleries in larger markets.
Henry is realistic about the local economy.
"All counties around us have lost population," he
said, but he has
noticed an increase in local residential home sales. Those sales
eventually translate into furniture purchases, and he expects sales to
increase. He sees a "pent-up demand for furniture."
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