Furniture Retailers Go to New Lengths to Draw Buyers, Support Mall Expansions, Luring Customers With Exotic Wildlife, Wine Bars

CoStar News: August 28, 2018 | Rob Smith


Bob’s Discount Furniture is among the furniture retailers expanding across the country, taking space in malls and shopping centers.
A Gallery Furniture store in Houston features an indoor playground, exotic birds and a Capuchin Monkey enclosure. Some Jordan’s Furniture stores in Massachusetts have ropes courses and IMAX theaters. City Furniture in Florida opened a café and wine bar. And that’s not all furniture retailers are doing to lure entertainment-loving millennial shoppers and support their expansions in malls and big-box stores. 

Other furniture retailers offer ice cream shops, pizza parlors and play areas for kids’ birthday parties. Many are using augmented and virtual reality so customers can visualize how a piece of furniture fits and looks in their homes…

“People are now making an experience out of furniture shopping,” Moore said. “The forward-thinking furniture retailers who are innovative will survive.”…

Those regional and local retailers are increasingly anchoring shopping centers and occupying former mid-sized big-box stores, giving real estate property owners and developers fresh options to fill space, Moore said.

“You used to see furniture stores clustered together in a so-called furniture row,” Moore said. “Now you’re seeing them go into retail centers. Landlords are receptive to it. It creates more traffic, and a lot of that is impulse traffic.”…

As industry trade publication Furniture Today reports, Walker Furniture will open a 65,000-square-foot superstore in Las Vegas next month and a 150,000-square-foot showroom next year. The RoomPlace will open three furniture stores in regional malls in Illinois and Ohio next year. One of those will be in an abandoned Sears department store.

Online furniture company Wayfair, based in Kentucky, is opening a 20,000-square-foot outlet, its first brick-and-mortar location. Houston’s Furniture Town will open a 40,000-square-foot store in a shopping center over Labor Day weekend, with plans for three more stores next year. 

Japan-based furniture retailer Aki-Home — known as the Ikea of Japan — said earlier this year it wanted to build 100 stores across the country. Bob’s Discount Furniture said it will open five more Southern California stores by Labor Day weekend, giving it 12 in the state and more than 100 overall. The stores are between 25,000 and 42,000 square feet.

The rise of e-commerce and the maturation of millennials –those between the ages of 22 and 37 — are having “enormous impact” on the traditional furniture business, said Bill McLoughlin, Furniture Today’s editor-in-chief. The estimated 73 million millennials in the U.S. will surpass baby boomers next year as America’s largest generation, according to think tank Pew Research Center.

“The last huge growth spurt of retail furniture operations was the baby boom generation,” McLoughlin said. “Now you have an even bigger demographic wave coming on. They’re going to drive the business for years to come.”

E-commerce now accounts for 17 percent of all furniture sales, McLoughlin said, up from 12 percent two years ago. Even when a purchase is made online, the buyer typically visits a furniture store to check out the item before buying, analysts say.

Moore recalls moving into his first apartment with tattered furniture from his parents. That doesn’t happen as much anymore, he said.

Your grandma’s or parents’ furniture just doesn’t cut it anymore,” he said, adding that the millennial demographic is fundamentally altering the retail landscape for everything from furniture to apparel. “You want to sit on a sofa, feel textures and visualize what it will look like. You may research online but you’re going to the store to buy.”