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Susan Dickenson

Special report: Furniture stores

For furniture retailers, accessories complete the picture

Last year was a rebound year for furniture store sales. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, total sales reached $51.5 billion, a rise of 6.5% from 2011 levels of $48.3 billion. However, sister publication Furniture Today's

A 400-foot-long skywalk connects Furnitureland South’s Mart and Showroom buildings. Called the Eco-Link, it also serves as a gallery of sustainable home furnishings vignettes.A 400-foot-long skywalk connects Furnitureland South’s Mart and Showroom buildings. Called the Eco-Link, it also serves as a gallery of sustainable home furnishings vignettes.
annual performance report, published in October, found that as a portion of furniture store sales, decorative accessories, area rugs and home textiles lost a percentage point of those sales, falling from 4% to 3%.

For this special report Home Accents Today interviewed several multi-store furniture retailers, including a few from Furniture Today's Top 100 U.S. Furniture Stores list, about their home accents sales - what's trending, what's working and what's not.

The furniture retailers, representing a variety of price points, styles, sizes and demographics, include:

Bobby Berk, owner, Bobby Berk Home - Bobby Berk Home offers contemporary furniture, bedding and accessories that reflect Berk's high energy, colorful, modern aesthetic, with stores in New York, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles and online. The Bobby Berk Home brand got its start in 2006 with an online launch of furniture, bedding, bath products and home accessories for the urban lifestyle.

Richard Sexton, founder and president, Carolina Rustica - Carolina Rustica is a Concord, N.C.-based multichannel retailer of mid-to high-end furniture, lighting, bedding and accessories. The 20,000-sq.-ft. shopping destination showcases product in three showrooms within historic Gibson Mill, a century-old former textile factory.

Richard Marquard, owner, Paysage Home - Paysage, started by Richard and Jane Marquard in 1986, is a high-end home furnishings retailer and interior design studio with three locations in Ohio and North Carolina. In addition to furniture and home accents, the stores carry tabletop, bed and bath, and a selection of seasonal decor.

Jackie Hill, accessories buyer, Bernie & Phyl's Furniture - Based in Norton, Mass., this New-England based furniture retailer was started by the Rubin family in 1983. Ranked number 52 on Furniture Today's Top 100 U.S. Furniture Stores list, Bernie & Phyl's has seven stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Joanne Neff, accessories buyer, Wolf Furniture - Ranked number 62 on Furniture Today's Top 100 U.S. Furniture Stores list, family-owned Wolf Furniture has been doing business since 1902. Originally started in Altoona, Pa., today the company is led by fourth generation family member Doug Wolf. With 12 stores and a clearance center across three states (Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia), Wolf's showroom floor space totals more than 410,000 square feet.

Machiko Penny, merchandise manager, Walter E. Smithe Furniture Company - Ranked number 66 on Furniture Today's Top 100 U.S. Furniture Stores list, Walter E. Smithe Furniture Company started out in 1945 as an appliance and furniture store on the northwest side of Chicago. In the late seventies, the company phased out of the appliance business. Today, the company is owned and operated by Walter E. Smithe's grandchildren, with 11 locations throughout the greater Chicago area.

Meredith Smothers, director of merchandising, Furnitureland South - Number 51 on Furniture Today's Top 100 U.S. Furniture Stores list, Furniture land South was founded in 1969 by Stella and Darrell Harris and remains owned and operated by the Harris family. This mid-priced to high-end retailer operates a 1.7 million sq.-ft. complex on a 135-acre campus in Jamestown, N.C.

Bobby Berk Home, AtlantaBobby Berk Home, Atlanta

IN GENERAL, HOW'S BUSINESS?

Berk, Bobby Berk Home: Business has been great. We have seen double-digit growth.

Sexton, Carolina Rustica: We have been experiencing modest growth, but with increased volatility of sales within each year. The unpredictability of the business cycle has become a challenge. It used to be easy, predicting sales based on seasonality and holidays. Now, international and national events seem to have a much bigger impact on our business, since we are upper-end and more of a "considered" purchase. For example, Q1 2012 was one of our strongest quarters ever, while Q1 2013 this year was slower. Yet sales this year have gotten stronger throughout this year, while last year they slowed down in the second half.

Marquard, Paysage: Rapidly growing.

Hill, Bernie & Phyl's: I don't want to say it too loud but business has been pretty decent lately. Bernie & Phyl's jumped up two places on Furniture Today's 2013 Top 100 retailers list and my delivered accessory business is up 3% from 2012 thus far.

Neff, Wolf Furniture: Some months are good and other months you struggle to meet the goals. We put forth a real effort in October - divided the stores into groups and had a contest - and it worked well, but it took a lot of work and effort.

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