For Furnitureland South, selling outdoor furnishings is fundamental and like everything else at the 1.3 million-square-foot retailer — it’s huge.
Jeffrey D. Harris says Furnitureland South considered the outdoor category important to include among its offerings when the store opened 53 years ago because comfort matters outdoors as much as it does indoors.
“Everyone needs a comfortable place outside to spend a little time each day,” says Harris, president and chief executive officer of the self-proclaimed world’s biggest furniture store in Jamestown, North Carolina, near High Point, the professed furniture capital of the world.
Harris estimates that 12% of the company’s sales come from outdoor, which it sells through a 35,000-square-foot outdoor gallery and 5,000 square feet in its Outlet Center.
“We have an everyday low-price guarantee and we run a huge outdoor event each spring,” Harris says. “We coordinate that sale with a huge ‘tent’ sale with in-stock merchandise. We have a large inventory of in-stock merchandise that is available immediately for our clients.”
But more than that, Furnitureland South uses a mix of marketing muscle to get the word out about its offerings. Harris says that most of the budget goes to digital, including pay per click and email blasts to the 350,000 customers in its database. It also invests some in local media in North Carolina and it markets outdoor to coastal communities along the East Coast.
Years ago, Harris says, Furnitureland South was looking at a challenge because of its size — the sheer number of brands it was featuring and the marketing decisions executives needed to make regarding which to spotlight. The solution was the Platinum Partnership program it has with 25 key vendors: The retailer puts them front and center in exchange for sponsorship dollars.
“Those are the ones that give the most impressions on emails and social media, on pay per click,” Harris says. “I hate to give the money to Google, so I choose not to look at those invoices.”
Harris says that one of the most effective ways to approach outdoor is to consider a patio or deck an extension of a kitchen or a den. It’s another room and it’s more important right now than it has been in the past.
“We want to be outside more than ever with what we have been going through the past 2 ½ years,” Harris says.
To set itself apart from specialty patio retailers, Furnitureland South depends on its outdoor gallery, which it renovated three years ago.
“We just try to focus on who our clients are,” Harris says. “We have tried to improve our offerings in terms of inventory. We spend several million each year to have it available. It’s so much more important now to be able to get something quickly. Often, price has taken a back seat to availability.”
Among the outdoor brands it offers are Tommy Bahama, Castelle, Summer Classics, Lane Venture, Woodard, Braxton Culler, Lloyd Flanders, Gloster, Telescope, Jensen Outdoor, Kingsley Bate and Tropitone.
“Furnitureland South is a one-stop shop for all things home,” Harris says. “Some of our competitive advantages include the many top-name brands that we represent, the inventory levels we maintain, the amazing inspirational way we display the product, our pricing strategy and the knowledgeable design consultants that assist our clients.”
Another marketing advantage over some competitors: its own reputation as a brand. Given that, wat advice does Harris have for other full-line retailers who carry outdoor or are considering it?
“Send your clients to Furnitureland South,” he says, tongue firmly in cheek.
“You’ve got to put yourself in my seat. We have enough competition as it is. If you do compete, be prepared to compete with us. But I would say, go more toward availability. Choose partners wisely. Invest in display and back up inventory. You have to be competitive price-wise because you can go to Costco or Walmart and find outdoor furniture. You have to determine your strategy: Are you going to be the least expensive or will you differentiate yourself with a strategy of quality and quick delivery? You have to figure out who you are and who your customer is.”