How will big chain furniture retailer Rooms to Go impact the local furniture industry?
By Heather Miller
There’s a new kid on the block in Lafayette’s home furniture industry — and local furniture retailers are taking note.
Rooms to Go, the country’s largest independent furniture company that officially opened the doors of its Ambassador Caffery store on New Year’s Eve, has made its mark nationwide through its massive showrooms filled with package deals for living rooms, bedrooms and children’s rooms. The moderately priced packages have been heavily advertised since the Lafayette location opened, leaving some to wonder how smaller, locally owned furniture stores will fare against the big chain.
Corey Arnaud, owner of Arnaud’s Furniture Store on Verot School Road, says he has already scoped out the new storefront, noting that the more than 30,000 square foot showroom is “gorgeous and beautiful.” So far, however, he says he sees no reason to worry.
“They offer something that probably doesn’t cater to every one of our customers, and their set up is a little different than ours,” Arnaud says. “I would say we have a bit more of a personal feel to it. If you’re shopping for mattresses, be ready to walk a mile [at Rooms to Go] if you want to lay on all the beds. I feel we’ve got a product that can strongly compete price-wise. Here, you get to deal with the owners face-to-face. The guy you’re doing business with is the guy who lives in your community. Your money’s not going out of the city.”
Though Arnaud says his reputation and ties to the community should be enough to prevail over the new competition, he admits that he wouldn’t be surprised if furniture stores throughout Acadiana take at least a small hit.
Corey Arnaud of Arnaud’s Furniture
“I’m sure the impact will be felt throughout Lafayette in all the furniture industry because of the location and power to advertise, but we have loyal customers that have been doing business with us for years and years and years,” Arnaud says.
Overall, the local furniture business is growing. According to numbers provided by Lafayette Economic Development Authority Director of Information Services Anne Falgout, furniture sales in Lafayette Parish from January to November 2011 were $225 million, compared with $216 million for the comparable period in 2010. That represents a 4.13 percent increase.
Home Furniture, which came in at No. 28 on the 2011 list of ABiz’s Top 50 Privately Held Companies and experienced a $6 million decline in revenue from 2009-2010, boasts a distribution center that allows for a large inventory and next-day delivery, two services that jibe well with the concept of Rooms to Go, which has the largest furniture inventory in the U.S. and touts delivery in “days, not months.”
Home Furniture, however, would not comment on the entry of this new competitor and its potential impact on his locally owned chain of eight stores. “We have no comment on that,” Home Furniture owner Randy Paul said.
Coincidentally (or strategically), Brown’s Furniture Showplace began remodeling its Lafayette store this summer, a couple of months after ABiz broke the story that Rooms to Go was coming to town. Whether the investment was a direct response to Rooms to Go is unclear; Brown’s owner Jasper Fontenot did not return calls for comment.
Rooms to Go Chief Strategic Officer Warren Kornblum notes that of the more than 140 locations that span nine states and Puerto Rico, to his knowledge the stores have not forced any smaller companies out of business. The more moderately priced chain’s large selection of children’s furniture might have put the kibosh on Pippin McGee, but that business shuttered its Ambassador Caffery Parkway storefront in December in favor of a smaller, custom design and online furniture store.
Brown’s Furniture Showplace on Johnston Street renovated its store, just as Rooms
“I think in a lot of our markets there are a lot of successful independents and/or smaller chains,” says Kornblum. “Our goal is to be good, fair competitors. Yes, we advertise a lot, but it’s not predatory in any way. We learn a lot from our competition. I don’t really think Rooms To Go has ever hurt anybody. If anything I think it heightens awareness of the furniture industry. Shoppers will go to several stores to check out values and how they’re treated. It’s just a new alternative; in no way is it negative to the competition.”