First stage retail expansion event draws 6000. Volume up by 20%.
"To make your space better we've made our space bigger --50 percent bigger!" If you are one of Stoney Creek Furniture's preferred customers, an attractive two-fold sky blue numbered flyer-invitation arrived at your home sometime in late April. It announced an ambitious store expansion, a preview of the new space May 2, 3 and 4, with fresh selections at storewide sale prices, and a special weekend opportunity to win $50,000 in home furnishings. If your personal Match and Win number corresponded with any of the numbered pieces of furniture at Stoney Creek, you won that piece of furniture. Plus, just for coming in, you received a beautiful crystal serving bowl. And, during the event, for preferred customers only, Stoney Creek paid the GST, Canada's infamous seven percent goods and service tax. There was a really good map on the back of the flyer to ensure no preferred customers got lost on the way.
"The event drew 6,000 people," President Dennis Novosel told us. "Volume for the month of May was up twenty percent. Twenty-seven percent of the business done was in leather but, in fact, all categories were up. A leather promotion accompanied the grand opening."
On May 13, Dennis placed a two-thirds page dominant advertisement in The Hamilton Spectator directed to the general public, the sub-head reading, "An expansion of cosmic proportions rockets Stoney Creek Furniture into the new millennium. Travel through a new dimension -- over 45,000 square feet of endless selection and galactic savings."
Dennis has personally traveled through most earthly dimensions from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan to the South Pole and, most recently, Saudi Arabia, the latter a mix of business and fun. But then he's always been convinced that business is fun too.
The expansion was first announced two years ago. At that time, Dennis said sales had grown from $150,000 annually to over $5,000,000 with from 15 to 40 percent growth each year. There were 30,000 square feet of showroom space, 8,000 square feet of clearance space and 50,000 square feet in warehousing. The store's layout was, and is, unique.
"I didn't want to lose the warmth and intimacy of a small store, so we created three concentric circles on three levels, an eight foot differential with two four foot stages. From research all over the U.S. and Europe, looking at stores, absorbing information, we discovered that 90 percent of people will turn right as they enter any store. Our walkways are designed to lead customers through livingroom settings at base level, next dining rooms and then bedrooms at the highest level, just as they would be in most homes. There's fun, excitement, new things, impulse items, all the way along. And we've galleried by product to make it easier for the customer."
The present expansion continues the flow through to an area immediately behind the main showroom. "We now have 25,000 square feet of extra space for cantilever-racked warehousing which frees up 20,000 square feet converted to showroom, so we have a total of 50,000 square feet of showroom space. This is our first stage. This addition has driven business another $5 million in volume. Within two years we'll add another 45,000 square feet. We've completed the planning, all the approvals are in place. and we'll be ready to start. One space will naturally lead into the other, a seamless continuation.
"Basically, the additional area is a rectangle with upholstery in the center and casegoods around the outside edge. This helps to keep the space as open as possible rather than lining everything up in rows. It's also in a somewhat circular pattern, like a department store where you walk around. We decorate to the display and keep product on the floor a minimum of six months. It's divided off into 150 to 160 square foot display areas, each one decorated by our staff to suit the product. Our displays are current and on a rotating basis to make it more interesting for the shopper. We have about 300 room settings.
"There's a new, very large leather upholstery gallery, a motion furniture gallery, a home entertainment gallery, a home office gallery and a bedding gallery plus a clearance center. They are manufacturers' galleries -- Action Lane, El Ran, Berkline, Palliser, Elite, Leathertrend, Hooker, Serta, Lexington and others. We were 65 percent casegoods and were looking to expand our upholstery; this is how we decided to go about it."
Stoney Creek's product lines are medium price point, easy, comfortable lifestyle, soft, inviting. Says Dennis, "The best, the easiest, nicest store to come to".
Preferred customer flyers are a regular feature of Dennis' communications system. "A furniture store cannot exist without the creative mining of its customer list, preferably monthly. And creative is the operative word. You can't be seen as pushy, so you should develop and mail a newsletter a couple of times each year that isn't targeted to sell anything. Then clearance sales that provide preferred customers with access before the general public. We do plenty of direct mail, catalogues and inserts and we advertise in the newspapers in conjunction with radio for our events."
Some Saudi Arabian inspiration appears in the form of unique etched glass walls and stately columns in the bedding department.
Jim Carruthers, Vice President Operations and Jim Fee, Vice President Sales are Dennis' two long-time right hands. When asked about the impact of expansion stage two, Dennis and his team feel they can "ultimately see sales to $30 million; we feel it can be done readily with 45,000 square feet more retail space. That's probably where we want to go."
The quintessential busy person, Dennis is back on the Board of the National Home Furnishings Association for 1997. He is still Co-Chair of the Retail Furniture Sector Advisory Council and is involved with the emerging Canadian Home Furnishings Council. After 28 years in the business, Dennis believes firmly in "learning, changing and evolving, following up and paying attention." These are directions well worth noting.