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Store Refresh On a Budget

Furniture World Magazine


Part 1

Here are the first 6 of 16 low-cost, effective ways to spruce up your store if you are not yet ready to do a major showroom renovation.

In this current market environment, the cost of renovating a furniture showroom can seem off-putting, expensive, and time-consuming. Retailers are still experiencing construction labor shortage issues along with building material backlogs. Inflation has added to the price of goods and materials for construction. For example, seven consecutive quarterly cost increases for gypsum board for wall construction have raised the price to an average of $15 per panel. Metal studs cost between $2 and $5 per square foot and are predicted to increase 31percent in 2023. On top of that, contractors and mill workers are unavailable for new work. Most have long client waiting lists for starting new projects.

A Way to Offset Costs

A major store renovation will cost a minimum of $30 per square foot or more. Many retailers are waiting for prices to drop, hoping to get lower bids from contractors. However, if you are looking to buy or rent a new space, there are plenty of deals to be found. Plenty of stores are going out of business or reducing their real estate inventory. These include major retail brands such as JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gap, and Tuesday Morning. Many of my clients are finding excellent square footage opportunities in favorable shopping districts.

If you have loyal contractors that can fit you into their schedule, the benefits of taking over one of these stores can by far offset the costs. Some of the deals are too good to pass up. Malls and shopping centers that need a tenant to take over a 30,000 square-foot-space often find that furniture stores are the only game in town. If you decide to rent such a space, negotiate with the landlord to deliver it in “white box” condition.

FURNITURE MALL OF MISSOURI: Furniture Mall of Missouri converted a 125,000-square-foot Macy’s store in Summit Hill, Missouri—part of a 500,000-square-foot open-air lifestyle center—into a new showroom after securing a favorable lease.
MATHIS HOME: Mathis Home recently took over a 100,000- square-foot JCPenney store in Midwest City, Oklahoma. The city helped offset renovation costs and will reimburse Mathis based on future sales. That made the deal attractive for a building that would have been difficult to lease otherwise. (Photo credit: exterior rendering by RBA Architects, OKC)

Interiors Home, for example, negotiated a lease on a vacant H. H. Gregg space in York, Pennsylvania. It was delivered to them as a white box ready for build-out. They used the landlord’s architect and contractor to build out the space more effectively. Steger’s Furniture took over an Ashley Home store in Peoria, Illinois, which had suffered extensive water damage from a pipe break. They negotiated an attractive deal, building the space out smartly with a design-build approach using existing contractor relationships.

“A major renovation will cost you a minimum of $30 per square foot or more. Many retailers are waiting for prices to drop, hoping to get lower bids from contractors.”

If you cannot find one of these great deals in your market or are not looking to expand into new markets, here are some ideas that will allow you to refresh and upgrade your store with minimal investment.

  1. Rearrange Departments in Store. If you’ve been meaning to move departments around, now is the time to make some major shifts. For one, make sure your upholstery and motion departments are near the front of your store along with your mattress department. Bedroom furniture should be located next to mattresses, with bedroom sets placed along as much of your perimeter wall as possible. Dining is a destination department, so locate it further from the front door. Place dining furniture in front of other furniture categories that require walls for display purposes.

  2. Shifting around departments can increase sales and give your employees a morale boost. Interiors Home, Lancaster, recently relocated its entire mattress department to the front right corner of the showroom, lifting mattress sales immediately. They also reduced their outlet footprint to make room for a new Stressless presentation. The vendor supplied large-scale light boxes and digital screens that positively impacted the space, leading to more sales as well.

  3. Re-Purpose Excess Warehouse Space. Furniture retailers can free up space by identifying underutilized, inefficient areas, freeing them up for other uses. Those who no longer need all of their current warehouse, storage and receiving space can add a clearance or outlet center. Often, it’s not necessary to demolish walls or build new ones. Just fence off an area using stanchions or a low movable wall system. Shoppers can see the inner workings of the warehouse environment while they shop for clearance goods. Warehouse racking can easily be used to display certain products such as sofas.

    “Make sure your upholstery and motion departments are near the front of your store along with your mattress department. Bedroom furniture should be located next to mattresses.”
  4. WAREHOUSE SPACE: Move your outlet area into your warehouse, sectioning it off with just stanchions or a rope to open up more square footage in your showroom for other products.
    STEGER’S FURNITURE: Steger’s Furniture negotiated a deal to convert a 50,000-square-foot Ashley Homestore space in Peoria, Illinois (after it suffered water damage from a broken pipe) into a new Steger’s store using a design-build approach that saved them time and money.
    INTERIORS HOME: Interiors Home opened its latest store in the York, Pennsylvania, market after working out a deal with the landlord of the Manchester Crossroads shopping center to deliver a 40,000-square-foot H.H. Gregg electronics store space that was “white box” ready.
  5. Introduce Seasonal Products. Patio furniture is a profitable seasonal product to add should you have available exterior space, perhaps on the front or side area of your showroom or even your warehouse. These areas may be fenced off easily with planters or a movable picket fence. This furniture may need to be locked down or moved in and out of your showroom daily. Doing this isn’t much of a burden, especially if the category is only on display for a few months each year. These outdoor areas have an additional advantage. They provide valuable opportunities to host grill-outs, live music events and other family-friendly, promotable events to draw customers into your store.

  6. Bring in a Visual Merchandiser. Now is a great time to refresh your stores with a new merchandising perspective. Hire a visual merchandiser to provide fresh ideas, suggest new accessory looks, train staff, and more. This has the added benefit of re-motivating your in-house merchandising team and polishing their skills. Retailers who do this multiple times a year achieve the best results.

  7. Create an Accessories or a Marketplace Zone. Carve out a dedicated area for accessory displays or a larger marketplace display. This will occupy minimal space and work well next to your customer service areas. Freestanding shelving units have successfully been used to create attractive displays in the middle sections of many furniture stores. Alternatively, they can be placed against a wall for easy visibility. Purchase accessories specifically for display in this zone to communicate to customers that you are not only in the business of selling furniture—you are also in the style business.

  8. Add Rugs. If you do not yet have a rug program, consider adding one. Most rug vendors provide racks to retailers as part of their program. If space is an issue, smaller racks are available, often at no cost. Adding rugs to room set displays has many benefits. It allows customers to visualize how a rug will look in their homes and makes it easier for salespeople to segue into an add-on sale. Some retailers successfully enhance their visual merchandising by layering hanging rugs vertically from ceilings to create dramatic fashion statements. Doing this attracts attention and can make rug areas feel like a bazaar.

INTERIORS HOME: Interiors Home recently reduced the outlet space in their Lancaster, Pennsylvania store to make room for a new Stressless presentation that will lead to higher-margin sales.
MATHIS HOME: Mathis Home in Irvine, California, took advantage of an old garden center space (attached to the former Home Depot they renovated) to create a compelling patio furniture display.
DWELLINGS: Dwellings brings in an outside visual merchandiser four times a year to refresh their stores, train their staff and make their stores in Barbados and Trinidad good-looking on a daily basis.
“Hire a visual merchandiser to provide fresh ideas, suggest new accessory looks, train staff, and more.”


Even small changes can improve the shopping experience, excite your customers, encourage them to browse more of your store, and lead to more sales. Ten additional ways to enhance your store displays without spending a fortune will be presented in the May/June edition of Furniture World.

MATHIS HOME: Mathis Home in Irvine, California, hangs rugs vertically from the ceiling in a layered fashion to create a dramatic statement for their rug department.
TEPPERMAN’S: Tepperman’s in Toronto, Canada, uses a variety of accessory shelving displays to spice up their stores and make them more interesting places to shop.
SMALLER RUG DISPLAYS: If you do not have room for a large rug rack, there are now smaller rug display options from vendors that allow you to still showcase rugs effectively in your store.

About Jennifer Magee: Jennifer Magee is an architect and designer who has over 15 years of experience in the home furnishings industry. She has designed over three million square feet of retail space. Working almost exclusively with furniture and mattress retailers, Magee has an in-depth knowledge of how to layout stores to create better customer flow, improve the way merchandise is presented, and increase sales. 

She is the founder and owner of Retail in the City, a boutique design firm offering a full range of retail design services from storefront design to interior design, branding, space planning, visual merchandising, signage, new store concepts and more. Her talented team of architects, interior designers and renderers creates exterior and interior design packages so retailers can become more competitive in their home market or expand into new markets.

For additional information, visit www.retailinthecity.com or contact Jennifer directly at 917-533-4372 or jennifer@retailinthecity.com.