Retailers see mix of sizzle and fizzle in July 4 sales

HIGH POINT — While most agree that sales could have been better during the July 4 holiday period, most home furnishings retailers came away feeling OK about things.

Many consumers are feeling the pinch due to inflation and increased costs, which affected turnout in many locations and sales in some, while in the grand scheme of things, this holiday is usually seen as second-tier for sales and isn’t on the same level as Memorial Day or Labor Day.

A triple sales tax discount or 60 months special financing was the key incentive for Gill Brothers Furniture.
A triple sales tax discount or 60 months special financing was the key incentive for Gill Brothers Furniture.

“I would say it was not bad for 2024,” said Richard Gill, president of Gill Brothers Furniture in Muncie, Ind.

Gill Brothers went into the month promoting a triple sales tax savings as its key incentive, and Gill said that helped beat last year’s margins. He said motion upholstery was among Gill Brothers’ better performers, while mattresses held steady.

Gill said, all-in-all, the holiday was about what he expected.

“Generally, for us the July 4 holiday is OK,” he said. “It doesn’t measure up to Memorial Day or Labor Day for us, and we tend to get stronger by the second or third week of July.”

That sentiment was shared by several retailers. Top 100 1915 South, which owns and operates Ashley stores across the Southeast, measured through the weekend preceding and the weekend following, said Bill Dixon, vice president of merchandising and marketing. Dixon noted there were some things to like, such as traffic and close percentage.

“The good news is traffic was up. We’re seeing some nice increases there,” Dixon said. “We’re not quite seeing the same average purchase amount that we normally do. It seems the customers are buying a little less than they did this time last year. That might be a little sign of the economy right now.”

Dixon said upholstery and motion were among the better performers, however, he felt shoppers were opting for good, versus better and best.

“We had good performance on typical best-sellers. It was pretty much what we expected there,” he said. “It’s probably the same situation where customers were buying a little more of the lower priced product. Not significant, just a little bit.”

Kyle Johansen, executive director of merchandising and marketing for Top 100 retailer HOM Furniture, said the Coon Rapids, Minn.-based retailer tempered expectations for July 4 at the outset, noting that it won’t typically compare with bigger tentpole events. He said HOM offered a tiered promotion, in which consumers qualified for deeper savings as their spending rose.

He said business and traffic were both pretty good, and a little rain helped bring a few more folks in to shop.

“I would have liked to have seen it a little busier based on what the weather was, but we ended up up a little bit,” he said. “Nothing to brag about, but up is up, and it’s all same store sales. We’re satisfied with being up.”

Mattresses and outdoor were among HOM’s most heavily promoted categories.

“We pushed our outdoor quite a bit; we’re still a little heavier on outdoor than we would have liked at this time,” Johansen said. “It’s been a rainy spring for us, so that kicked off patio season a little later than we’d like to see. Mattresses are always in the forefront of our marketing campaigns.”

While some retailers were open on July 4 itself, others decided to close for the holiday. Having one less day really didn’t adversely affect sales for some.

Top 100 retailer Boston Interiors was one, and President Peter Theran said it made up for it over the weekend, with upholstery and dining among its better performers.

“The weekend after the July 4 holiday, sales were solid.  A little rain made for strong sales on Saturday that really drove the overall results,” Theran said.

In Greenville, N.C., Bostic Sugg Furniture was also closed for the mid-week holiday itself and recouped business during the weekend.

“We had a good weekend. The traffic was not a typical weekend but the people who came in bought,” owner Britt Laughinghouse said. “We had some aggressive pricing and we bought some specials — it’s a buyer’s market for the retailer and the consumer. We promoted those deals and that pulled us through.”

Laughinghouse said Bostic Sugg has been on a solid run since Memorial Day, and it’s up for the month so far. Among the store’s key promotions during the event were some showroom samples from La-Z-Boy and some discontinued pieces from Bassett’s club-level motion. He said that fit with consumers’ appetites for individual pieces vs. buying complete collections.

Upholstery was a winner for Cleveland Furniture Co. during July 4 sales.
Upholstery was a winner for Cleveland Furniture Co. during July 4 sales.

Cleveland Furniture Company also maintained its strong recent run, said partner Paul Cirino Jr.

“Our Fourth of July was no different than the way things have been. Our written business was up 10% while traffic was down. Written orders were down, but the tickets were 35% to 50% higher,” Cirino said.

Cirino felt CFC’s messaging toward in-stock merchandise proved to be successful and helped bring willing spenders into the store.

“Our message of ‘in stock’ was a big draw for people who were ready to put money down and buy something,” he said, adding that seating choices were the holiday’s biggest winners.

“Leather motion was a big part of it,” Cirino said. “Sectionals — in fabric, leather, you name it — continue to be incredibly popular.”

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