Time to go big: Retailers pulling out all stops for Labor Day

HIGH POINT — For home furnishings retail, Labor Day weekend is the equivalent of Super Bowl Sunday.

The summer’s end is traditionally the biggest sales weekend of the year, as stores offer their best deals and promotional offers to get a jump on the final piece of the year.

And as consumers — many of whom have been spooked by economic worries — have reverted to pre-pandemic shopping habits of waiting for holidays and big sales, retailers know there’s no better time than now to salvage what’s been a sluggish 2023.

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Eric Easter

“We’ve got every gun loaded and every quiver full of arrows to be sure. It’s the biggest weekend of the year for us, as it is for many,” said Eric Easter, CEO of Indianapolis-based Kittle’s Furniture.

To get things started, Easter said Kittle’s sent out a large mailer that details its offers and financing deals plus tells the store’s story. He said this year’s mailer has hot buys like $499 sofas all the way up to its best-selling and best-positioned lines.

“It’s a soup to nuts story we’re promoting with lots of great values,” Easter said. “The world is what it is right now. People are looking for value. They have money, but they’re being very careful with it so we’re trying to communicate a style and value message.”

Plus, Easter noted, Kittle’s has a lot of Klaussner products so it’s offering drastic discounts to clear inventory to make room for the discontinued brand’s replacements. “We’ve got a lot of Klaussner inventory we need to get rid of. We’ve got a clearance event going on with aggressive price points to move ourselves out of that inventory,” he said.

Easter said last year’s Labor Day was good for Kittle’s, so he’s hoping to run close to even with 2022. He said in any event, the stores are ready.

“Our stores look fantastic; they’re ready to go, and our folks are ready to go,” he said. “All you can do is be prepared, and we feel we’re very well prepared for what the weekend can possibly bring.”

While Top 100 retailer Furnitureland South isn’t one that typically does a lot of holiday sales, its largest promotion of the year, “Awesome August” is easy enough to extend into Labor Day.

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Jeff Harris

“What we’ve gotten in the habit of doing over the past several years, we run these Awesome August promotions that include major discounts from our major vendors and we’re able to roll that through Labor Day Weekend,” CEO Jeff Harris said. “Rather than cut it off through the end of August, our vendors extend it through Labor Day. It allows us to not only end August strong but to have a strong start to September.”

Harris said this year’s Awesome August has been just that, as the Jamestown, N.C.-based retailer was tracking ahead of 2022’s pace. July was good as well, with a 20% bump in written orders, so he’s hoping those trends stay true through early September, if not longer.

“We’re very optimistic. We feel we’re going to have some growth over last August. We typically get a lot of our customer base and our design consultants, they get fired up for this month,” he said. “They’re all here, they’re all working hard, and they’re trying to take advantage of these discounts our vendors extend to our business. Everybody gets excited, consumers who have been thinking about making a purchase over the past several months, when they know we have that going on it gives them a little extra incentive to shop with us.”

Speaking of incentives, Lancaster, Pa.-based three-store retailer Interiors Home’s messaging leans heavily into finance. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jody Oettel said it recently did a private financing event for customers that was highly successful.

Jody Oettel

“We were considering not doing financing as our lead, but we went right back into it because we thought it was our best opportunity,” Oettel said. “We’re doing a four-year offer or an extra discount if you don’t want the four years. We’re pushing hard on sale pricing and the financing with no money down for in stock, or a small deposit if you’re custom ordering.”

As far as products, Oettel said Interiors Home is pushing motion over the holiday weekend, and its bedding message is all about back-to-school and setting kids up for success. “We’re pushing a new angle: talking to customers about kids and sleep and back to school. That makes so much sense. Last week, we turned it around with some cool e-blasts about sleep for your kids and having a good mattress. Add a desk, good place to sit and study,” Oettel said.

She said the sales team did its work prior to the weekend, calling customers and inviting them to shop. Personal touches like that harken back to pre-2020 tactics.

“That’s something we haven’t done since before COVID. If that’s where we are, the best we can do is motivate them to get in for a holiday,” Oettel said. “It seems holidays are back to being strong.”

Robin Hopper-Graham, vice president of Georgia Furniture Mart, said business is beginning to show signs of improvement, and the Norcross, Ga.-based retailer is hoping Labor Day continues that trend.

Robin Hopper-Graham

“We are anticipating Labor Day to be huge as the consumer seems to be waiting on the major holidays to find the best values in the market,” she said. “We expect the remainder of the year to be tough but continue to pivot creating excitement between the major holidays.”

Hopper-Graham said GFM is basing its holiday weekend all around a customizable discount. In short, the more a customer spends, the more she saves.

“We will be focusing on giving the customer options by offering a discount or special financing based on how much they are spending,” she said. “We will also have special buys on overstock merchandise throughout the store.”

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