U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he was more hopeful about an economic recovery after visiting City Furniture in Tamarac, Fla., Oct. 23. Ross praised the Home Furnishings Association member for overcoming the challenges of doing business during a public health crisis.
“As our economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, your company’s commitment to your community and to your 2,400 workers – soon to grow by hundreds more – gives me great hope,” Ross said during a business roundtable following a tour of City Furniture facilities.
“I am told you are hiring 500 additional workers in the coming months, are planning a $150 million expansion into Tampa and Orlando, and are making arrangements to double the size of your upholstery factory in New Albany, Miss., to meet increasing demand,” Ross added. “It’s nice to know your upholstered goods are made right here in the U.S.A. Congratulations on this success in spite of the year’s adversity.
“As the dominant retailer of furniture and upholstered goods in Florida, City Furniture is a great Florida success story, and they’re accomplishing all of this in the middle of the pandemic,” Ross added. “They’re about to open two new branches, each more than 100,000 square feet, and the million-square-foot warehouse that operates 24/7 means good employment for people every day and night, all year long. That’s important to the community.”
City Furniture President Andrew Koenig led Ross on a tour of the Top 50 furniture retailer’s million-square-foot headquarters complex before the secretary discussed the pandemic’s South Florida economic impacts with governmental officials and top executives from the region’s aviation, real estate, education, accounting, retail, banking and legal sectors. Some reported ongoing hard hits to their businesses, while others said they’ve made changes needed to grow sales. Most voiced the need to expedite a new federal stimulus program to help South Florida families and enable companies to keep the economy open and operating safely.
Retailer hosts regional economic roundtable
City Furniture hosted the event, which was convened by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. Ross touted strong retail sales and a healthy savings rate by consumers, which he said points to a continuing recovery. He attributed much of that to that to swift relief efforts by Congress and the administration, including stimulus checks and enhanced jobless benefits. And now, employment is growing, he added.
“U.S. retail and food services sales rebounded in September to $549.3 billion,” Ross shared. “That’s up 1.9 percent over August and beating market expectations. Consumer spending’s steady growth month over month is also a promising trend, with its increase from $11 trillion during April to $12.8 trillion during August. A $1.8 trillion increase in just those few months.
“Americans are spending more in our economy now than they did when President Trump first arrived in office,” Ross said. “This is all reassuring news for your businesses and your workers. The recovery is clearly continuing.”
He agreed, however, that more help is needed.
Ross says economy needs another boost
“The administration continues to struggle with Congress on quick passage of another stimulus bill, so I am hopeful that we will see additional relief soon, but it probably won’t be until after the election,” Ross said, correctly. “In the meantime, my department is putting its resources behind rebuilding the U.S. economy and strengthening our global commercial ties here in Florida and across the country.”
Commerce Department efforts include plans to “re-shore production and re-establish domestic supply chains in many industrial sectors,” he said.
Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance President and CEO Bob Swindell said City Furniture was selected as the site for the event because it has navigated pandemic challenges and is adding hundreds of jobs to its workforce of 2,300. When the crisis hit, the company quickly adapted its advanced technology, people and systems that were already in place as part of its three-year, $150 million growth plan, Koenig said.
Online sales are up 300 percent year-over-year, Koenig said, and the company is on track for record revenues this year. The brand is growing in Southeast and Central Florida, constructing its third Orlando-area location, a 114,000-square-foot superstore in Altamonte Springs. There are plans for expansion into the Tampa market as well.
Home furnishings see increased demand
“We’re fortunate that in the stay-at-home economy, with a family’s home suddenly serving as office, school, entertainment center and staycation spot, we’re able to meet the increased demand for home furnishings,” said Koenig. “Staying nimble has helped us bring customers the safe, comfortable solutions they want, from online shopping, chat and phone selling, to by-appointment and safe in-store shopping.”
“City Furniture is a quintessential example of the value of entrepreneurship and the innovative spirit of Greater Fort Lauderdale,” said Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. “We admire the company’s reinvestment in both the business and our community and are glad that Secretary Ross had the opportunity to learn about City Furniture’s success and hear firsthand from local leaders about how the federal government can support economic recovery.”
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