When to expand? HFA member David Berggren offers tips

An artist's rendering of the new store opening next year by HFA member Furniture Connections.

Uncertainty to tariffs. A possible recession on the horizon. These days, furniture retailers who want to expand can get frightened off by the headlines. HFA member Furniture Connection in Clarksville, Tenn., is not like a lot of furniture retailers.

Owner David Berggren broke ground this month on a second Furniture Connection store in Clarksville, Tenn. The new store will be 46,000 square feet and sit behind an Ashley HomeStore Berggren already owns.

Berggren says the new store will go a long way toward fulfilling one of his long-standing beliefs in retail furniture shopping. “Customers are always shopping at least two stores,” he says. “We want to be one of those two stores in Clarksville.”

It’s hard to shop for furniture in Clarksville without entering a Berggren-owned store. He already owns four furniture stores in Clarksville: The original Furniture Connection, two Ashley HomeStores and Furnish.

Berggren says he’s mindful of the economic uncertainties swirling throughout retail, but none of that mattered when he decided to grow his business.

“You can always find a reason not to do something,” says Berggren. “I’m confident we’re ready to weather any worst-case scenario because we’ve spent years positioning for this move. Our mentality is that we’re ready to grow so let’s grow.”

Furniture Connections owner David Berggren stands on the ground where his fifth store in Clarksville, Tenn., will be built.
Furniture Connection owner David Berggren stands on the ground where his fifth store in Clarksville, Tenn., will be built.

Roots in Kentucky

Berggren opened his first store 20 years ago in Oak Grove, Ky. After a few years, the store moved about 12 miles down the highway to Clarksville. Berggren and Furniture Connection have been growing ever since.

The secret to Furniture Connection’s success is no secret, really. Berggren says his stores provide customers every benefit the internet offers and then some. That includes an inventory that supports the timely delivery of the product. “We’ve got a huge inventory which means if you buy something, you’re going to have it delivered that same day or the next,” says Berggren. “Look, you can beat the internet because stock beats everything. Why buy it online and wait when you can take it home tonight? That’s a message that’s worked for us for many, many years.”

Berggren is a big fan of the author and life coach Tony Robbins. A while back, he and some employees went to hear Robbins speak. “Tony always says it’s not the lack of resources holding you back, it’s your lack of resourcefulness.”

That resourcefulness was on display after Berggren opened his second HomeStore a few years back. It was an overnight hit – to the point that two years after opening the store, he bought the three acres behind it in anticipation of one day opening a second Furniture Connection.

The new store is being designed by retail strategist Connie Post and Design Solutions. “We were looking for something that had the wow factor, and Connie was able to provide that,” Berggren says. “We hit it off right from the start.”

Expansion tips

Berggren has a few thoughts for retailers looking to expand.

Are current sales strong? “Don’t expand to fix a current problem,” says Berggren. “That’s the easiest way to own two problems.”

Are you stretching yourself too thin? The new store is being built from the ground up. Berggren says he has the cash reserves in place for any issues that might come up between that first shovel of dirt and next year’s ribbon cutting.

Speaking of stretching yourself … It’s not just your finances you need to be aware of, says Berggren. “It’s also about staffing. Our employees are our biggest asset. We can’t just go out and hire bodies. We’re hiring talent. There’s a difference. Don’t spread yourself thin at your current store to fill the second. Get good people for both.”

 

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