The way HFA members Robert and Trish Weatherby see it, 98 years is a pretty good run. In June, the owners of Weatherby’s Furniture, a retail institution in Bakersfield, Calif., gathered employees in the store for an announcement: With no family members interested in continuing the business, the couple said they would be closing the store later this year – so it’s time for one last, blowout sale.
“It’s time,” says general manager Bill Cruse, who is something of an institution at Weatherby’s himself. “I don’t think people were terribly surprised. A little bit sad maybe, but not too surprised.”
Cruse joined the company shortly after getting out of the Air Force. That was 54 years ago. The store is running a retirement sale that will carry through early November. That will give the company enough time to sell most of its inventory in the warehouse out back as well as help most of its employees find work elsewhere.
Cruse has worked the phones the past few weeks helping those employees with job leads and references. “It’s a bittersweet time, I suppose, but it’s definitely time.”
Weatherby’s opened its doors in 1921 and has been a fixture on Chester Avenue downtown for more than 60 years. Cruse says the family has no interest in selling its name. They’ll put the nearly block-long building on the market sometime after the sale.
Cruse says the Weatherbys aren’t the only ones looking forward to retirement. Cruse, 77, and his wife, also a Weatherby’s employee, are ready to do some traveling. They’ll visit family and friends in the Midwest and maybe even buy a recreational vehicle. “We’ve been homebodies for a long time,” he says. “We’re finally going to see parts of the country we’ve never been to.”
Timing is everything
The timing of Weatherby’s retirement sale was strategic, Cruse says. With school starting and summer vacations past, the fall and winter months – specifically October through January – are perfect for a furniture sale, says Chris Lynch, CEO of furniture promotion specialist Lynch Sales.
Besides families being back in town, Lynch says they also have a better sense of their disposable income this time of year.
Pricing is key, too, says Lynch. If most of the furniture on your showroom floor is new inventory, only a small percentage of your product needs to be marked down more than 25 percent or 30 percent. But if you have old product sitting on the showroom floor or in the warehouse – or in Weatherby’s case, a going-out-of-business sale – Lynch urges retailers to price it to sell. “The idea is to turn your inventory into cash,” says Lynch. “At the end of the sale, what good is all that advertising and marketing you invested in if that sofa is still sitting on your showroom floor?”
Not all sales are weekend events. Weatherby’s retirement sale will last two months. Lynch offers another tip: A week or so into your sale, pick a time after hours to find out what’s selling and what’s not and price accordingly. Just because a store won’t be around after the sale doesn’t mean it should look empty and drab. Lynch says to move things around after a week or so to make things look fresh. “And don’t hesitate to take extra markdowns if product is not moving,” he says.