Furniture retailers historically use the Memorial Day weekend as a barometer for sales not just through the summer but for the rest of the year, too. Strong sales over the three-day weekend usually translate into a busy summer and fall, retailers say. So retailers are breathing a sigh of relief over the recent Memorial Day weekend. Many reported less traffic but strong sales.
At Hacienda Furniture, Home Furnishings Association member Joaquin Rodriguez said Memorial Day traffic and sales were up in his Oxnard, Calif., store last week compared with the same weekend in 2019. Rodriguez attributed both to the fact his store had been closed for nearly three months and only opened May 22. “It was a very good weekend, but we’re still uncertain (about the future),” he said. “It depends on how the economy goes and customers’ purchasing habits. I think that customers will spend more in furniture to make their home more comfortable now that we will be spending more time in our homes.”
Rodriguez said e-commerce sales were through the roof in recent weeks. “We did more sales on e-commerce this year during the COVID-19 closure than the whole last year,” he said.
At Harkness Furniture in Takoma, Wash., HFA member Dave Harkness said traffic was down because the store is operating by appointment only. But those who are in the store are buying. “Even with lower traffic counts and appointments only, the demand is there. I would say our sales are just as strong this year as they were in 2019,” he said. “Whether we can keep that going is the question. It will be interesting to see once we are fully open back up how long the pent-up demand will last. It’s anyone’s guess.”
E-commerce gains traction
The national shutdown of retail for months forced retailers like Harkness to invest more in their e-commerce game. That move has paid off for the company this spring. “We’re not killing it, but (the closure) forced us to focus more on that part of our business and it’s going to help us in the long run,” he said.
HFA member RC Willey saw better-than-expected numbers from its holiday sales, though sales trailed last year’s number. The Top 100 retailer ran sales across all categories in stores, which are scattered across Utah, California and Nevada. Two bright spots for RC Willey: outdoor furniture and, as for many other retailers, appliances. “They’ve been two top sellers off the top of my head,” said Jeff Child, RC Willey’s longtime president. “We’ll wait to see if other categories get more interest from customers.”
Child said it’s too early to predict the demand over the coming months. The company’s Utah stores only recently opened after weeks of appointment-only hours. Nevada stores have been open for three weeks while California stores have only been open two weeks.
Canada doesn’t celebrate Memorial Day, but HFA member Andrew Tepperman of Tepperman’s, with six stores in Ontario, said Monday the last 12 days “have been above forecast.”
“It’s probably a combination of pent-up demand, government stimulus and subsidies, and a reallocation of spending from vacations to staycations,” he said.