Like other furniture retailers this summer, Home Furnishings Association member City Furniture has become a rare hot spot in an economy that is, at best, lukewarm.
Since the first days of reopening in the coronavirus pandemic, the Florida-based retailer has enjoyed what City CEO Keith Koenig earlier this year described as an “amazing” sales surge. Beds, sofas, recliners, student desks — just about anything in stock — has been flying out of its 21 stores across the state. To keep up with that demand, company officials announced this month they will hire more than 500 employees during the fourth quarter.
Most of the new jobs will be in South Florida, with about 200 in sales and another 250 in warehouse, delivery and customer care. The last 50 or so positions will be corporate, including IT and e-commerce — areas Koenig said the company has been focusing on and investing heavily in since 2018.
City’s good fortune — company President Andrew Koenig says City is on track for its the highest sales year in company history — not only seems at odds with the overall collapse in business activity across the country but also reflects the economic remodeling that the pandemic has unleashed. Like many retail furniture businesses, City Furniture is among a select group of companies that are prospering despite — or in some cases because of — the pandemic as customers settle into a new homebound lifestyle.
‘Intense demand’ for upgrading living and home working spaces
“Families coping with the COVID environment suddenly need their homes to multitask as workplace, school and staycation refuge,” Andrew Koenig says. “The most intense demand is for upgrading family rooms/living rooms, establishing home offices, and creating comfortable outdoor living areas.”
To expand its team, Andrew Koenig says the company has transitioned almost completely to virtual interviewing, including online assessments and using a team-hiring approach that is producing strong hires. He says South Florida’s stressed economy stemming from the pandemic is helping City find that many applicants with sales experience in the retail, hospitality, automotive, real estate and restaurant industries make a smooth transition to furniture sales. Koenig says a first-year sales associate can take home $60,000 to more than $100,000 in earnings. Delivery drivers are also in demand, with first-year earnings of $50,000 to $70,000.
In today’s economy, fast action to transform operations is essential, says Koenig. He draws ideas from kaizen continuous improvement for businesses and studied the process in Japan. This spring, City Furniture streamlined the customer experience with contact-less payments and availability of free contact-less delivery, fast checkout using sales associate iPads, deeper website product content, and unlimited free design services staffed 24/7 online to de-stress the shopping process and help customers create great spaces on a budget. The company plans to roll out 3D models and Augmented Reality on its website this fall.
“Our showrooms and warehouses are open safely and operating 100 percent while following all CDC safety guidelines, including social distancing, face masks and frequent deep cleanings,” Koenig says. “Our corporate office team and customer-care associates continue working remotely and are transforming their areas with virtual training and virtual meetings, all going well.”
While changes accelerated in recent months, City Furniture’s long-term growth is per plan. As the Southeast and Southwest Florida licensee for Ashley HomeStore, the retailer opened an Ashley HomeStore North Miami Beach in August at 1400 NW 167th Street. Construction is underway for a 133,000-square-foot City Furniture superstore in Altamonte Springs, to open in spring 2021 as the brand’s third Orlando-area store. Andrew Koenig expects that opening to create more than 100 additional jobs. Additional store growth and expansion plans are underway and future announcements will come soon.
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