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Are Furniture Stores Dying, Or Just Changing?


May 16, 2024

By Fred Nicolaus

If you’re a regular reader of the furniture industry trade press, you get used to a certain kind of heartbreak. The headline typically goes something like: “Beloved 90-year-old Philadelphia institution calls it quits,” or “After three generations, a Detroit stalwart shutters.” These are independent furniture stores. They’re often family-owned businesses, named the way companies always used to be—after their founders: Scherer’s, Rominger’s, Gamburg’s. They seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate.

The decline of the independent American furniture store is not a new story. Ever since the 1990s—peak home retail era—their numbers have never quite recovered. The biggest drop followed the 2008 recession, a period that pushed one in five furniture retailers out of business. Since then, the story has mostly been one of grinding consolidation, with larger players slowly gobbling up market share.

Last year, though, the pace of closures seems to have picked up. A fourth-generation Philadelphia store shuttered. A Rochester, New York, retailer founded in 1936 filed for bankruptcy. A 123-year-old store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, closed its doors. Churn is natural, and plenty of independents are thriving, but it’s hard to argue that a certain genre of legacy furniture store—big footprint, lots of North Carolina brands on the floor—isn’t fading away.

When I reached out to Tom Liddell of Planned Furniture Promotions, a company that helps retailers wind down operations and sell their inventory, he was so occupied with clients that it took a few weeks of phone tag to finally connect; when we did, he wryly remarked that his cell phone usage had been through the roof recently: “We are very busy right now.”

Why is this happening, and what does it mean for the broader home industry? READ MORE

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