Gorman's is highlighting Caracole among its key vendors for Memorial Day. Photo courtesy of Gorman's.

Retailers hope for first half flourish during Memorial Day sales

HIGH POINT — While it’s the second major tentpole event of the year, Memorial Day is the one that can make or break a retailer’s May, if not the first half.

The sale, which marks the transition from spring to summer, is traditionally one of the biggest of the year, and most retailers work diligently to make sure it lives up to the hype.

And for some, paying attention to holidays is part of a revamped strategy. Take Boston and New England mainstay Circle Furniture, which traditionally only ran one major sale a year in January. New owner Bob Richard is working to bring holiday sales to the eight-store retailer to generate more new business.

“That’s one of the things we’re trying to do is bring new shoppers in,” Richard told Furniture Today. “Traditionally, 60% of Circle Furniture sales have been from customers who have bought from us in the past. We’ve now changed that where it’s 40%. Sales are a big part of getting new customers in. Once they’re in, we tend to hang onto customers for a long time.”

Richard said many of Circle’s promotions revolve around holiday deals from manufacturers, including BDI, Copeland, Magniflex, ElRan and Company C, among others, and things kicked off on May 9. Business has been good, and Richard said Circle’s customers are less sale-sensitive, but he still expects the sales period to drum up some additional business.

“I don’t have a long history of what the blips are, but I’ll tell you it will be a positive blip. We’re also in a demographic where price isn’t a driving factor for our customers,” Richard said. “I’ve had customers who are aware that everything they bought today is on sale next week, and they didn’t care.”

Similarly, customers shopping Farmington, Mich.-based Gorman’s are also among those who don’t necessarily need an incentive to buy. “We find even when we put financing out there, we have a small proportion of our customer base that takes advantage of it. It’s never been a big hook. It probably has to do with the demographic we serve,” CEO John Moray said.

Gorman’s is highlighting Caracole among its key vendors for Memorial Day. Photo courtesy of Gorman’s.

Moray noted that Gorman’s is featuring Caracole and Stickley during the Memorial Day with big discounts, up to 40% off, as well as other national promotions. The sale kicked off mid-month and will close out after the weekend, as Gorman’s moves on to its next promotion, usually two weeks at a time.

“Pricing is more sensitive than in years past, but people are still pulling the trigger,” said Melissa Smith, marketing coordinator. “It’s making sure you’re strong enough to make you want to come in, and then it’s developing those relationships to fulfill the wants and needs and desires of the customers.”

Moray said while May hasn’t been the best month, there’s hope that the holiday can push it over the edge.

“Our hope is to finish out very strong. It’s been seemingly across the board for everyone, a very meek month,” he said. “Melissa went back in and sharpened her pencil to see where she can get bigger discounts from our vendors. That seems to be the thing: the higher the discount, the better the traffic.”

From May 17-30, Top 100 retailer Big Lots is promoting up to $300 off sofas, loveseats, sectionals, recliners, chairs and mattresses and up to $400 off patio furniture and gazebos, among other deals. It’s also promoting hot daily deals and the return of its Big Bucks.

Direct-to-consumer retailer Rove Concepts kicked off its sale on May 21 with select items deeply discounted. For the holiday weekend, it’s offering up to 70% off select items, while members get an additional 25% off and 25% back in voucher for deeper discounts.

Many items are discounted as much as 40% during Top 100 retailer Star Furniture's Memorial Day sale. Image courtesy of Star Furniture.
Select items are discounted as much as 40% during Top 100 retailer Star Furniture’s Memorial Day sale. Image courtesy of Star Furniture.

In Texas, Star Furniture (part of Top 100 Berkshire Hathaway’s furniture division) is placing a base discount on everything that doesn’t have minimum pricing, and some special buys throughout the store with savings at up to 40%.

“We know that customers recognize value. Most of our assortment is better or best, so when we put some of that merchandise on with extra savings, it usually gets extra attention,” said Michael Galloway, vice president of marketing.

Financing is also a big component of Star’s plans for the sale, which got underway on May 16. Galloway said two years interest free is the headline financing offer.

He said Star expects big things from the holiday, and it feels like consumers are fully back into the swing of waiting for holidays to do their furniture shopping.

“We’ve trained the American public very well. They know what to expect. You fish when the fish are biting,” he said.

See also:

  • Mayor on hand for a Star Furniture donation at Houston Furniture Bank: Here’s why
  • How is Circle Furniture rounding out its expansion plan? With this N.H. opening
  • Transition time: New CEO takes reins at Gorman’s as Roberts retires

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