A chat with Kyle Deets of Deets Furniture in Norfolk, Nebraska

NORFOLK, Neb. — The beauty of retail is that there are endless ways to go to market, and unlimited opportunities to delight the customer and grow a business.

A perfect example of a relatively small retailer continuing to make exceptionally large strides in its local market is Deets Furniture, a home furnishings retailer that has served Norfolk, Nebraska, and its surrounding communities for the past 62 years.

Since its founder, Martin Deets, first opened for business in 1961, Deets Furniture has grown to offer customers three shopping experiences: Deets Furniture, Deets Budget Furniture & Mattress and an Ashley store in Norfolk, all at the same location.

Kyle Deets

Recently, Home News Now conducted an exclusive interview with Kyle Deets, who represents the third generation at the helm of this retail establishment.

According to Deets, the ongoing focus of the stores has been to make it easy and convenient for his customers to furnish their homes. He added that as the first store grew, and then added locations, so did the stable of brands including La-Z-Boy, Beautyrest, Serta, Ashley, Flexsteel, Stearns & Foster, Tempur-Pedic, Purple, HomeStretch and many more.

Deets says that being an active member of the Furniture First buying group allows him to buy and sell very competitively.

And, as a local retailer and hometown hero of sorts, Deets says, “We pride ourselves on going that extra mile to help our customers furnish their homes. We offer an inspirational shopping experience and, in the spirit of going the extra mile for our customers, we will often custom order items to allow the customer to have whatever it is they envision.”

This living room vignette is showcased with Deets Furniture’s holiday decor.

Following is a short interview with Kyle Deets:

HNN: Tell me some of the history of Deets Furniture.

KD: We run three unique brands at one convenient location. Our main building is 72,000 square feet. We have 45,000 square feet of retail space, 27,000 square feet of office space and on-site distribution space.

Having everything on one site is very convenient for us, but more importantly, it is convenient for our customers. If a customer wants to buy an item and take it with them, it’s all at one location. In the same parking lot, we have a 12,000-square-foot Budget Furniture & Mattress store.  

Deets Furniture is our medium to medium-high price points with great quality and custom options from brands like Smith Brothers, Flexsteel, La-Z-Boy and Amish dining and bedroom furniture. We are also an Ashley HomeStore licensee (opened in 2018). We subdivided and remodeled the main store in 2018 to add Ashley HomeStore. We now have two great brands under one roof. 

Our Budget Furniture & Mattress store just celebrated its 20th anniversary. At Budget, we offer “Good Stuff, Great Prices!” There, we focus mainly on truckload or factory hot buys that focus on entry-level price points. In the back of Budget Furniture & Mattress, we have our Priority Clearance Zone (about 3,000 square feet). That offers our customers great opportunities to save big on closeouts and scratch-and-dent items. 

What is the point of view of the stores?

KD: I believe that offering three unique shopping experiences across our brands gives the customer a great opportunity to find what they are looking for. Each customer is in a different phase in their life and by offering three levels of price points, we feel we can serve each customer in the way they want to shop. 

This is a view of the mattress department at Deets, featuring some key brands such as Tempur Pedic, Purple and Sealy to name a few.

Then, who is your typical customer for each of the stores and are they different?

KD: Yes, they are different. Just as people are in different phases in their lives, they tend to shop differently as well. However, we do get a good amount of people that cross-shop each of our three stores, especially since all three stores are in the same location.

Typically we see younger families shopping at our Budget & Ashley HomeStore. For Deets Furniture, we typically see customers that have more grown families or possibly the kids have moved out of the home and the customers are looking for more custom-made options.

As the third generation to be in the business, and as a younger retailer, are you planning to implement any changes that reflect your point of view on the business?

KD: Yes, I am the third generation of our family business. My grandfather, Martin Deets, started the business in 1961 when he was 37 years old. His parents immigrated to the United States in 1924, entered through Ellis Island and made their way to Nebraska. It’s a great story of determination and perseverance. Martin’s mother was 5 months pregnant with Martin when they took the boat ride to the United States in 1924.

My father, Ron Deets, kept me in the loop in every bank meeting, accountant meeting, vendor meeting, etc. for the last eight years. I feel that was very helpful in helping me learn the business and what it means to be the CEO of the company.

What does being a CEO mean to you?

KD: Being the CEO is more than just selling furniture and marketing, and he taught me that. It’s everything. You have to build out a great leadership team that believes in the mission of the company and can execute its responsibilities. You must ensure that the company is financially fit, you have to make sure that you can create an environment that allows each employee to achieve their personal goals and the goals of the company. I have a purpose statement which helps to keep me focused on what I should be doing each day.

What does your purpose statement say?

KD: To inspire success, elevate the people around me, and always value the unexpected. 

That’s a great statement. I see you are about two hours from Nebraska Furniture Mart. Do you compete with them and, if so, what is your strategy? I also see Slumberland and Nebraska Appliance Center near you. How do you compete with them as well?

KD: There is competition all around us. Retail competition and then also competition on those “disposable” income dollars. Those dollars in a family budget could be used for many things from other home improvements to vacations, etc. I look at how and when people buy furniture. Sometimes it is a need, something broke or additions to the family require a new furniture purchase, but I feel that a lot of the furniture purchases start with inspiration.

People need to get inspired to change the look of their homes. Most people want a more beautiful home that they feel proud of. If they have a space in their home that they can enjoy and feel good about, that can help create a lot of other good things in their lives as well. They are more likely to invite friends and family over or host a holiday party which in turn then helps to strengthen their relationships with important people within their lives. If furniture and creating a more beautiful home is the start of that, we feel we can help have a little part in that process, but that usually starts with someone getting inspired to change the look of their home.

We over-accessorize our store to help create some of that inspiration. We want people to have a positive and inspiring shopping experience when they are in our store.

Regarding how we have competed against some of the largest names in furniture for over three generations, I feel we can give a more customized shopping experience. We talk a lot internally about giving the customer an industry-leading guest experience. People want to buy from people, and we try to do it better than our competitors. We are not perfect, but that’s our goal (to deliver an industry-leading guest experience). We want to be easy to do business with and make shopping for furniture/mattresses fun.  

Are you brick and click and, if so, what portion of your total sales are in-store versus online, and is that changing?

KD: Yes, we have a transactional website for Deets Furniture. Since we are an Ashley licensee, we also service online orders with our trade area as well. We are selling some online sales, but it’s still a fairly low percentage of our overall business. We still see that people want to see furniture, touch fabrics, and sit on furniture in person, especially for the larger ticket items. 

The customer journey definitely starts online and on our website, but most are visiting our site and then starting to engage with our team before they even enter the store. Once they enter the store, most have done some type of preshopping online or have gained inspiration somewhere online. 

What is your approach to advertising? What portion of sales do you allocate for advertising and what types of advertising have been most effective for you?

KD: I feel that we constantly need to stay in front of our customers. Our ad spend varies throughout the year, but generally, we are in the 3%-7% range. We use a mix of media, including Facebook, streaming video, radio and direct mail.

What role does social media play in your overall business plan and how do you use it?

KD: I feel that social media plays a key role in the advertising mix. Generally, we use Facebook for creating inspiration, by featuring new products that have arrived at our store. Don’t forget about your Google Page. Managing your online reputation (Google Rating) is very important as well.

What role do your reps play in helping you win? 

KD: I feel that our reps play a role in helping us select products that work well in our area. They have a wide knowledge of what is working in our area and can offer suggestions on what may work within our store. 

What do your best reps consistently do? And what could your reps do better for you?

KD: Our best reps are the ones that are most prepared for our meetings. Retailers have a lot going on each day and can get pulled in many different directions. A great rep will be prepared for our meeting, walk us through their line, and make good suggestions. The best reps also have all the necessary documents, SKU numbers, images, etc., to allow us to decide quickly. 

What do your best suppliers do for you? What can suppliers do better to help you?

KD: It’s all about partnerships and ease of doing business. The best suppliers have digital ordering capabilities and robust dealer portals that contain all the necessary marketing info, price books, training documents, etc., all in one place. If more suppliers had great online dealer portals, that would be very helpful for both of us. Again, make it easy for the retailer to do business with the vendor and good things will happen. Consistent visits from reps are also very important as well.

How often do you do in-store events and what types and kinds of events do you hold?

KD: We always have some type of marketing event going on at our store. The offers and products change but we usually run events for three to six weeks at a time. 

What is your outlook for the rest of 2023 and 2024?

KD: 2023 had its ups and downs. I feel that the first half of 2024 will continue to be a challenging market with the second half of 2024 seeing more improvement. 

Which markets do you attend, and which markets are the most productive for you and why?

KD: We attend High Point and the Vegas markets. Both are very important to us. High Point tends to be more furniture focused while Vegas seems to be more mattress focused. 

Below are some additional images taken on the Deets Furniture sales floor.

This bedroom vignette is an example of how Deets Furniture merchandises its mix with area rugs, wall art and decorative accessories.
Here is a living room vignette shown with occasional tables rugs and decorative wall art.
In addition to stationary upholstery, Deets also showcases a wide mix of motion upholstery.
Another bedroom vignette decorated with fall decor, lighting, rugs and wall art.

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