Retailers grateful for Memorial Day sales boost

A survey of several major dealers in different parts of the country say the weekend met or exceeded their expectations

HIGH POINT — Once again, Memorial Day has come and gone, signaling what some say will be the start of a long, hot and slow summer.

Fortunately, some reported a successful holiday weekend giving them a boost from what has been an extremely lukewarm first half and helping sustain their businesses at least through the July Fourth and Labor Day sales events.

Even those who reported sales being even with last year’s holiday weekend appeared pleased, noting that flat is better than the alternative of weeks and in some cases months of decreases.

Jim McIngvale

“It was about what I expected,” said Jim McIngvale, owner of Houston-based Gallery Furniture. “I don’t look at up or down. I look at what I expected to do and what I expected to do in many ways exceeded expectations.”

He said that foot traffic was good, and that several things that the company didn’t heavily stock up on sold out.

“So that was good,” he said, adding that the success was not category specific because of overall sales activity. “It was a good pleasant response.”

Walter E. Smithe

Walter E. Smithe, of Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design in Chicago, said sales were about even with last year, adding, “In this environment, that’s pretty good.”

“We were pleased with the holiday,” he said. “It went well.”

He said that as much of his business is driven by custom orders, its 10 Chicago area stores don’t typically have doorbuster type of holiday weekend sales events with heavy promotions by specific categories, for example. But it did have a parade-themed commercial to help get customers in the mood for the summer season, while also promoting its business as part of the festivities.

The company continues to advertise, not only with a few days extension of its Memorial Day sale, but also with an upcoming “Cicada Sale. This celebrates the emergence of two types of the famed insects that are emerging from the ground in the Midwest and Southeast at the same time in late spring/early summer in what NBC News describes as a “rare synchronized event that last occurred in 1803.”

“It will create a little excitement,” Smithe said of the unique sales event, which aims to further boost business in what has been a year of ups and downs.

Others offered extended Memorial Day sales events that ran through this weekend, such as Baer’s and Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Jerry Baer

Jerry Baer, chief executive officer of Baer’s, said the sale that ran this past weekend resulted in comparable sales to last year.

“That is a fair assessment,” Baer said, noting that the Florida market has been challenging because business today is being compared to significant increases it experienced during the pandemic.

Today’s numbers also reflect challenges in the housing market, which has been soft due to interest rate levels. “Get the mortgage rates down and we’ll have business again,” Baer added.

Irv Blumkin, chairman of Nebraska Furniture Mart, said that sales were up compared to last year, but declined to reveal further specifics.

Irv Blumkin

“We had a very, very good weekend,” he said of sales on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with its three stores closed on Monday. “It was a breath of fresh air.”

He noted that sales activity was strong across the board, as “furniture was great, mattresses were great, appliances and electronics were very strong and flooring was good.”  

He added that the sale continues through this weekend, with 10% discounts offered on multiple categories ranging from bedroom and living room to office furniture, dining, outdoor and more, according to its website.

Others also reported increases, including Jamestown, North Carolina-based Furnitureland South, which said that overall sales were up about 10% over the holiday weekend event compared to the same period last year. However, pending sales on promos running through May 31 are up closer to 20%, noted Blair Ingle, executive director of sales and marketing. This was aided largely by promotions offered by manufacturers that are running through May 31.

Ingle added that foot traffic also was up slightly on Friday and Saturday, though down slightly on Monday as “the weather was gorgeous.”

“We saw strong results across the board, but certainly bedding and rugs performed well as they have been in focus,” Ingle noted, adding that May is rug month at Furnitureland South, along with Better Sleep Month. “Our bedding manufacturers participated in a “breakfast in bed” promotion on Saturday, which created a lot of great energy in the store as well as additional traffic. We also ran standard messaging on social media, TV, digital ads, emails, etc. …”

In addition, Ingle noted that the company also saw strong sales in its in-stock product offering.

“People seem to want plenty of product right away,” she said, noting that half of the store’s sales were from in-state, while the other half were from across the Southeast, including Georgia, Florida, Virginia and South Carolina and even in Northeast states such as New Jersey.

Weather is certainly one factor that can impact holiday weekend sales, particularly as people make day or weekend trips during the official start to the summer weekend festivities.

Kyle Johansen

Thus, clouds and some intermittent rain helped retailers such as Minneapolis-based HOM Furniture. Kyle Johansen, executive director of marketing and merchandising, said that weather may have played a role in driving some people into its stores. Sales, he said, were up double digits and foot traffic matched the increase in sales.

The company also offered a generous promotion of interest-free financing on purchases on $999 or more, compared to minimums in the thousands previously. Customers also could receive 10% off if they paid with cash or a personal credit card.

“Typically we have done one or the other,” he said. “This time we wanted to put it out there as your choice.”

He said while the company promoted its Memorial Day sale in the newspaper, on TV and online, the company didn’t have to spend an exorbitant amount on marketing as “we have been in our markets for so long that everybody knows us.”

Of specific categories, he said that bedding did well, as did stationary and motion upholstery. It also tended to do better with its upper-end goods versus its more promotional offerings including those sold at sister company Dock 86, which is now part of a number of the HOM footprints.

“I chalk that up to buyers who have money that were out there spending this weekend,” he said, noting that HOM tends to sell better-end goods. “And our HOM products were the shining star.”

Of whether or not the store met expectations?

“My expectations were gosh, it would be nice if we were up just a couple of percent,” Johansen said. “So from an expectations standpoint, we blew it out of the water.”

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at and at 336-508-4616.

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