Why do people not shop at BIG Lots for furniture more often?

I believe there are three main reasons. 1) It’s not what Big Lots is really known for. 2) Selection. 3) Service.

Even before I was in the furniture business I’d look at the furniture at Big Lots while my wife was shopping for other items. They seemed to have some nice items of mid-range quality and some that were obviously of lower quality, but that pretty much goes for most furniture stores. The difference is that they buy the limited items they carry in bulk and don’t have a huge selection in store, so either they have what you want in stock or they don’t. Larger, furniture-only stores have a much greater selection while smaller specialty stores will work with a customer to learn what they want, what they expect quality-wise and what they can afford. Then they will order for them just what suits their wants and needs.

The advantage of the huge furniture-only stores is selection and the ability to try before you buy. You can sit on 50 sofas to find your favorite and then they might carry that one in more than one upholstery or color. The downside is usually cost. Having a 30,000 sf showroom and a 50,000 sf warehouse isn’t cheap! Neither is all that staff with payroll and benefits. So it’s convenient to shop there but it usually comes at a premium cost. Not to mention that the corporate furniture stores spend a small fortune on local and national advertising, which of course adds to the cost consumers pay. The 3 large furniture stores in my area spend between $5,000 to $10,000 per week, per location on just their local TV, Newspaper, Radio and Online ads, according to several advertising execs I’ve spoken with. Yikes! Who ends up paying for that?

The smaller mom & pops don’t usually have that much space or inventory on hand but will take the time to talk to you to find out what you have in mind and then custom order it for you in the style/fabric/color you’d prefer. They may not have the buying power of their larger competitors, so they will pay more per item in most cases. But they also don’t have the huge overhead costs of the mega furniture stores, so the cost to the consumer is often quite competitive in the end if not a bit better.

Then there’s our model where each ‘store’ or distribution center is a locally owned mom & pop operation with very limited overhead costs, but we’re also part of a national ‘buying pool’ with around 250 locations placing orders through one entity. The entire parent company has just one employee and literally spends nothing on advertising. The location owners are all independents and in most cases have no employees to pay. So we can operate with great customer service and the custom ordering benefits of a mom & pop store, while having the great buying power of the big corporate operations. If there’s an iDEAL Furniture location near you give them a try!

Search your area for an iDEAL location under ‘IDF Owners’ here:

iDealFurniture ~ Harrisonburg, VA

written by Neal Woodard, Small Business Owner