Catering to business is turning out to be good business for Raymour & Flanigan. One of the largest furniture retailing chains in the country with 130 stores, the Liverpool, New York–based company is moving aggressively into the commercial furnishings market with its new B2B initiative targeting hospitality, institutional and health-care-facility buyers.
For a retailer that has always focused on consumers furnishing their homes, this represents a big expansion. So far, it seems to be going well: “We’ve already exceeded our expectations for the first year, and we expect to double that over the next year,” Jennifer DeGennaro, the company’s director of business development, tells Business of Home. “The response has been outstanding so far.”
Raymour & Flanigan had sold to the business customer previously but never as part of a formalized program until earlier this year, when it launched a full suite of perks, including trade discounts, special financing, white-glove delivery service, special ordering of dedicated product, and local support for charities and social organizations that become customers.
The company is not the first retailer in the furniture space to go after this sector, but it is putting its full weight behind the program. “We said, ‘If others can do this—if Bob’s and Williams-Sonoma can do it—so can Raymour & Flanigan,’” says DeGennaro. “And we think we can do it better.”
Going after the business customers does of course have challenges for a retailer used to dealing with individual consumers furnishing their own homes. Product selections can be very different from what is on the floor—the company doesn’t sell online yet—and your typical furniture store salesperson isn’t necessarily used to dealing with the size, scale and logistical complexity of commercial orders. DeGennaro says that, in an effort to satisfy the demands of B2B customers, the company has given more than 1,600 employees special training.
In addition to targeting commercial businesses, the company is hoping to reach designers, architects and home stagers. While there are plans to develop an in-store presence for the program, the company is largely depending on its retail sales force to work with these new potential customers.
DeGennaro says that the best sales so far have come from the housing sector, including assisted living facilities, transitional housing centers and senior citizen housing. Though she declined to give revenue projections for the new operation—a move in line with Raymour’s private ownership and longtime policy not to release its finances—DeGennaro says the retailer had its best year ever last year and is looking to the B2B business as “a way to maintain that trend and create more revenue.”
Homepage photo: A 3D rendering of a common space for Raymour & Flanigan’s new B2B collection | Courtesy of Raymour & Flanigan
Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.