retail watch | Jun 17, 2021 |
La-Z-Boy is anything but when it comes to expanding retail

When it comes to one of the best-known brands in the furniture business, its name brings both blessings and pigeonholing. But if you only think of La-Z-Boy as a manufacturer of oversized recliners, you might be surprised to know it is also one of the country’s largest retailers of all kinds of furniture. And in releasing its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2021 financial results earlier this week—both outstanding—the company shed new light on how important its retailing business has become to its total corporate strategy.

Showing a 41 percent year-over-year increase in its overall fourth-quarter sales (as well as a more modest 1.8 percent increase for the total year), La-Z-Boy said written same-store sales for its entire store network doubled, increasing 100 percent for the quarter; for the year, those sales were up 31 percent. The company said there are now 354 La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery stores, 159 of which it owns outright. The rest are independently owned, often by other furniture retailers who operate separate footprints under their own name.

The company’s retail strategy is similar to that of several other large furniture brands in the business, including Ashley (the largest) and Bassett, which have expanded their retail footprints through both owned-and-operated locations as well as licensed or franchised stores. With retail sales last year of about $613 million, its owned-and-operated stores represent about a third of its overall sales. For its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in April, its retail sales were $194 million, up from $140 million a year ago. The company also continues to expand that base. Last September, it purchased a group of six previously independent La-Z-Boy locations in the Seattle marketplace that had been doing about $30 million in annual sales; on a call with analysts this week, company executives said they were buying three more stores in the Long Island, New York, market.

La-Z-Boy’s direct consumer interface also goes beyond its namesake brand. Three years ago, the company bought Joybird, the direct-to-consumer startup that has been a millennial darling since its founding last decade. Joybird was profitable this past year for the first time since the acquisition, and its business—which is run separately from La-Z-Boy—topped the $150 million annual revenue mark, including a more than double increase in the fiscal fourth quarter.

In her first reporting period since succeeding her longtime predecessor, Kurt Darrow, La-Z-Boy CEO Melinda D. Whittington specifically pointed to “the excellent performance by our company-owned La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries stores and continued growth and profitability at Joybird.” Whittington also has a strong outlook for the balance of the year: “Fiscal 2022 is off to a great start with continued robust written order rates and a record backlog, setting us up well for a strong year of shipments ahead.”

La-Z-Boy still makes those oversized recliners that can seemingly swallow a good-sized American male. But with its growing retail and online presence, it has become much more than just a clichéd punchline—it’s a brand, and a business, to watch.

Homepage photo: La-Z-Boy’s Dixie sofa and Nouveau power reclining chair | La-Z-Boy

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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.

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