Bob’s Discount sets long-term plan that envisions national footprint

Bob’s Discount Furniture plans on opening 16 stores in 2022, including what will be its northernmost California location, with a new store slated for Sacramento.

MANCHESTER, Conn. — With plans for 16 store openings this year and a strategy to be a best-in-class omnichannel furniture environment, Bob’s Discount Furniture is laying the foundation for a strong national presence.

bill barton, bob's discount

Bill Barton

Bill Barton, CEO of the Manchester, Conn.-based Top 100 retailer, told Furniture Today that, while the company is focusing this year on filling the gaps within its existing regional trading areas, “we have a plan in the long term to fill in the rest of the white space in North America.”

While that may sound audacious, he explained that through its existing e-commerce capabilities the company is already serving consumers across the country.

“Omnichannel shopping is already universally available,” Barton explained. “E-commerce goes coast-to-coast and North-to-South. Brick-and-mortar needs to keep pace with that.”

Of the 16 stores scheduled to open this year, 14 will be new, with two serving as replacements for stores within existing markets. The company also will open its northernmost California location with multiple stores slated for the Sacramento region. This year’s expected growth is on top of 31 stories that Bob’s opened between 2020 and 2021.

It’s part of a long-term plan to reach consumers across the country wherever and however they want to shop. The strategy bore fruit in 2021, as Bob’s reported 17.6% growth in delivered sales.

“In any big-ticket category, the consumer is already behaving in an omnichannel way. The number of customers who haven’t gone on the website first is minimal,” Barton said. “We spent a lot of time and money to enable customers to move between those channels seamlessly.

“They can go on the website, create a basket. If they want to sit on the sofa, that basket comes with them in store,” he continued. “The customer can close out purchase in store or take the basket home, talk with their significant other and close the sale there.”

 

Sticking to core values

While 16 stores in a year is a substantial undertaking for any retailer, Barton indicated that “long term we expect that number to accelerate as the macroeconomic environment stabilizes.”

He went on to say the company’s goal is to become the dominant omnichannel player in North America.

The key, he noted, is to focus on the core values that have fueled Bob’s growth to this point and enabled it to deal with industry disruptions ranging from the pandemic to price increases.

Barton said considering industrywide price increases, it might have been easy to go away from Bob’s long-established everyday low-price model to offer discounts or promotions, but it held onto its tried-and-true sales strategy.

He said it took a little bit of flexibility and willingness to work with vendors, but it was the right call to stay the course. He said doing that has opened more opportunities and a wider array of product offerings with those vendors.

“We’ve had to adjust prices, some up and some down. Having clear price tiers is important to the Bob’s model,” Barton said. “We looked at the pricing tiers we’re known for, and if we have to move something to a different price tier, we asked what can we move in behind it? Our vendor partners have been tremendous. The way they have helped us when a certain product’s raw materials went up and they had a price increase, they said this is something you can slot in behind it.”

 

Part of the Bob’s team

Paying attention to its employees has also been key. Barton said Bob’s culture has created a place where people come to work and stay. And in some instances, they come back.

In talking about the retailer’s culture, Barton cited the example of a handful of distribution center employees who left for a bigger paycheck from Amazon but eventually returned because of the way they were treated at Bob’s. He said having a workforce that feels good about the company helps when it’s time to grow the footprint.

“When I joined in the fall of 2020, I set a goal of visiting at least 50 stores and all nine distribution centers in the first 90 days. One of the things that became clear to me: Bob’s has a very deep positive culture,” he said. “People love being part of the Bob’s team. People come here and stay for a long time. I know that trust has been earned by the way the company has treated people in the long term.

“I heard thank you constantly; thank you, Bob’s, for the way you treated us and respected us,” he continued. “That comes home to roost. The culture of businesses and the way people feel about jobs goes a long way in retention and attraction.”

Barton said everything — from plans to expand, to keeping the pricing structure intact and taking care of employees — is all part of making sure Bob’s lives up to its standard.

“We believe that everybody deserves a home they love. That’s our purpose statement this past year,” he said. “We’re about turning the place you live into the place you love by delivering value without compromise. That’s become our motto: value without compromise.

“We’re asking everybody to look through that lens. Are we delivering value without compromise throughout that journey?”

Bob’s Discount sets long-term plan that envisions national footprint

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