5 Ways to Save on Furniture
FURNITURE RETAILERS ARE feeling their own version of “the Big Freeze” these days.
The housing market is stalled, so people aren’t moving into new homes that they want to furnish, and consumer spending is in a similar standstill, especially when it comes to big-ticket items like a dining room table or a couch, says Jeff Green, president of Mill Valley, Calif.-based Jeff Green Partners, a retail consulting firm.
This spending paralysis has already claimed a few big-names in furniture industry. Last month, after filing for bankruptcy protection, Fortunoff started liquidating its stores. In January, Home Depot announced it would close its high-end retail division, Expo Design Center, which also sells furniture.
Such desperation can breed great deals for consumers — and that’s definitely the case now. Furniture stores are slashing prices by as much as 60% in hopes of unloading excess inventory, says Jerry Alderman, a senior director at the National Home Furnishings Association, which represents more than 10,000 furniture retailers in the U.S. and abroad. Macy’s (M: 8.83*, -0.26, -2.86%), for example, is selling a French-style bedroom chest for $400, a 73% discount off the $1,500 sticker price. Want the matching mirror and bench? You can get them for $69 apiece, down from $450 and $400, respectively. Over at Pier 1 Imports (PIR: 0.15*, -0.01, -6.36%) you can snag a wrought iron and glass coffee table for $30 (down from $90) and hand-carved wooden dining chairs for $80 each (down from $150).
Just be warned: Once the excess inventory is unloaded, expect these deep discounts to disappear, says Green. Here’s how to find the best furniture deals before it’s too late.
Comparing Prices Could Save You Hundreds
Fall in love with a midcentury Danish end table? Compare prices among at least five stores before whipping out your credit card, says Lenny Kharitonov, an executive board member with the Greater New York Home Furnishings Association, which represents local furniture retailers, manufacturers and suppliers. In some cases, one store may have ordered a lot more of a particular piece of furniture than another, making them especially desperate to move the inventory. And that desperation could mean the difference of a few hundred dollars.
Don’t Be Fooled by Liquidation Sales
When it comes to savings, liquidation sales aren’t always a sure thing.
To get the most money out of remaining inventory, liquidation companies — which take over the sale of the faltering store’s goods for a percentage of the sales — will often jack up original sticker prices by as much as 50% and then mark the item down from that price, says Green. To make sure you’re getting the best deal from a liquidation sale, wait until two or three weeks before the store closes (liquidations often last 60 to 90 days) since that’s when the liquidators start offering discounts below the original pricing, says Green. Just don’t wait too long or the selection will be pretty thin.
Find More Price Flexibility at Independent Stores
Typically, there’s more room for negotiating at a mom-and-pop shop, says Green. In a chain store, the manager often doesn’t have the authority to change the price even by a small amount since prices are set by higher-ups.
Feel Like Haggling? Shop at the End of the Month
Depending on the store, salespeople may be more willing to negotiate on price during the last week of the month in order to boost their commission, says Green. While this is more often the case at an independent retailer, it may also work at a larger chain, he says.
Take a Trip to North Carolina
With today’s cheap airfare and comparatively low gas prices, it may make sense to pay a visit to High Point, N.C., home of most U.S. furniture manufacturers and furniture outlets.
These manufacturers sell their furniture for 10% to 20% less than most retailers and warranties are often included, says Green. Consumers who’ve been eyeing furniture at a local retailer or chain can jot down the item number (often found on the price tag or in the furniture catalogs) and ask for its price in the manufacturer’s store. The one drawback: delivery fees. While some manufacturers offer free delivery, others charge. And depending on your home’s location, those fees can be several hundred dollars.