Ken’s took over a former Shopko store to accommodate its expanded assortment.
By Andy Kriege, YSN
Longtime BrandSource member Ken’s is betting on furniture and the support of the group in a big way, as the 60-year-old business makes its first foray into home furnishings.
Originally an appliance-only shop, the Grand Island, Neb.-based business initially extended its assortment to mattresses and, beginning last December, began offering a full array of furniture.
To accommodate the new categories, Ken’s moved to a new home, a former Shopko store across the street.
A year in the making, the move tripled the size of the company’s footprint, which is now just under 40,000 square feet. Filling the expanded space are such new furniture categories as bedroom, dining, stationary, motion and home office, along with Ken’s traditional assortment of appliances.
As a bottom-up build out, Ken’s was able to redesign the floor plan to optimize the space — a luxury it did not have at its former location. But just as the revamp was getting under way, COVID punched their plans square in the face.
Ken’s, however, was undaunted. “We decided to move forward as planned,” recalled general manager Meridith Turner. “Our buildout actually got moved up as a bunch of other projects in front of us were canceled. We went from having six months to make decisions to having to make them in a week.”
“Planning a multi-million-dollar expansion during a global pandemic is definitely a bit stressful,” she added with a sigh.
Given all the challenges and now only three months into selling furniture, Turner is pleased with the sales numbers — which don’t yet include the legacy customers who may still be unaware of the expansion. “We have an extensive customer list and are just starting to market to them now,” Turner explained. “We are being very intentional about how and when we shout from the rooftop that we now have furniture.”
Turner is grateful to be a BrandSource member, particularly when it comes to marketing the new category. “Not many local businesses are able to pull off some of the marketing that we are able to,” she said. “That is certainly a huge benefit of being part of BrandSource; not only our buying power, but also our marketing assets that enable us to perform at a national level and give us opportunities that other locals simply don’t have.”
Ken’s has been using AVB Marketing’s local messaging tools to let consumers know it is now in the furniture business. Most recently the campaigns have been scheduled around the typical promotional calendar, including an over-the-top (OTT) ad push over a host of streaming platforms. To date, Hulu has had the most engagement, Turner said, with some spots getting 60,000 views.
“Nothing to sneeze at in a relatively small Nebraska market,” she noted. “It is much like our digital advertising in that it is very trackable and easy to determine what the ROI is. A lot of what we had been doing before was like tossing spaghetti against the wall.”
Turner again stressed the importance of locally attuned messaging. “We continue to strive to differentiate ourselves in our unique market,” she said. “What works in Phoenix or Boston definitely won’t work here. We strive to be the leader only in our own unique space and market, and BrandSource has really helped us do that.”
As Ken’s continues developing its messaging externally, inside its store it is employing BrandSource’s interactive KIOSQ display, which is frequently used for special-order furniture. “We use it to access our website and get to supplier websites with customers,” Turner said. “It is really nice to display a couch draped in a different color; there are so many details and variables when it comes to furniture, and the Kiosk really lets you show them all very nicely to the customer.”
Ken’s also takes its Kiosk to remote promotional events like Grand Island’s local Home Show, where “it worked very well promoting the store,” she said.
Turner also tipped her hat to the recent BrandSource Summit, where an increased focus on furniture proved very helpful to the Ken’s crew. Being new to category, “I used the opportunity to connect and speak with many of the vendors that I have yet to see since the start of COVID,” she said. Turner also booked an entire afternoon for the delivery team to take in the various training modules, and both the sales and service teams set aside an entire day during Summit for online training.
Reflecting on the company’s furniture venture, Turner shared her personal takeaways. “If I look back on what this business has gone through in this expansion, it has really taught me to be flexible and patient,” she said. “I have pushed harder in the past year than I ever thought I could. Everything is bigger and more challenging than I could have imagined, and I would not have it any other way.” Neither would we, Meridith.
So welcome to the furniture world Ken’s and pull up a chair. You now have a seat at the table.
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.