BrandSource member Phillip Lovin with sons Stiel, Chasen and Camden.
Business is truly a blessing for Lovin’s Wholesale
By Alan Wolf, YSN
They say God works in mysterious ways.
A good example would be Phillip Lovin’s family name. He and his wife Amanda, principals of Lovin’s Wholesale Furniture and Appliance in Talbott, Tenn., are people of faith, and the BrandSource couple practically radiates love for others.
You notice it the very first time you meet Phil; there’s a reassuring warmth and inner peace about him that likely stems from his spirituality. It infuses every aspect of his life, business being no exception.
Put into practice, that richness of spirit ensures a low-cost, high-service, customer-centric shopping experience at the Lovin’s 15,000-square-foot store, which is staffed solely by family. But it also means that business has its place; so the store is always closed on Sundays, and if the Lovins decide to attend a son’s ballgame during work hours, so be it.
It also led the family to adopt a son after the boy’s father, the school’s assistant baseball coach, passed away, and to provide a home to three other children at various times in addition to their own biological trio of kids.
Fortunately for BrandSource, it was also the determining factor in Lovin’s return to AVB, after spending some time with that other group. But more about that in a moment.
Lovin was born and raised in the same corner of Northeast Tennessee he now serves, about an hour outside Knoxville, that by his count numbers about 10,000 mailboxes within eight miles of the store. He hints at a troubled past, but true to his name speaks lovingly of his grandfather, Sterling Lovin (“The best man I ever met”), and describes his dad, who encouraged him to go into business, as “brilliant.”
Lovin was seemingly destined for furniture retail. His father, who works at the store parttime, was a longtime purchaser for a furniture manufacturer and his stepmom was an upholstery sewer. One day during his son’s football practice, Phil’s dad suggested opening a furniture shop in a vacant, one room storefront. He filled the 1,100-square-foot space with several living room suites on consignment and in 2003 Lovin’s Furniture was born.
The first major hurdle arose within 10 months, when the large, traffic-driving furniture store across the street shuttered and Lovin’s spillover business dried up. “Either get in or get out,” his father advised, and when a 7,000-square-foot showroom became available several towns over in a friend’s strip center, the decision was made.
Phil flourished. Within three years he was running out of space and expanded the store’s footprint, and by 2015 he bought his current location in Talbott, where he competes with Ashley and Badcock home stores and another family-owned independent. A 5,000-square-foot warehouse was the next investment, which, said Phil, came to the Lovins through God’s providence after a prior deal fell through.
Along the way, Lovin’s added appliances to the mix at the urging of a nearby GE rep after the local Sears closed. At first the category was more of a courtesy for customers than a profit center (“I didn’t really understand appliances,” Phil said), but with an assist from BrandSource distribution partner Almo and the addition of the Speed Queen line, the business took off. “Now,” Phil noted, “my appliance business is bigger than the previous store.”
Indeed, business overall has been on a tear since May of 2020, thanks in large measure to that manna-from-heaven warehouse. “We just kept placing orders” and making opportunistic buys, Phil said, which ensures enough inventory to sell off the sales floor. “We’re the only place in town that can put together a four-piece kitchen suite,” he noted, and Home Depot regularly sends customers their way. On the furniture side, sales were up 68 percent last year, and this year Lovin’s surpassed its total 2020 take by September.
“The extra business has been a blessing,” Phil said. “It may not last forever, but right now I wake up thankful every day because there are stores in Tennessee without merchandise, and we’re still getting shipments every week.”
It was about seven years ago that the family first entertained the idea of joining a buying group, again at the urging of that GE rep. “He said we needed to pick a group if we’re getting involved in appliances,” Phil said. Courted by the big three, Lovin’s threw its lot in with BrandSource, largely because Southeast Region Manager Tim Clements was the only rep who didn’t bash the other two.
Lovin’s stayed with BrandSource for two years before being lured away by a semi-local sales rep for AVB’s chief rival. “They had my best-selling furniture line and offered us some deals,” Phil recounted, but realized his mistake after visiting a Summit in Dallas. “BrandSource is family, the other guys are business,” he said. “We never chose business over family; we got caught up in the numbers.”
Since then, Lovin’s has benefitted both from BrandSource’s esprit de corps and its state-of-the-art services, including digital price tags and transactional websites. Phil has described the electronic tags as “single-handedly the best thing we did since taking on appliances,” and said his e-commerce site receives compliments daily. In fact, thanks to its high profile, LovinsFurniture.com has taken orders from as far afield as Michigan and California,
serving some 40 families that were relocating to Tennessee. “At least eight of them said it was the best site they’d ever been on; it’s the reason they trusted us from so far away,” he said.
“We took a different path than most,” Phil reflected, “but coming back to BrandSource was one of the best things that ever happened to us.”
So, what’s next for Lovin’s Wholesale Furniture and Appliance? Perhaps the more important question is, what’s not.
“I have no desire to be some monstrous store,” Phil said. Rather, his goal is “to work and help people.”
“I’ve lived a very charmed life,” he reflected. “I never went hungry, never not had clothes, and not having to stress about the electric bill is something I appreciate daily.”
For that he thanks his maker and his “amazing” grandparents, who prayed for and believed in him his whole life.
“I never want to bring shame to my grandfather or my dad,” Lovin added. “Their name is on the door, and I will always respect that. It’s what makes us different.”
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress, and CE dealers.