Some local furniture retailers feel like they no longer have a seat at the table — so they are leaving, owners said.
Long Island retailers Casco Kids Furniture and Leonardo Furniture are closing, and Overstock Furniture is downsizing, and their owners told me that internet competition is the major reason.
“Business hasn’t been good in a while. I attributed it to, I think, there’s too many choices. … People are not shopping the way they used to,” said Frank Casco, who will close Casco Kids Furniture, his 45-year-old store at 2418 Middle Country Rd. in Centereach, and retire at the end of this month.
Another retailer, All Wood Furniture in Farmingdale, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August, according to filings at the U.S. bankruptcy court in Central Islip. The store did not respond to a call for comment.
Competition from internet sales is crushing brick-and-mortar stores, which have to contend with high state and local taxes and other costs that out-of-state online sellers don’t encounter, the local owners said. Some national experts say there is more to the story than this, but more about that later.
The number of furniture and home furnishings stores in Nassau County fell by 24 locations, or 7.25 percent, to 307 between 2012 and 2017, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. During the same period, the number in Suffolk County declined by 10 establishments, or 3.09 percent, to 313.
Leonardo Furniture’s location at 695 Merrick Ave. in Westbury, which has been open about a year in leased space, will close in mid-October, owner Rami Macani said. His 5-year-old store at 500 Sunrise Hwy. in Rockville Centre will close as soon as he can sell the building, he said.
Macani used to have five furniture stores, including a now-defunct Garden City location that opened in 1991.
“There is no loyalty to small business,” he said. “We can’t afford to stay in business when someone is sitting in the end of nowhere and putting [out] a price that doesn’t have the expenses that we have,” Macani said.
Rachel Avgi, who has been in the furniture business for 20 years, used to own four stores on Long Island. Her last one, Overstock Furniture, which is also known as Funiture, purposely misspelled, is at 1185 Sunrise Hwy. in Copiague. The 15-year-old store will close as soon as the pending sale of the 12,280-square-foot building it occupies is finalized, she said.
While a liquidation sale is going on, she has moved some of her business next door to a smaller space, 6,000 square feet, she is leasing.
“So, we’ll see how it goes,” said Avgi, who said one issue she runs into is distributors selling furniture to customers online for the same price she pays for it.
Online competition is impacting furniture retailers, but it’s not a huge percentage of furniture sales nationwide, said Sharron Bradley, chief executive of the Home Furnishings Association, a Roseville, California-based group that represents furniture retailers.
Several other factors are at play, including store consolidations, but mom-and-pop operators can compete well with large chains if they know how to market themselves, use technology effectively and offer something unique to draw customers in, she said.
In 2015, 8 percent of all furniture and mattress sales occurred online, compared to 11 percent in 2017, said industry analyst Wallace W. Epperson Jr., of Richmond-based investment banking firm Mann, Armistead & Epperson Ltd.
He attributed some of the decline in the number of small stores to owners retiring and their children not wanting to take over the businesses.
Also, with imports, there is power in numbers.
“The larger stores can buy from your factories in Asia and bring it over more efficiently than stores who have to buy smaller quantities,” he said.
Last year, furniture made in the United States accounted for 39.3 percent of all wholesale furniture sold to retailers, compared to 53.1 percent in 2008, according to a 2018 study from Mann, Armistead & Epperson.
Retail Roundup is a column about major retail news on Long Island — store openings, closings, expansions, acquisitions, etc. — that is published online and in the Monday paper. To read more of these columns, click here. If you have news to share, please send an email to Newsday reporter Tory N. Parrish at email@example.com.