By Janet Herlihy
[The Colony, Texas] Nebraska Furniture Mart, (NFM) opened the doors of its newest, biggest store in this Dallas suburb on April 8 to host an evening that included the Live Big Benefit for the Cancer Support Community (CSC) North Texas, a partner/vendor reception and a surprise Q&A with Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, parent company of NFM and about 50 other companies.
While Buffett was scheduled to speak, he was not expected to take questions. Asked if home ownership is a good investment, Buffett, who has lived in the same house for 77 years, said, “If you are going to live someplace for a reasonable length of time, home ownership is a good thing. Right now, mortgage rates are low.”
Another asked Buffett to identify concerns in the stock market. “The biggest challenge in the stock market is people’s emotions,” Buffett responded. “The stock market has done very well. Some investors don’t do well because they listen to too many advisors. The best thing you can do is educate yourself. Learn everything you can. Then buy a group of high quality companies and keep them over time. You will do well.”
Those comments are a good description of the Berkshire Hathaway strategy of acquiring excellent companies and allowing them to have the freedom to continue to succeed. Nebraska Furniture Mart and Shaw Industries, a flooring partner, are both Berkshire Hathaway companies.
All proceeds from the evening including a live auction, a silent auction and a private reception with Warren Buffett, were donated to CSC North Texas, an organization that provides support to those battling cancer.
Largest retail store has big expectations
Buffett has said publicly that he estimates the new mega store could produce $1 billion in sales its first year. Said to be the largest retail store in the country, the operation offers 560,000 square feet of retail space backed by 1.3 million square feet of attached warehouse.
Determined to have every detail perfect, NFM has not yet had its Grand Opening, opting instead for a series of soft opening events to fine tune the retail operation. The official opening is expected to be “soon,” according to David Snedecker, NFM’s division merchandise manager for flooring.
Flooring is wide and deep
The 40,000 square feet flooring department has a prime location on the lower level near the parking garage and corner entrances. With products supplied by most major brands across hard and soft categories, flooring produces 5 percent to 8 percent of NFMs sales at its existing stores, Snedecker said.
Top executives from major flooring companies were at the event. “We have great vendor partners that have gone above and beyond to make this department exciting and fresh,” he added.
The rug department offers about 3,000 area rugs, including about 500 hanging in color families and more than 40 platform stacks in all sizes. The rugs are priced from $5 to $20,000, aimed at capturing impulse as well as planned purchases, Snedecker reported.
The broadloom department, next to rugs, offers some 250 SKUs in stock that range from entry-level 25-ounce polyester products to high-end Stainmaster nylon styles.
Hard surface flooring, including hard wood, luxury vinyl tile, laminate, ceramic tile for floors and walls as well as granite, is positioned behind carpet and rugs and continues all the way to the back of the store.
NFM is known for wide selection, best prices and excellent service and the new store is making sure it delivers on all promises. The flooring department is staffed by about 80 retail sales associates (RSAs) and managers, Snedecker said, adding, “On weekends, everyone is here and about 60 percent are on the floor during the week. The RSAs have been in training for four months. The vendors have come in to hold product knowledge (PKs) sessions.”
While flooring RSAs have a lot to learn, the greater challenge has been finding the “right” staff. “We’ve been looking for people who are approachable and proactive,” Snedecker said. “We want to teach them to take control of each interaction and help the consumer by making solid recommendations.”
Suzie Blumkin, wife of Irv Blumkin of NFM, accompanies Warren Buffett on the ukulele to cap off the evening, playing “The Eyes of Texas” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”