MYRTLE BEACH — Sales are picking up for area furniture stores as people have become more interested in refreshing their houses, from upgrading their recliners to adding a floor rug, store owners say.
“Business has been soft for a number of years because of the real estate market, which is what drives our market,” said Dianne Ray, chairwoman of the National Home Furnishings Association and one of the owners of Garden City Furniture. “In the last six months, people are more interested in doing things in their homes, from updating recliners or chairs in their rooms, to redoing sofas, change end tables or add a rug. They want to freshen up the room, not the whole room, just parts of the room.”
The uptick is a positive trend after several years of struggle because of the real estate bust that led a few stores to close, others to consolidate or some to change the way they do business.
Several local stores have had increases in sales from 10 percent to 60 percent in at least the past year. One of those stores plan to consolidate its locations by the end of the year, while at least three other area stores have closed or are closing.
RoomStore, the only one along the Grand Strand, at 1214 Port Drive off U.S. 17 Bypass south of Harrelson Boulevard, closed this summer after the national furniture retailer filed for bankruptcy last December.
Accents in Conway, which opened in May and sold antique furniture, closed three weeks ago because of a decline in business, according to an ad on Craig’s List.
And G&M Interiors in Little River has signs in its windows, some stating that “after many years [the] store [is] closing all must go.”
Despite those stores closing, most furniture stores along the Grand Strand have been “fortunate enough” to make it through the down real estate market and are doing OK, Ray said.
“Everyone feels more positive than they’ve felt in a long time,” Ray said. “Things look better than they have in a long time.”
Garden City Furniture’s sales have increased about 10 percent, a positive growth for the year, one Ray says she hopes can continue.
“For the first time in a couple of years, we are seeing more building and construction,” said Tammy Luscher, one of the owners of Home Accents II Furniture in Surfside Beach. “Interest rates are good. There’s an increase in rental property and new construction... Business is picking up for us. Sales are up over last year, 20 to 25 percent.”
The bad economy made business rough for a few years for the furniture industry, but created an opportunity for Home Accents II to find land and build a new store.
“We looked for years, but couldn’t find property because of the cost and prices,” Luscher said about her store that moved in 2010 from its location in the Old Time Pottery plaza to a better, more visible location on U.S.17. “With the down economy, we were able to find a place.”
The most popular or common items sold at several local stores are sofas, chairs, recliners, sleepers and dining and bedroom sets, furniture store owners said.
“The past year has been fantastic,” said Julie Almeida, owner of Seaside Furniture Gallery in North Myrtle Beach. “It was hard and we struggled a couple of years after we opened, back in 2008 because of the real estate market collapse. We saw a slight increase last summer. This year has been phenomenal.”
Seaside, which opened in 2006, has had a 60 percent increase in sales over the last year, Almeida said.
“We had a lot of repeat business,” Almeida said. “I’m happy to see the traffic.”
Customers at J&K Home Furnishings in North Myrtle Beach soon will have to go a little farther north to J&K Furniture Galleries in Little River.
John Gaar, owner of J&K, said he is consolidating the two stores because he is retiring.
“I’ve been in the industry 33 years, I like to slow it down a little bit,” said Gaar, who had a third J&K store in Little River that closed in 2009.
The move to the 40,000-square-foot store in Little River should be complete by the end of the year, Gaar said.
“We’ve been on the Grand Strand for so many years, and do a lot of upscale homes,” Gaar said. “The market is not like it was in 2005, ’06 and ’07, but we’ve always been successful in business because of merchandising and advertising.”
Sales for J&K, which opened in 1997, have been going up 10 to 15 percent each year since 2010, Gaar said. This comes after sales took a dive in 2007, 2008 and 2009 along with the real estate market.
“The industry is picking up now because people got tired of the gloom and doom, so they are going to still spend money,” Gaar said. “People are excited about buying new things. They want to move forward.”
Contact JANELLE FROST at 443-2404.