The Broyhill Highland collection includes this sectional, swivel chair and ottoman. The sectional retails at $1,399 and the chair and ottoman retail at $399 and $259 respectively.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Big Lots acquired Broyhill in 2018, it was an opportunity for the retailer to carry forward a legacy brand with 113 years of history and name recognition among consumers around the U.S.
Now the retailer, which has about 1,400 stores in 47 states, is carrying this legacy forward with not just indoor furniture re-introduced in late 2019, but also a host of other categories including outdoor furniture, rugs, sheets, towels, curtains and window treatments, throw pillows, candles, lanterns, picture frames, globes, decorative trays and candle holders.
The list goes on as can be seen in both the company’s brick-and-mortar stores and on the company website, broyhillfurniture.com. The message is loud and clear: Broyhill now represents nearly everything in home décor.
The decision to broaden the line results largely from Big Lots’ research into the brand and how the name could help promote and sell other categories of home décor.
For instance, while the initial intellectual property Big Lots acquired included furniture and home décor such as lamps and accessories, the company believed the brand could carry equal relevance in other categories its stores already carried such as towels, sheets and rugs.
“Broyhill as a heritage brand in furniture in the United States was always a trusted brand,” said Kevin Kuehl, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for home and apparel, noting that the brand’s reach into moderate to mid-level price points fit well into Big Lot’s core categories and expertise. “We are moderate to the lower end of better, and we continue to get better every day.”
Expanding the Broyhill brand across different segments was a major step in continuing to improve its assortment.
“It made us think how far we could take this brand,” Kuehl said. “We were trying to get credit for and trust built around the better goods we offer, and we knew we would be able to build this out as long as we created interest and trust around the brand.”
He noted that part of the strategy was to offer better quality and price it equal to or better than the competition, providing consumers a solid value in each of the categories.
The Broyhill indoor residential furniture line remains an anchor category featuring bedroom, dining room and occasional as well as upholstery. While Big Lots also sells Lane and Ashley upholstery on its floors, the Broyhill name is prominent on product and store signage. Bedding is also part of the mix, featuring a Broyhill-branded mattress produced by Sealy.
According to the company’s latest third quarter 2020 report, furniture was the top category in terms of sales, representing $429.3 million, or 31.2% of the company’s nearly $1.4 billion in sales.
This is up from $344.1 million in sales during the 2019 third quarter, which was about 29.4% of the company’s $1.17 billion in sales during the same period.
Year to date in 2020, sales in furniture totaled $1.284 billion, or 28.7% of the $4.5 billion in overall sales.
Soft home, which includes the Broyhill towels, rugs, window treatments and other home décor, was a close second to furniture. During the third quarter, it achieved $253.7 million, or 18.4% of overall sales, compared to $206.5 million, or 17.7% during the same period in 2019.
Year to date in 2020, the category represented $770.1 million in sales, or 17.3% of the overall $4.5 billion in sales, compared to $606.4 million, or 16.3% of the overall $3.72 billion in sales during the same period in 2019.
The company also is using the Broyhill name on outdoor furniture and accessories, part of its seasonal segment. Seasonal, which also includes Christmas and other holiday décor, represented about 7.3% of overall sales during the third quarter. This, too, could grow with the Broyhill name, particularly as the spring selling season approaches.
“We have taken the Broyhill brand, and we have built a tremendous amount of equity around the brand,” Kuehl said, adding that the company is very diligent about the quality it offers.
On the upholstery side, that means offering product with high density foam and higher grades of fabric, for example. A key goal is to offer a quality story that is priced competitively with similar product.
“We look at the price to be 15% to 20% less than the same quality you would see on the floor,” Kuehl said.
On the wood side, the company offers a mix of beds, cases and tables with veneers and laminates — roughly 60% to 40% respectively — with solid wood bases on tables and solid wood chair frames.
“There are places we just can’t get the finish correct without using a laminate,” Kuehl said. “If we can’t execute with a mass produced product, we will move it to a laminate material on a hardwood base.”
The company has also broadened its sourcing to other parts of the world for the different categories.
Wood and motion furniture comes out of Vietnam, while stationary upholstery and area rugs are made domestically.
But with other categories, the company uses other countries ranging from China, Vietnam and India to Egypt.
A new day
This is not Big Lots’ first association with the brand. It has sold parts of the line over the years including Broyhill closeouts.
The new strategy to expand the mix even further has not gone unnoticed in the industry. Jeff Cook, a former president of Broyhill, remembers the challenges of unloading a lot of the inventory at Big Lots.
“We sold heavily discontinued stuff and so many millions of dollars of excess inventory from the previous regime,” Cook said of the need to sell off that inventory to bring in new merchandise.
He has noticed the furniture recently offered at Big Lots and applauds the company for its efforts.
“The upholstery really looks good for the price point,” he said. “It is very inexpensive, and they do a decent job of in-store branding. I really applaud them for kind of rebranding themselves. … They have done something to take more of an aggressive stance, and it looks like it is working.”
Cook said the expansion into other categories appears to be giving new customers a reason to go into their stores. He said it also gives the retailer an opportunity to sell product at a higher quality and also potentially achieve a higher margin.
“Why buy the name and go through that if you are not looking for a higher price, a higher quality and a higher margin,” he said. “It seems like on the surface, it is working.”
Jerry Epperson, industry analyst and managing partner at Richmond, Va.-based Mann, Armistead & Epperson, said Big Lots’ emphasis on home décor products is comparable to the emphasis seen at other retailers such as Target and Home Depot, which are seeing similar success in the segment.