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    Government shutdown spares D.C. and Va.-area furniture stores for now

    Time:2019-01-21 13:56:11    Share:

    The longest government shutdown in history apparently hasn’t been long enough to put a crimp in area furniture store business.


    A handful of retailers operating in greater Washington and further out in Virginia and West Virginia say the shutdown hasn’t put a damper on sales and may even be affecting traffic in a good way, as some furloughed federal workers have more time to shop during weekdays.

    If anything, it was the winter storm this past weekend that slowed things down a bit, some say.

    “We got close to a foot (of snow),” said Mike Huber, CEO of Dulles, Va.-based Belfort Furniture, and that led the D.C.-area company to open later and close an hour earlier than normal on Sunday.

    But since Christmas through early this week, Belfort’s traffic and sales have been up roughly 10% to 12% over the same period a year ago, Huber said, adding that part of that has to do with residuals from the recent grand opening of its revamped and expanded flagship showroom late last year.

    While business is holding up, Huber said he’s concerned it won’t last for long if the shutdown continues to drag on.

    “It’s not our first rodeo on government shutdowns, but this one feels a little different with no end in sight, and I think people are starting to get nervous,” he said.

    “It’s not necessarily the people working for the government; they’ll get paid, but all the contractors and food service people who are living off of tips and (others who rely on this kind of income). Those guys are going to be pretty severely affected.

    “A couple of more weeks of this, and I believe not just us but almost everybody will be pretty severely impacted.”

    While Washington isn’t the only area impacted by the partial government shutdown, a new study out by WalletHub lists the areas most and least likely affected by it. At the top of the “Most” list is D.C., followed by New Mexico, Maryland and Hawaii. Washington D.C. topped related lists for highest share of federal jobs, highest federal contract dollars per capital and highest percentage of families receiving food stamps.

    Top 100 Trivett’s Furniture, which operates Ashley HomeStores and multi-line Trivett’s Furniture stores in northern Virginia and greater Richmond, hasn’t seen a slowdown either, said co-owner Michael Trivett. The retailer has seen a couple of order cancellations, as a result, he said, but overall same-store sales month-to-date are running up about 16% over last year, he added.

    That said, like Belfort, Trivett said the recent winter storm put a damper on this past weekend’s business.

    Roanoke, Va.-based Grand Home Furnishings opened its 20th location about two weeks ago — a 66,000-square-foot store in Martinsburg, W.Va., about 22 miles north of its Winchester, Va., store. Both are what CEO George Cartledge III characterized as bedroom communities for Washington employees, and both have remained good markets for the Top 100 company — even this year.

    “The two weeks we’ve been open in Martinsburg have been fantastic,” Cartlege said. He noted that in addition to attracting government employee residents, the Martinsburg store in particular likely benefits from the recent opening of a Procter & Gamble manufacturing facility and an Amazon complex, which have combined to create more than 4,000 area jobs with more on the way.

    Cartledge said he isn’t sure how much of the business is a result of the influx of the new jobs in the market, but he said he has yet to hear any stories of consumers suggesting they’re interested in buying furniture but holding off until they receive their government paychecks.


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