As a manufacturer and retailer of wood furniture, this family-owned company knows what matters most to its customers. Talk about belly of the beast. When scouting for all of the six locations it now operates, Colorado-based Woodley’s Fine Furniture looked for a spot closest to the competition. Paul Woodley, director of marketing and the second generation of the Woodley family to work in the business, said locating showrooms this way simply makes the most sense.
“We find we do best when we’re right up against the competition,” he said. “If you believe in your business model, employees, and product, you shouldn’t be afraid to go up against the competition.”
In the past four years, Woodley’s has opened three new stores. Originally, the company located its showrooms within malls, but as of nine months ago, all mall locations have been closed. Now, said Woodley, the focus is finding a larger environment to showcase more products and expand collections of not only the Woodley Brothers brand of furniture, but also pieces from famous brands that compliment it.
“I credit our initial mall-based strategy for where we are today,” he said. “Exposing our products to so many people without spending a lot of money on advertising was a perfect choice.”
Woodley’s started in the bedroom of Mike Woodley, Paul’s father. In the late ’70s, while living in a trailer home in Boulder, Mike started building waterbeds. He displayed the bed he and his wife slept on when he started selling the beds, and a few ads in the local Thrifty Nickel comprised the business’ main advertising thrust. When a customer wanted to make a purchase, Mike would simply give him/her the parts to put it together.
At the same time, Mike’s brother Pat was working for a manufacturing plant in Denver. When the plant went out of business, Mike and Pat bought the machinery and started manufacturing furniture on a larger scale. Woodley’s uses the same location today to manufacture its furniture.
“When my uncle and father started the business, it was with just one 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot building,” said Woodley. “Over time, we bought the other buildings around the plant and connected them. Our manufacturing facility is now approximately 40,000 square feet.”
Woodley’s has also expanded its capabilities far beyond Mike’s waterbed frames. Specializing in mid-tier to high-end furniture, the company builds everything from entire bedroom sets to display, home theater, living room, and home office furniture under its Woodley Brothers brand. That brand makes up 25% of its total inventory, and customers can choose from a variety of styles, woods, stains, and finishes, putting together what could be a unique piece or copying a piece from the sales floor instead.
“We call it semi-customized furniture,” said Woodley. “A lot of times it works well: customers put pieces together, do them in a certain wood, choose their drawer pulls and knobs, and design a set just for them.”
Handle with care
Woodley’s prides itself on the furniture it builds and in the careful selection of the brands it carries. It hosts more than 50 American-made brands and a few imports, such as Aspen Home and Winners Only, which it’s carried for more than 20 years.
“We pay close attention when we’re shopping at the furniture market,” said Woodley. “Whether an import or an American-made product, all of the furniture we carry has to have the right quality features, and the wood’s got to hold up. We’re careful to make sure that any furniture we carry holds up in the Colorado climate.”
When bringing a new brand into the business, the company starts small, carrying an SKU or a single collection. If it works and there are no customer complaints, Woodley’s expands its relationship with the brand manufacturer. And on the off-chance a piece of furniture doesn’t fit the expectations of the company and/or its customers, Woodley’s is ready to take care of the problem.
The company offers a one-year free in-home service warranty on everything it sells because generally any issues with a piece of furniture happen within the first year. Its careful consideration of the products it carries has earned Woodley’s a client list of more than 165,000.
“We have a lot of repeat and referral business,” Woodley said. “By always taking care of our customers, we’ve built a strong reputation because we know that for every happy customer, there are 10 potential referrals.”
Customers can also shop at Woodley’s guilt free, especially when purchasing a Woodley Brothers piece of furniture. All of the company’s lumber is built using wood from sustainable forests; for every log harvested, the lumberyard plants at least 10 trees.
“You hear the thoughts and concerns from people about companies building furniture or cabinets and stripping trees out of forests,” said Woodley. “For us, though, that’s not the case.”
Earning the business
Word of mouth has carried Woodley’s successfully through the last 31 years, and it will continue to do so for the next 31. But the last two years have been some of the most challenging for the company.
The furniture industry, said Woodley, goes hand in hand with the real estate market. “The number of foreclosures and the struggles people have had with their homes have not helped furniture sales,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of furniture retailers calling it quits.”
The result of these twists of fate has been a rise in Woodley’s marketshare but a reduction in sales. The company is far from failing, however, and Woodley credits a lot of the company’s strength to the staff, salespeople, and managers that work hard to create a fun and exciting work environment that pulls customers in and keeps them loyal for life.
“Our staff knows the ins and outs of everything we carry, and they’re passionate about furniture,” he said. Part of that excitement comes from the company’s promote-from-within policy. A number of managers started off building the furniture, and many employees have been at Woodley’s for upward of 25 years.
“Too many stores have people clerking the purchase,” said Woodley. “At our stores, it’s about educating the customers, not pushing the sale.”
He said most furniture stores in Colorado also run on a higher profit margin than Woodley’s, but it’s not about making the most money from every customer. “It’s about giving the honest fair price and earning the business.”