Advertising makes Janosik a retail powerhouse
Tom Edmonds -- Furniture Today, 11/3/2003
Laurel, Del.— Superstore merchandising supported by aggressive and consistent advertising has made Johnny Janosik Furniture a retail powerhouse, drawing customers from five states.
A commitment to people, whether staff or customers, keeps consumers coming back.
Johnny Janosik Furniture, which has achieved record sales every month but one for more than five years, plans a major expansion of both of its stores in the next few years. A $2 million expansion of the warehouse was completed this month.
With stores here and in Dover, Del., Johnny Janosik Furniture has the advantage of operating in a state with no sales tax. While that generates some price advantage, the Janosik stores are growing because they have more going for them than just a tax dodge.
Core values of service, caring
In order to focus on philanthropic pursuits, founder Johnny Janosik has turned over daily management of the business to Frank Gerardi Sr., chief executive officer, and a team of professional managers. But the core values of service and caring, established when Johnny Janosik and his wife, Mary Louise, were operating a television repair shop, seem to have survived the transition.
"We enjoy a well-known name on this peninsula," Gerardi said, referring to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the state of Delaware. "Johnny has made a lot of friends over the years, and we've been able to build on that."
A tour of the 105,000-square-foot headquarters store in Laurel, originally converted from a chicken shack and expanded numerous times, indicates something special must be happening here — the low ceilings and chopped up spaces make it a far cry from today's state-of-the-art furniture stores that draw crowds with fancy buildings.
"When people drive up (to the Laurel store), they may not be impressed at first, but it ends up being intriguing for the consumer as they work their way through," Gerardi said. "It's difficult for our people to work, but it has been very effective for our customers."
The 55,000-square-foot Dover store, and the 20,000-square-foot leather shop it operates across the street, were acquired from other furniture retailers and are more conventional retail spaces.
The multiphase expansion that the Janosik organization is about to embark on will likely include a new Laurel superstore and perhaps a new one in Dover, too. The company plans to work with the Connie Post Cos. to design the new stores. While the new buildings may not be as quaint as converted chicken shacks, they will most likely create a better merchandising showcase.
Offering more to consumers
This expansion is a dramatic next step in what has been an aggressive, nearly decade-long growth track. In 1995, Johnny Janosik Furniture consisted of the single store in Laurel, which at the time had 70,000 square feet of display. Gerardi, a lifelong retailer and former "friendly competitor" with Janosik, joined the company that year.
In 1996, the company acquired the larger Dover store, then acquired the leather shop in 1998. The Laurel store was expanded a couple of times in the ensuing years.
"To grow the business, we had to make some major changes so we could offer the customer more," Gerardi said.
That same thinking is driving the coming round of expansions. "We feel we can increase our square footage and proportionately increase our sales," he said.
Sales have already been growing rapidly. In 1995, Johnny Janosik Furniture was an impressive single store doing $11 million. That annual total will quadruple at the end of this year when the company expects to finish with $44 million in sales, up from $40 million in 2002.
Gerardi employs a hard-hitting marketing strategy, running broadcast spots year-round, placing Sunday circulars every other week and using numerous billboards. "We do what we can to get the consumer to our facilities," he said.
Once the people are in the store, they will find numerous brand-name galleries, several with headline-grabbing collections such as Thomasville's Bogart and Hemingway programs.
"We have to give the customer some sizzle, something that makes them say, 'Wow,'" Gerardi said. He also wants them to say they will buy it: "We cover the gamut, and that allows the consumer to shop all the styles and looks and prices so that they can make a purchase decision."
While the stores do a healthy special-order business, customers can frequently get their new furniture almost immediately, since the Janosik stores maintain a robust inventory worth $7 million. "To fuel the numbers, you've got to have the inventory," Gerardi said.
To earn a profit, the company is committed to efficiency and productivity without sacrificing any element of customer satisfaction.
"It's the attention to detail and it's the execution that makes it all work," Gerardi said. "We've been doing a good job as an organization for years, but the only way we can improve is through efficiencies. We have an accountable organization where individuals know what is expected. Everything we do is constantly measured and reviewed."
Less tangibly, this company has a couple of critical assets that can't really be measured: the core ethics and positive reputation that its founder started building 50 years ago.
"To exist and thrive in a small market like this, you have to have that," Gerardi said. "The thing that keeps us in business and growing is repeat business, not first-time sales. People come back because they trust us."