by Powell Slaughter for Furniture Today
Gardner White Furniture has evolved its pedigree as a prime home furnishings resource for the Detroit-area since 1912 into Michigan’s dominant furniture retail operation.
Now counting 13 stores, Gardner White boosted 2021 revenue 62.2% to $305 million compared with 2020. That’s on top of a 40.3% increase from 2019.
That growth in the midst of a pandemic came from building upon existing strengths and seizing the opportunity to grow market share, particularly in the wake of Art Van Furniture’s demise.
The retailer’s expansion includes re-casting six former Art Van stores under the Gardner White brand. Those include moving into Art Van’s former Warren, Mich., corporate headquarters, warehouse and flagship store. That gave Gardner White a big boost in warehouse space to complement its existing distribution center in Auburn Hills.
Gardner White also stepped up as presenting sponsor of America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Detroit, with sponsorship running at least through the next five years. (Art Van had long been associated with that annual festivity.)
Gardner White President Rachel Tronstein Stewart believes leading in the communities it serves goes hand in hand with its leading market presence.
When it comes to the marketplace, according to Stewart, “First, it’s being an innovator, coming up with new ideas and having the wherewithal to try them out even if it sometimes doesn’t work.”
Second is active participation in that marketplace’s communities.
“We know where our home is,” Stewart said. “We are Southeast Michigan, and if we’re going to be healthy, (our marketplace) has to be healthy. That means investing in and working in our community.”
That investment has in the past and continues to go beyond high-profile events such as the Thanksgiving Parade sponsorship. (Detroit’s parade is the second-oldest and second-largest in the nation.)
“We try to do a lot where there are adjacencies with furniture, partnering with schools, safe houses, shelters, first responders who need good rest to function at their highest level and families in need,” Stewart said. “The people of Michigan know that when we do something in the community, it’s not just window-dressing.
“We have created long-term partnerships with reputable nonprofits and other organizations that aren’t one-hit wonders.”