Local furniture retailers say business continues to improve.
"We had our best year ever in 2011. Our January sales were 20 percent over last January, which was great. It has been very positive," said Bob Fiore, president of Fiore Furniture, Altoona.
Fiore said the downturn in the furniture industry started in April 2007, but his store started to see a recovery in December 2010 and it continued throughout 2011.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
Park Funiture owners John Muccitelli (left) and Travis Muccitelli assemble a bed in the window of the store at 630 N. Fourth Ave., Juniata.
"For us, it has been continued persistence. I never stopped advertising and bringing in new merchandise and always kept a positive outlook," Fiore said.
Sales also are up at McMullen Furniture in Juniata.
"Last year was better than the year before; we were probably up about 20 percent over 2010," said Ed Miller, owner and president. "This year, so far, so good. We have been busy so far. We are probably about 10 percent ahead of last year, but it can always get better."
Sales at Wolf Furniture and Park Furniture are similar to 2011.
"Business has been very good; we have seen an increase. January is right on pace with where we were last year," said Gene Stoltz, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Bellwood-based Wolf Furniture. "Our traffic volume is about the same, but our dollar volume has gone up."
The end of the year was pretty good for Park Furniture, Juniata, and for the first 10 days of January, then it started to slow down, owner John Muccitelli said.
"It is not the way it was seven or eight years ago. Our sales compared to last year are about the same," he said.
The Altoona and Johnstown Ashley Furniture stores, which re-opened in May under the ownership of Wellsville Carpet Town Inc., ended the year on a positive note, CEO Tom Kane said.
"It is hard to get an accurate figure because we are the new owners and didn't have access to the figures from the previous year. Based on our New York stores, it was a healthier year in 2011 compared to 2010," Kane said. "So far this year in Altoona and Johnstown, we have seen traffic get better as we get into the first part of the year. We are re-establishing ourselves with our customers and letting them know we will be here for a long time."
Business may be increasing because of a pent up demand to buy furniture.
"We are seeing more people letting go of their money to buy better products. We are also upgrading some of our categories. We also added Amish bedroom and dining room furniture and upgraded our mix a little bit," Stoltz said.
Power reclining chairs, sectionals, gel mattresses and bedding seem to be selling well.
"Sectionals are very hot," Kane said. "It has to do with people staying at home more, watching TV on flat screen TVs and entertaining."
"We sell bedding like it is crazy," Miller said.
Retailers said the mild winter has been beneficial to business.
"It has had a great impact. The one weekend we had snow was our worst weekend of the month," Fiore said. "Altoona has become a regional center for furniture; we have several good stores. People like to come here because we have such a good selection."
Gasoline prices, which had been holding steady but are creeping up again, also have an impact.
"Our sales people say when gas prices go up, business goes down. They see people starting to tighten their wallets a little bit," Stoltz said. "As long as the price stays consistent, consumers can adapt."
"It does have an impact. It is one of those things that when they go down we do see a big uptick and when they go up it impacts the traffic," Kane said.
Retailers said advertising plays a significant role in their success.
"We advertise 52 weeks a year; we never miss a week advertising. Consistent advertising keeps your name in front of people," Fiore said. "In the furniture business, people are not shopping 365 days a year and when they do, we want them to remember us. You need to keep your name in front of them."
"We have been advertising in the Altoona Mirror," Miller said. "We have seen a difference; we are seeing people that had never come in before. It has helped us attract some new customers."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at