Nebraska Furniture Firm Thriving In Spite Of The M

Omaha, NE, Nov. 20--The economy is still sluggish, your competitor, Nebraska Furniture Mart, is still the nation's biggest furniture store, and it's still owned by a company headed by one of the world's richest men. So if you're Rod Kush, owner of one of the other furniture stores in town, what do you do? You launch an expansion program that is adding eight stores in five cities between now and next summer, and you start searching for sites in three other cities. "I feel that when the economy is tough like this what you need to do is be aggressive and move forward, and I've always been that way," said Kush, owner of the furniture company that bears his name. "When you open up against (one of the) richest men in the world, Warren Buffett, on the same street, I think that's about as aggressive as you can get." The latest expansion is fast and furious, with these openings scheduled or already completed: *On Nov. 10, a new 8,000 square foot full-service store. *On Monday, a new Mattressland in Lincoln, NE. *Sometime before Thanksgiving, a 10,000-square-foot store in the Mall of the Bluffs in Council Bluffs. *In February, a Mattressland in Wolf Creek Plaza in Bellevue. *About the same time, a 30,000-square-foot store in Norfolk. *Another three Mattressland stores next summer, two in west Omaha locations, a third in the midtown area. Full-line stores are scheduled in Sioux City in the fall of 2004 and in North Platte and Grand Island in the spring of 2005. Before the latest expansion, Kush operated a 130,000-square-foot store, and an 80,000-square-foot store in Lincoln. Last year he opened a 4,000-square-foot showroom, nd a 5,000-square-foot store on West Broadway in Council Bluffs. Last March, the company completed a 20,000-square-foot carpet and flooring store near the main store, and in August opened a 5,000-square-foot carpet and flooring store in Lincoln. In the latest Omaha venture Kush will have a partner, Paul Bryant, a former senior vice president of the Gallup Organization who heads BryCo, an urban affairs consulting firm. Kush and Bryant were partners before; in the 1970s Kush was a free safety on the University of Nebraska at Omaha football team, while Bryant was a cornerback. Bryant will run the store, situated in the Benson area. "He saw an opportunity to sell furniture in an area that needs a furniture store," Kush said. Kush said he also sees nothing but opportunity ahead for his company. "We had a slow June and July, but we picked up, and our rate of sales are a little above last year's," he said. In April, Kush opened a full-line store in Fremont in an existing 25,000-square-foot building. "We feel the best time to expand is when everybody else is hurting," Kush said, noting that another Fremont furniture store had just gone out of business. With Nebraska Furniture Mart casting such a long shadow over furniture retailing in Omaha, a lot of people also wouldn't have bet on Kush's staying in business very long when it opened in 1987. But the company has grown and prospered. It expects to have sales of $32 million this year, a 6.7 percent increase over 2002 and double sales in 1997. To Kush, the bigger Nebraska Furniture Mart has been more of an asset than competitor. For one thing, he said, the Mart keeps competition out of town. "When they advertise recliners, we sell recliners, because there's only one other place you can shop in Omaha (for medium-priced goods)," he said. "Not only that, but Nebraska Furniture Mart brings a lot of people in from small towns. So when the Mart brings the people in, they come down the same street, 72nd street, and compare-shop us."

Related Topics:The International Surface Event (TISE), Nebraska Furniture Mart