ST. LOUIS — Weekends Only Furniture Outlet is about to open 24/7 - online.
The Top 100 company said it will launch online sales Oct. 29 to compete with other e-commerce channels, offering more convenience to existing customers while using its new Web vehicle as way to reach consumers in nearby markets it hopes to expand to someday.
The five-store St. Louis-based retailer partnered with Atlanta-based e-commerce software provider ShopVisible on the site, which will give consumers the ability to shop by brand, with filtering options by size, fabric, color and price.
Consumers also will be able to pick up their online purchases at the store of their choice or have it delivered.
It's a big change for the retailer, which has built a reputation around a low-frills, bargain-oriented shopping environment. Store operating hours are limited to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and the assortment on the floor is constantly changing, helping to create a treasure hunt environment and a sense of urgency to buy while it's available.
"At first I was resistant to selling on the Web because of our model," said Weekends Only CEO Tom Phillips. "But I felt if we were going to compete with people selling on the Web, we might as well compete with ourselves and use it as more of a customer-centric solution for those customers who may have seen something over the weekend but weren't able to pull the trigger, and now they've decided they want it."
The project has involved a collaboration of all departments, the retailer said, including the buying side, finance, distribution, customer service, marketing and IT.
"E-commerce extends the value of the Weekends Only brand to customers whose preference is to shop online," said Chief Operating Officer Dionne Dumitru. "The technology enables us to eliminate that final barrier, time, which retail stores can overcome only by adding cost.
"We're only open three days a week to drive down overhead costs and be able to deliver amazing savings weekly across our assortment. E-commerce enables us to do that for our customers around the clock, at the customer's choice."
Phillips said e-commerce also expands the retailer's reach to consumers in other markets in its region - two or three hours away, where it can deliver easily and without layers of added costs.
He added that e-commerce is a "powerful way to introduce ourselves into markets that we intend to expand into" with bricks and mortar stores, though he declined to identify the markets.
"And down the road, I see the Web business as an augment, in terms of product, to what we sell in the stores. We can show more product on the Web than we can in our stores and with very little overhead accompanying it," Phillips said.
But for now, the online product will be the same as what's available in stores, including promotional to midpriced goods from suppliers such as Ashley, Man Wah/Cheers, Lifestyle Enterprise, Crown Mark, Fusion, Albany, Restonic and Serta.
Not all goods will be available for purchase online. Some of the retailer's quick-turn items, such as closeouts and other limited quantity buys, will only be available in stores.
On the other hand, Phillips said, "One of the things I see that we can do is offer customers who sign up to be on our Insider's Club list a first shot on the Web for product," possibly even before they hit the stores.
"Because of our model, I think there's so much more opportunity to leverage this virtual store that's open 24 and seven. I've even had some customers say, ‘Why are you only open on the weekend? I can't shop on the weekend. I'm in retail.'
Now I've got an answer for them, too."
Phillips said he hasn't developed a sales projection for the new online venture. He said he had heard industry averages in the 3% to 5% of total sales online, but at the High Point Market this week, he's hearing for some retailers it's as much as 25%.
"So this could be bigger than we originally thought," he said. "But I suspect it's going to be a slow start."
Phillips said Weekends Only expects to finish this year with about $53 million in furniture, bedding and accessories sales in its physical stores.