New marketing strategy helps furniture business stay on track
MONICA UNHOLD, The Daily Transcript
Furniture is in Jim Navarra's blood. The marketing director has been working at Jerome's Furniture intermittently since the age of 10.
"I've really been working there on and off my whole life," said Navarra, now 32.
After graduating from San Diego State University with a Master of Business Administration degree, the San Diego native decided to return to the company his father owns.
Navarra has watched Jerome's change from a small furniture retailer with just four stores in San Diego, to a household chain in Southern California. Interviewed by phone, Navarra was working from Corona, Calif., where he is helping to open the company's seventh showroom in Southern California.
Despite opening a new store in a space formerly occupied by Wickes Furniture Store, Jerome's has no immediate plans to continue expanding, Navarra said. The company experienced rapid expansion during the 2000s, when the housing market was at its peak. However, the furniture market has gone the way of the housing sector.
"Furniture is really closely tied to housing," Navarra said.
The furniture industry mimics the housing market, but tends to experience more extreme peaks and valleys.
"Furniture is feast or famine," Navarra said. "Whatever the economy is doing tends to be more exaggerated in the furniture business."
To cope with a tough economy, Navarra has reconfigured the company's marketing strategy. Once driven by promotions, such as financing or 20 percent off weekend specials, Jerome's now offers consistent everyday values.
"What we found was, it wasn't a good way to build trust," Navarra said.
Navarra's new strategy is to offer the same price every day and give the consumer the idea that the product is a good one. Financing also is more difficult for customers to qualify for, and more expensive for businesses to offer, therefore such deals no longer pencil out, Navarra said.
Unlike competitors, Jerome's has continued to advertise with the same frequency that it had during boom years. The strategy has paid off, Navarra said. Jerome's is gaining market share, and the company is ideally positioned for when the economy recovers.
"Other companies, the first thing they did was pull the marketing budget," Navarra said.
Such strategies have been very successful. Jerome's has not been forced to close stores or lay off a single employee, Navarra said.
Despite such achievements in his professional life, Navarra also strives for athletic and charitable accomplishments in his free time. He and his wife, whom he married in May, plan to soon begin training for a triathlon.
An avid surfer and ocean swimmer, Navarra also supports athletes with disabilities. He recently helped organize a fundraiser for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides grants to athletes with physical disabilities for prosthetics and training.
Navarra also recently participated in a golf tournament organized by Jerome's, benefiting City of Hope, a Los Angeles-based cancer research and treatment center. Jerome's raised more than $500,000 for the nonprofit.