The head of retail for Conn’s HomePlus says the matchup of the retailer’s prototype customer and Jackson’s abundance of working class households made the Capital City an easy choice as the Texas company’s 85th store location.
Having gone on a growth spree that extended the retailer’s reach from its Western origins into South Carolina and back through Tennessee, Conn’s found Jackson a natural next stop to make, said David Trahan, retail president of Conn’s, a furniture-appliance-electronics seller that will open July 26 in the 43,000 square-foot former Circuit City store at 1051 E. County Line Road.
While Conn’s has a scattering of stores in power centers and malls in the West, the merchandiser prefers to set up in second-or-third-generation retail space close to plenty of households with annual incomes of $25,000 to $50,000, Trahan said.
It’s a question, he said, “of how many of our core look- alike customers are in a geographic area and can we pull them to our site.”
Conn’s stores are typically 40,000 square feet to 45,000 square feet. Inside, shoppers find nearly equal mixes of furniture, household fixtures, major appliances and big-ticket electronics.
For an idea of what sets Conn’s apart from other such retailers, think the Sears and Roebuck of generations past, said Trahan, who is in his 28th year with the publicly-held Conn’s (NASDAQ:CONN).
Sears and Roebuck marketed itself to working people through offering “aspirational” items such as dining sets, bedroom suites and modern ovens, dishwashers and refrigerators on credit terms they could afford. Customers ventured into the stores to make monthly payments and – not coincidentally — often spotted new items they aspired to own.
The 120-year-old Conn’s in many ways follows that model with its “Yes Money” consumer financing, a program Trahan said is accomplished through the retailer’s ownership of a financing arm. Customers who have yet to establish strong credit or have dings on their credit can get financing on store items, Trahan said.
“About 75 percent of our purchases are put on our house credit program,” he said, noting terms run from six months to 25 months.
Trahan estimated that buyers who receive Conn’s house credit pay rates that are a third of the charges they would encounter at rent-to-own stores. “It absolutely is” much less expensive, he said.
“First and foremost, you get a new product and a bigger selection.”
Added Trahan: “It’s about that $25,000 to $55,000 household income – that is our core customer.”
The retailer, headquartered in The Woodlands outside Houston, also has a conventional credit card as well as a credit option offered to higher-risk borrowers through an outside finance provider, according to Trahan.
Return customers are another distinction Conn’s has in common with Sears, the retail president noted.
“Even with all the new stores we have opened in the last year and a half, approximately 65 percent of our customers are repeat business.”