published Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Year-end discounts a win-win for Chattanooga area retailers, shoppers

Sales representative Leta Doyle, right, helps Kathy Herrington, center, and her granddaughter Meagan Higdon, left, look for designer furniture to furnish a bedroom at Factory Direct Furniture on Monday. Herrington and Higdon are from Ider, Ala. Herrington said she has furnished several homes at Factory Direct Furniture.
Sales representative Leta Doyle, right, helps Kathy Herrington, center, and her granddaughter Meagan Higdon, left, look for designer furniture to furnish a bedroom at Factory Direct Furniture on Monday. Herrington and Higdon are from Ider, Ala. Herrington said she has furnished several homes at Factory Direct Furniture.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.

Jimmy Jernigan is having a stellar week. His company, Factory Direct Furniture, is on track to do as much business this week as all of the first three weeks of December combined.

"It's a great week for us," he said.

While other retailers are winding down after the Christmas rush, Jernigan and other big-ticket peddlers are charging ahead full-steam -- using end-of-year promotions, tax savings and the holiday spirit to woo customers.

"People get money for Christmas and they come and spend it on beds and sofas," Jernigan said. "And end-of-the-year promotions bring some people. Some people decide that instead of buying a lot of frivolous things this year, we'll buy a bedroom suite. And they decide to buy after Christmas."

Many retailers run extra sales at the end of the year and for some industries, the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is one of the top weeks in the year.

"I'm just slammed," said Greg Brannon, owner of E.F. Brannon Furniture store. "This is the busiest week of our year."

Year-end sales are a major draw for deal-hunting shoppers, said Justin Stephens, store manager at MurMaid Mattress on Lee Highway.

"I think a lot of people are accustomed to this being one of the best sales weeks," Stephens said."Consumers who are smart know that we need to get rid of our inventory by the end of the year or else we pay taxes on it."

Tax savings are a common motivator for businesses that run deep end-of-the-year discounts, said Joe Lautigar, owner of Rapid Tax Service, an H&R Block franchisee. Getting inventory out of the store lowers the taxes business pay.

"[Sales] minimize inventory as of the end of the year," he said. "There are certain taxes for businesses where a large portion is taxed on inventory value as of year end."

There are also a few extra tax perks for shoppers who buy today instead of Wednesday, Lautigar added. One tax break that allows filers who itemize to deduct either sales or state income tax is set to expire at the end of the year, so shoppers who are making major purchase -- like a new car, appliance or furniture set -- can save money by buying before 2013 slips away.

Other shoppers are already browsing for ways to spend their annual tax returns. Businesses are catering to that market by offering zero-down financing or no interest financing for 90 days.

"We had a couple in this weekend out shopping in anticipation of getting their tax refund," Stephens said. "You've definitely got some lookers out there beating the bushes."

He added that customers' average ticket is up and his MurMaid Mattress location has sold about 20 percent more volume than this time last year, a sign that consumer confidence is returning as the economy improves.

At Factory Direct Furniture, Jernigan said this year is shaping up to beat the last couple of years, although the numbers still aren't as high as the pre-recession days.

"It's close," he said. "It's still not reached that point yet. But it's a whole lot better than it was three or four years ago. It's moving in the right direction."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury joined the Times Free Press as a business reporter in January 2013, after starting with the paper as a general assignment intern in July 2012. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint Hill Times. Outside the newsroom, Shelly enjoys ...

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