Friends and Family or Foe?

Undoubtedly the friends and family promotions offered by furniture stores and almost all other forms of retail have become common place. Over the years these promotions and sales  have sprouted up in the promotional calendar of furniture and home furnishings companies. Now they are as common as dandelions in an open field in the springtime!

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How did the friends and family promotions begin? Are these really the same deals and pricing that the employees in the furniture stores receive? How do I know if these discounts on the furniture and mattressses and other incentives are really  good offers?

How did the friends and family promotions begin?

Many times the employees in furniture stores are asked by friends and family, "Can you get me a discount on my furniture ?"  Having been in retail furniture for over 35 years I can attest to this fact. Furniture is a large purchase and generally the perception exists that the markup is outlandish and the employees can purchase at cost or slightly above.

The first few friends and family sales that I was involved with were legitimate with significant savings. The pervasive thought amongst upper management centered on the idea that a private by invitation only sale to the "friends and family" of the employee was a way to boost sales with out any additional advertising cost. Early on the employees were given a limited amount of private invitations to distribute to friends and family members. The discounts given to the friends and family members were often identical to the discounts the employee might receive. These private events would often take place after or before normal store hours. Thus these sales were truly incremental sales volume. However, these were lower profit sales for the furniture stores.

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Are these really the same deals and pricing that the employees in the furniture stores receive?

In some cases these discounts and offers will be identical to what the employee might expect. That being said, the discounts for employees have diminished over the years.  The ability for employees to purchase furniture at cost or slightly above cost used to be a benefit that made employment with a furniture store look more attractive. With the advent of other employee benefits like insurance, 401k matching and educational funding, the employee discount for the furniture has slowly diminished over time.

It is possible that the discounts being offered as a friend or family member may be identical to those the employee may receive. In other cases the discounts for the employee may be slightly better.  If you know the employee it will be possible to verify and confirm if this is really a "good deal".


How do I know if these discounts and offers are really a good offer?

Once again it is very helpful if you have done your furniture store shopping homework and knowing where you are in the furniture buying process. If you know the store and have shopped them before, you may already have a feel for the types of promotions and discounts that are regularly offered. Here are some simple indicators that may help you to know if it is really a good deal.

  • Is the "Friends and Family" or "Employee Pricing" event for a short time? If these are truly strong discounts or offers the store will only run the promotion for a very short time.  An evening, day or just a few days event may signal legitimacy. In other words, if it is a great deal the store will only be able to offer it a short time.
  • Is the employee or friends/family discount tied to a long term finance offer? If the discount is combined with a "3, 4 or 5" Year No Interest finance plan then it may be a bit suspect. These long term finance offers cost the store and the ability to couple these with discounts may indicate it is really not a strong offer.
  • is the store throwing in "free delivery" or "free tax discount" in addition to the employee pricing or discount? The old adage, "It may be too good to be true" might apply.
  • Is the event being advertised extensively in print, online and TV?  Advertising is expensive. Something has to pay this cost and generally it must be covered by the profit in the merchandise.

Final thoughts and perspective!

Friends and Family or Employee Pricing events may still represent strong savings and offers opportunities. Although these have become more common in recent years, it still may be one of the best times to buy. Knowing what you need and studying the patterns of the furniture store may very well present "friends and family" as a great time to buy.

By the way, the example earlier in the article looks like the real deal!


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