When Dennis Novosel's vision is complete it will include 550,000 Sq. ft. of home related outlets.
Here's a conundrum for you. What do the flamboyant new resorts, Paris, Las Vegas, the Epcot fantasy and Dennis Novosel's most recent brainchild, Stoney Creek Decor Centre, have in common? Give up? They are all exciting destinations. Not too hard to accept the equation when you consider that "Discover the Adventure" is emblazoned on Stoney Creek trucks and is firmly entrenched in the mentality of Stoney Creek's President.
The state-of-the-art Decor Centre, Phase One of a far-reaching master plan, is scheduled to open May 1, 2000. It is positioned at the gateway to Niagara in one of the fastest growing areas in Canada. Stoney Creek Furniture, now generating over $16 million in sales annually, is the anchor store with drawing power from the entire Niagara region, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, St. Catharines, Mississauga and Toronto, the Golden Horseshoe and beyond. The store's customer base of adults between the ages of 25 and 54, with household incomes over $75,000, has made Stoney Creek one of the highest producing single stores in the country per square foot in overall sales.
Location, location, location! The store and the Centre are strategically positioned within 30 minutes of over 775,000 people, less than an hour from several million more, visible from the Queen Elizabeth Way, a major artery, and accessible from two exits, Fruitland Road and Fifty Road. Every day, more than 94,000 vehicles pass by this site, over 34,000,000 cars a year. The traffic on the QEW flows east and west, carrying both Canadians and U.S. visitors.
Not only is the immediate area experiencing dramatic growth in population, over 70 percent in the last eight years, but the value of residential construction has risen 68.4 percent between 1997 and 1998. The region attracts in excess of 18 million tourists a year on their way to visit the busy Niagara Casino,
Niagara-on-the-Lake's renowned Shaw Festival, the world famous wineries and the Falls themselves.
With that preamble, with an ideal site, accessibility and high visibility, what will consumers find when they pull into the 1,000 vehicle parking lot? The focal point of the development is a 4,000 square foot pavilion restaurant/coffee shop. Each store in the complex will have its own individual entrance and double arched entrances will interconnect all stores. The tenant mix will include at least 15 different categories. Already signed and raring to go are a Simmons Gallery; Pacific Flooring; Goeman's Appliances operating a prototype GE Appliance Centre, a gallery concept which will inventory as well as appliances, sinks and taps, kitchenware, everything for the kitchen; Crafters' Market Place, another gallery store centered around a pleasant tea garden. Dennis interjected, "This is an interesting concept. People come in to buy their crafts supplies, go home, make the items, then bring them back to Crafters' to sell in their retail area."
Then there's a 20,000 square foot Ashley Home Store, a Hearth and Patio store, as well as a bed, bath and linen shop and a fabric store. A higher-end unpainted furniture store is under consideration. And they are still in negotiation with two other major players, plus several smaller outlets.
What's the story behind this "adventure", this "ultimate shopping experience"?
"It's a step beyond the mall," Dennis explained. "I believe this will be the premium spot for people to shop in the country. No one will go shopping for home furnishings without visiting this Centre. We're creating an irresistible destination, putting romance and fun into it and making the shopping experience as enjoyable as it possibly can be. It comes down to convenience. People are so busy today. They want to drive up to the front door, know they will find what they need easily and in a very pleasant environment. And this is just the beginning."
Phase Two will be a 50,000 square foot showroom addition for anchor Stoney Creek Furniture to open in the fall of 2000, or "latest early 2001". Phase Three involves an 180,000 square foot addition encompassing a 50,000 square foot electronics and appliance store, plus eight to 10 gallery stores. There will be a need to centralize warehouse and delivery service, so Phase Four will see the construction of 100,000 square feet of warehouse space. Phase Five, when complete, envisions 550,000 square feet of home-related outlets.
"The whole thing began when a real estate man came to me and told me that a lot across from the store was for sale. I wasn't at all interested at first. But then he pointed out that it would be good to control what happened on that property. So finally I bought a 15 acre parcel."
You may have read in this publication about the evolution of Stoney Creek Furniture. In 1995, Dennis was already asking, "How are we (the industry) going to work together for tomorrow?" Still the quintessential busy person, Dennis is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Home Furnishings Association. For the past two years and next year again, he has been and will be Education Chairman. He believes in "learning, changing and evolving, following up and paying attention" and, obviously, puts his beliefs into action. Recently, 12 Stoney Creek staffers spent a long weekend at U.S. Learning Co., Memphis, Tennessee, participating in the learning processes for a video sales training program that the NHFA was instrumental in designing. "Education permeates the entire company. The more professional we become, the more professional we want to be. We do a lot of cross training. Everyone who works in the showroom goes out on the trucks once a year and vice versa. People who drive the trucks, who work in the warehouse, take supervisory courses. It's a great experience; it makes them become buddies. Women place a very high value on training and education, and 99 percent of the industry's sales people are women."
In 1995 Dennis was convinced that "Commission sales in our industry is the worst possible way to remunerate people." A program has been developed on an individual basis with a shared bonus system for sales people based on overall sales increases and bonuses on increased productivity. "Our people are the best paid in the industry on an overall basis. They are secure in their jobs with a good wage and a good family life. We work as a team effort." His two long time "right hands", Jim Fee and Jim Carruthers, are now both minority partners.
The concentric layout of Stoney Creek Furniture is still in place "because it works", three circles on three levels, with walkways designed to lead customers through livingroom settings at base level, next dining rooms and then bedrooms at the highest level, just as they would be in most homes. There's fun and excitement, new things, impulse items, all the way along. And furnishings are galleried by product to make it easier for the customer. Presently there are approximately 350 room settings, 45,000 square feet of showroom area and 60,000 square feet of warehouse space.
Stoney Creek's price point is "middle of the road to medium high end". Suppliers are Action Lane, El Ran, Berkline, Palliser, Elite, Leathertrend, Decor-Rest, Hooker and many others.
Promotionally, Stoney Creek is not using as much newspaper exposure as in the past, "too expensive for the return", but direct mail, radio and events receive heavy emphasis. "We concentrate on direct contact with our customer base and expanding our base. Recently we went to 25 artists in the area and asked them to go into an Amity/Goodwill store, get a piece of furniture, paint it, change it, decorate it, whatever. Then we had a silent auction in the store, a big gala event, sold the pieces and gave the artists half of the proceeds. The other half, of course, went to Amity/Goodwill. There was a donation of $5 for a bidding card. Everyone was happy! And we brought many new people into the store."
Sales have grown on average 10 to 15 percent each year, and Dennis is targeting sales of $40 to $50 million a year down the road.
His vision for Stoney Creek Furniture has always been to make it "the best, the easiest, the nicest store to come to". It won't be difficult to "discover the adventure" at the Decor Centre.