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Premier Adds New Spin to Furniture Retail
06-16-08
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Zooooom...Jack Rowland

 

When Marc Butler began offering lease-to-purchase financing options to his customers, it opened doors and was a way for him to respond to the needs of the American market.

Marc Butler, Premier Franchisee.
Marc Butler, Premier Franchisee.

Recognizing its success in bringing retail to RTO operations, Premier Home Furnishings is now finding a niche in retail furniture stores and enabling owners to tap into the Rent-to-Own market. Premier Home Furnishings President Jim Schebler announced that Marc Butler, owner of Sofas 4 Less in Orlando, Fla., has become the first retailer to join the Premier Home Furnishings family.

Butler's 16 successful years in retail have been largely spent in London where he opened his first Sofas 4 Less retail store in 1998. His specialty has been in the direct import of southern Italian leather that he has used in the manufacture of his sofas. By importing material and cutting out the middle man, he has been able to offer higher quality mid-grade sofas for competitive prices. He offers 30 different styles in 15 different colors.

Three years ago, he explored the American market. Drawn to the Florida climate, he liked America and now plans to stay. But he very quickly learned that his business model – that included importing leather – wasn't going to work in the States.

"For starters, being over in the UK makes it easy to have leather transported from Italy," he says. "Here it takes longer and is more complicated to get. Plus, U.S. customers don't want to wait for anything. So special order wasn't working for me." Looking now for a niche in the American market, he investigated lease-purchase and the concept of "no credit check," which, according to him, doesn't exist in the UK. "They don't understand credit scores and lease-to-own." But Butler did and, working through a third party, began offering lease-to-purchase financing options to his customers. It opened doors and was a way for him to respond to the needs of the American market. "I had spent three years building up a furniture store, and I didn't want to dismantle it and change my concept of Sofas 4 Less." He just needed to enhance it and position himself to succeed in diverse directions.

Butler discovered Premier and felt their model matched his. "I talked with Jim Schebler, president of Home Furnishings. My operation was a replica of what he is doing at Premier. We were even using some of the same suppliers. I realized Premier's systems could slide into what I'm doing very well and help support me as I developed my niche. I decided to become part of Premier Home Furnishings. In fact, I am the first retail furniture store to do so."

Butler sees benefits in his alliance with Premier, an experienced and proven franchiser that is established in both retail and lease-to-own. He'll have support on many fronts with the variety of services and buying power that Premier offers. He also recognizes the value of Premier's unique and customized software, developed exclusively for Premier to organize every aspects of running a Home Furnishings store. "That's all new to me. It is a pretty intense program that covers inventory, tracking customer payments, mailing and is a complete data base for all incoming and outgoing information that concerns the entire entity of a dealer's business. The program is very specific to Premier."

Butler, who has been on his own and successful for a decade, is eager to be part of a network of seasoned entrepreneurs, one more reason for becoming part of Premier. "For the first time in my life, I don't want to be Mr. Independent as much anymore. I want to be part of something. With the way Premier does it, I still have my own independence even though I am part of Premier. They give you a lot of leeway. They are quite relaxed. It's not this sort of military big brother beating you over the head saying, 'Do this!' If it had been that way I wouldn't have joined it. I still want some independence." And with Premier each dealer regulates just how much he wants.

Butler was quite complimentary of Schebler. "He has been very hands on, very patient and quite diligent in his way of describing things – especially when you consider that most of his other dealers have come from an RTO background. He taught me to get into the right mindset, came down and nursed me through the Premier software system and made sure I was on the same page. He doesn't have a problem talking through any situation I need help on and is very passionate about helping people get their business off the ground. I couldn't have found someone better to work with. And my business is running very well."

Typical of a Premier Home Furnishings dealership, Sofas 4 Less varies from the look and feel of a traditional RTO store in that it is bigger, features only sofas and love seats – some of which are made in Italian leather. Its main goal is to appeal to every type of customer, both least-to-own and retail. In a tricky economy, Butler wants to make all feel welcome in his store. "When the economy is on the downside, people want time to pay for stuff. We don't do a credit check. And there are people out there to whom no-credit sales have appeal. We still offer financing for those with good credit. But one of the concepts that led me to add lease-to-own to my business was that I wouldn't have to say 'no' to anyone. If you've got a regular income and a checking account, you're approved. That stands out to anybody."

Butler says as time goes on he will probably sell the three remaining stores he has in the UK. "All my time is spent over here now. I intend to expand with Premier. They make it a lot easier to expand." Plus as Butler gets more and more comfortable in his new niche, he finds the warm, Floridian sun to be an extra benefit of living in the US. Speaking not only of weather but also of where he now sits as a dealer who can offer retail and leasing options, he says, "As far as I'm concerned, I get the best of all worlds."

The national office of Premier Rental Purchase is located in Williamsburg, VA. All Premier stores are independently owned and operated. Visit Premier's website at www.premierrents.net or call (800) 2Premier and ask for Jim Schebler.

 

RTO Online is the official channel for Rent-to-Own Industry News and the only independent source of news for the rent-to-own, rental-purchase, lease-purchase trade. RTO Online (Rent to Own Online) represents the choice of the entire RTO Industry for trusted information, as it happens.

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