Real Estate News

This new furniture store will use booze to sell you a sofa

Maria Wilkinson holds a glass of wine while looking at a $699 Francisco chair with general manager Franco Esparza at the new City Furniture store in midtown Miami on Nov. 30, 2017.
Maria Wilkinson holds a glass of wine while looking at a $699 Francisco chair with general manager Franco Esparza at the new City Furniture store in midtown Miami on Nov. 30, 2017.

If City Furniture has its way, you’ll be sipping a syrah while shopping for a sofa or tasting a chablis when you’re trying out a chaise lounge.

The furniture-store chain has opened a new 26,000-square-foot showroom near downtown Miami that serves craft beer and wine to customers, in addition to the stores’ traditional offerings of coffee, soft drinks and water.

The new store, located at 3635 NE First Ave., marks the start of a $100 million expansion by City Furniture, which is headquartered in Tamarac and operates 17 showrooms and one outlet throughout southern Florida (along with 12 licensed Ashley HomeStore locations). The expansion will add beer and wine to all of the chain’s locations and create four new or renovated showrooms by the end of 2019.

Andrew Koenig, vice president of operations and marketing for City Furniture, said the new store fulfills two objectives: Give the chain a presence near downtown Miami, where the population has surged by 32 percent since 2010, and offer the kind of experience-driven shopping that online e-commerce can’t match.

“The experience is great,” said Koenig. “You can walk around the store with a glass of wine or buy a beer at the bar, and our sales team is equipped with iPads that allow you to use your credit card or arrange financing while you’re lying on a mattress or sitting on the couch you want to buy.”

The new showroom, which occupies the second floor of the District 36 complex in midtown, will also host happy hours, charity events and fundraisers. Koenig said the store’s wine bar will also anchor free programmed events, such as home decorating seminars, all designed to help drive traffic through the front doors.

Koenig says that the wine and beer offerings have already proven popular at the Tamarac store, where the bottles started pouring in October. On the first weekend when libations were offered, 30 percent of customers agreed to partake.

The drinks are sold for a nominal charge, although Koenig said he wants to eventually make the booze free.

Although it sits just outside the Design District, the art-friendly neighborhood known for its roster of galleries, restaurants and high-end shops, City Furniture will continue its sales tactics of affordable furniture and same-day or next-day delivery. The addition of wine and beer bars to City Furniture stores is the latest example of how brick-and-mortar retailers are thinking of ways to survive in the era of online shopping.

“The retail industry is in a state of flux,” said Robert Granda, director of retail investment sales for the real estate firm Franklin Street. “There has been a generational shift, especially with millennials. The way that we experience retail now is a lot different than the way our parents experienced retail. Before, shopping had a sense of ‘going out’ to it. But e-commerce is about convenience and making things easy and ordering stuff from your house. Retailers have to compete with that now.”

Koenig said he doesn’t mind if people start dropping into the store to take advantage of a quick, cheap drink before a night out in neighboring Design District or Wynwood.

“Personally, I would love it,” he said. “Because the minute you’re in the store, you’re thinking about furniture whether you realize it or not.”

There is also the matter of the inevitable spillage. What happens when some tasty red blend gets splashed onto a white fabric couch?

“That’s the cost of doing business,” Koenig said. “It’s going to happen. We will replace the furniture. But we will also refill your glass.”

Rene Rodriguez: 305-376-3611, @ReneMiamiHerald