In the area between Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Delaware, one privately owned furniture chain rises above the rest. Diamond Furniture has been known for uncompromising customer service since 1927 and is recognized, even among its competitors, as an exceptional retailer even in today’s tough economy. “Our success comes from our determination to constantly fine tune and prune our practices so we can always offer our customers the best deal and the best service,” said Gary Diamond, president and CEO.

Diamond Furniture was founded in Philadelphia, Pa. by Gary’s father, who started selling household wares door to door. In the early 1930s, the company opened its first store, featuring in-store financing, free delivery, and other typical furniture store perks. A fire in 1976 destroyed the store, forcing the company to operate out of its warehouse, selling furniture direct at lower prices and eliminating all the frills.

The new model took off, and now seven locations throughout the region operate with low overhead to give customers the best prices. Diamond Furniture added new benefits over the years like next-day delivery seven days a week for any purchase and the Diamond Club rewards program, both of which are unique in the industry.

“We aim to be on the cutting edge of the industry,” said Diamond.

The company’s success at striking that balance has earned it a great deal of recognition. This year, Diamond Furniture earned the Courier Post Reader’s Choice 2008 Best of South Jersey award in home furnishings, and viewers of the local Fox affiliate voted the company onto the station’s annual Hot List.

A two-time winner of the Tri-State Home Furnishing Association (TSHFA)’s “Retailer of the Year” award, that group this year named Diamond Furniture director of merchandising Ted Matela the “Young Retailer of the Year” and elected Diamond as president of the association.

The TSHFA consists of more than 200 furniture retailers, factory representatives, and other representatives from related industries such as trucking. They all come together to build relationships, take part in community outreach and charity programs, and work together to solve common challenges like finding the best health benefits or insurance rates.

Rewarding experience

Diamond Furniture, like the rest of the furniture industry, is suffering in the current economy. “Furniture is a very deferrable purchase,” explained Diamond. “People prioritize in tough times, and furniture is far below food and mortgages and medicines. No one is doing well right now.”

But Diamond Furniture has a growth strategy already in place for when the economy does turn around, and in the meantime, has several programs to make customers feel better about shopping.

The first was a $50 gas card with any purchase over $1,000, which the company launched in July when the price of gas touched $4 a gallon. Since then, the company discontinued its very popular Diamond Club rewards program to offer the same savings across the board.

The Club rewarded shoppers with one Diamond point per dollar spent in its stores that they could use toward their next purchase. It had 26,000 members when the company discontinued it, and Diamond said although it was costly and labor intensive, he plans on bringing it back once the economy turns around.

To replace it, Diamond Furniture salespeople send a handwritten thank-you note to each customer they sell to, along with a $20 coupon toward their next purchase. “In today’s cold corporate world, people appreciate a simple, personal thank-you, and when they come back to spend those $20, whichever sales person wrote the note gets another commission, so they have an incentive to put in the extra effort to make our customers happy,” he said.

Growth strategy

When the good times do return, Diamond Furniture has plans to expand its fledgling licensee program, which began when a former employee spoke to Diamond about using the company name to go into business for himself.

“I never liked the idea of franchisees, which are very complicated and expensive. Licensing out the Diamond name is an excellent way for us to grow while keeping our prices low,” Diamond said.

Diamond Furniture already spends $2.5 million in advertising dollars to reach a 70-mile radius around Philadelphia. Next year, the company will reach out to industry veterans in that area, giving them the existing marketing power and good Diamond name while taking on less risk to grow the company.

There is one operating licensee in the area, and another in discussions, but already feedback is positive, reported Diamond, who is excited about such a unique program.

“This is another first for the furniture industry, but that’s what people expect from us. We are always out in front taking the risks, but we have the best reputation around to back that up,” concluded Diamond.

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