Hearne: Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Dark, Dark Anniversary

2-nebraska-furniture-martBottoms up, Nebraska Furniture Mart is celebrating its 10th…

That’s right, it’s time to celebrate. A decade has passed since the Omaha based retailer took Kansas City by storm, laying waste – some would suggest – to any number of local furniture and electronics retailers in its quest to own the market.

“How many mom and pop stores have they eliminated from the area?” wonders A-V Design Studio‘s Jan Young. “Furniture stores in particular. One of my favorite stores was Contemporary Concepts on 119th Street. You know, they closed their doors several years ago. And how many audio-video stores disappeared in that first two or three year period. There was Audio Mart, that closed. Continental Video closed. Brandsmart closed.

“I don’t know this for a fact, that they did come into the market with every intention of being the most competitive in price and once they’d eliminated their competition, to slowly raise their prices. But I think it worked; I think they were successful in that strategy.”

Kief’s Audio Video installation manager Mike Wagner concurs:

“They came right in our front door and tried to recruit me and made the statement that, ‘We’re going to shut everybody else down,’ which I thought was a bold move,” Wagner says. “I’ve been recruited before by like Best Buy and that kind of thing, but they didn’t come right into the store. And they didn’t tell me they were going to shut us down.

“I mean, they definitely did shut a lot of places down. I just thought it was a crass thing to do. Pretty ballsy.”

Return with me now to that first birthday following Nebraska’s entry arrival.

Mark Zieman & The Watson's Girl

Mark Zieman & The Watson’s Girl

“Another furniture store biting the dust,” reads one 2004 headline referencing NFM atop my column in the Kansas City Star. “Competition pulls plug on Brandsmart,” reads another. And in a 2005 story about Accent Sound I noted that audio and video dealers in KC had been “dropping like flies.”

At which point a funny thing happened.

The top brass from Nebraska – a huge advertiser at the Star – showed up at the newspaper for an up close and personal with editor Mark Zieman. My editor in the FYI, section head Mary Lou Nolan was called into the meeting and afterwards I was told there would be no more unflattering stories about Nebraska in my column.

Funny how that worked.

Anyway, on behalf of both the survivors and the fallen, I’d like to wish Nebraska Furniture Mart a very happy 10th birthday.

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20 Responses to Hearne: Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Dark, Dark Anniversary

  1. harley says:

    they’re category killers…much like the once blockbuster was..kill the
    competition then rule the market for product.
    Wal mart is now trying to do this…notice their grocery ads with
    pure b.s. in comparing their prices to price chopper (locally owned and
    Eventually amazon will be delivering your groceries to your home
    like they do in select cities.
    It’s part of the huge plan for the rich and powerful corporations to
    extract every last penny from the American public then kill off
    the ability they have to purchase anything but their products.
    It’s everywhere hearne….electronics…furniture….autos….
    appliances….cell phones…..even cable tv….the bigger get bigger
    …then eliminate the competition …then prices go up because they
    control everything.
    gas…airlines….transportation….killing off the competition is
    the very strategy used by these companies.
    so happy birthday nfm….just one of many who has killed off
    now wal mart wants to enter the fresh food market….with fresh meats
    and vegetables…and they’ll take that over too with their buying power
    and cash to buy up everything in the chain of food merchandising in the

  2. the dude says:

    Thou shall not disparage the Nebraska Furniture Mart in print or offhand discussion.
    Or else feel the pain and scorn directly from the bugeaters themselves.

  3. Mysterious J says:

    Wow, had been a few weeks since we had some Watson’s Girl content!

  4. KCMonkey says:

    Certainly a predatory retailer. However, the aggressive capitalistic strategies employed by NFM have contributed nicely to the gains enjoyed by those of us invested long in BRK.B.

    Actually The two largest retailers out at Legends hail from the state of Nebraska. Cabela’s was founded and is still headquartered in Sidney, NE.

  5. bubba says:

    Well they seem to know the market, and know how to money whip the competition and crtics. Hardly a breaking story. Your facts are right but not a new revelation. Click on any KC Star story and you will be treated to a Nebraska Furniture Mart comercial.

    Something interesting I saw on my vacation. I went to Denver and the front range. The weekly alternative Westword is alive and well. Much like the Pitch but better production values than the Pitch when it was a must have. They don’t have the tacky sex ads that you rail against. Except for strip clubs. At least not that I saw, but legalized MJ seems to have more than filled that void. If you would like I can give you a copy. Wonder what your take would be on $160 oz’s that would go for over $800 in KC being advertised on half page ads. You could put a an interesting spin on this from your time at the Pitch.

    • admin says:

      email me at hearne@kcconfidential and I’ll give you my mailing address.

      Yeah, Westword is one of the grand old alt weeklies. They’re owned by New Times – now name changed to Village Voice – who fire saled off the Pitch a couple years ago to its current caretaker.

      Driving thru Colorado this past August there were plenty of road signs and billboards pushing pot. Different world out there. But yes, I’d be curious to what extent they’ve cleaned up their act in print.

      Sadly, I don’t think the Pitch feels it can afford to turn away those dollars regardless of what effect that might have. And they probably feel like 1st Amendment champs up to a point in keeping them.

      Not really up on pot prices these days though (wink, wink)

  6. balbonis moleskine says:

    Lol @800 dollar z

  7. chuck says:

    I don’t know what the numbers are, but I suspect that the money made in electronics that is generated by Installation Companies is substantial.

    No one who knows what they are doing, will go to NFM when they want Multi Zone, Whole House AV, Networking, remote surveillance, etc., even if it is bare bones. NFM will fu*k that up 6 ways from Sunday. Credit where it is due, NFM collars margins in the 25 to 35 point range on Video products with dating and advertising. Margins on video, had historically, by way of competition, been at 10 to 15% for 10 or 15 years.

    Again, there are many distributors (For example, Pioneer Music out of Chanute.) doing literally millions of dollars direct to installation companies that NFM has no chance of touching. The tail began wagging the retail dog in electronics15 years ago and NFM took the remaining “box” business at very high prices to the consumer.

    • chuck says:

      By the way, although this is anecdotal, my friends who went to NFM and now work in the Furniture Department, tell me that NFM cuts a fat hog on cheap furniture. The reason they transferred into furniture from electronics, was that there pay, was dramatically influenced by the ability to sell customers HDMI cables (Or ANY Monster Cable sold) at incredible margins. The money the sales guy makes, is based on cable sales and has little to do with the actual TV or Audio product sold.

      That Monster Cable sh*t is one hell of a crooked racket in my opinion. I was always getting grief for not pushing it. I never did give a sh*t, fu*k ’em.

      I made a fair profit on sales and told my customers they what they were going to pay and that was the way it was. It took me a while to figure out that honesty is actually the best policy in sales.

      Did I mention, Fu*k Monster Cable?

  8. PV_Pathfinder says:

    I thought Brandsmart (or at least the Gregory location) was gone long before NFM landed? While competition from Best Buy and the other big box electronics stores may have spelled the end for Brandsmart, the other nail in the coffin was that home entertainment for the Average Joe became a lot less complicated. You no longer needed the guy that was a roadie for the Allman Brothers in 1978 to hook up the system. While that ease of access may have come at the expense of quality, you could walk into a Best Buy, get the components you wanted and have it hooked up at home in 10 minutes. When I worked up the street at SRO we had a few customers that would come in and proudly boast how much they just paid Brandsmart to hook them up. Those folks can still get what they want at the dedicated installation companies, but the rest of us can buy a Bose 3-2-1 or decent sound bar for a flat screen and be just as happy.

  9. harley says:

    Does any one know what bill berg is doing this days beside counting his
    money..good guy..

  10. Brother Sunday says:

    The watson girl gave me warts.

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