Local furniture and home ware retailers have spoken out about the state of the sector after John Cootes Furniture announced it will close all stores, including the Wagga site, by year’s end.
Elanor Investors Group, owner of JCF, cited significant increase in competition and “softer retail-market conditions” as factors in the chain’s deteriorating performance in the past year, resulting in the closure.
Sheila Reynolds, owner of Loot Homewares on Bayliss Street, questioned whether there was an oversupply of furniture retailers in Wagga.
"Perhaps that is an issue,” Mrs Reynolds said.
She said that while it was disappointing to see JCF closing down, it was simply the market “playing its role”.
“When we started, there were only a few furniture stores – now after 10 years, there are more than a dozen,” she said.
“Wagga isn’t a large enough place to sustain too many furniture retailers.”
When we started, there were only a few furniture stores – now after 10 years, there are more than a dozen.Sheila Reynolds, owner of Loot Homewares
Mrs Reynolds said they were fortunate that there were still consumers who demanded their products.
“We’re a niche section of the market and we’ve been lucky people are still coming in for these items,” she said.
“While the trend’s been quiet, being niche and a local business have helped.”
The closure of JCF comes after Northside Furniture closed in late 2017 and Amart Furniture opening in April this year.
Billy Tea Furniture owner Robert Cridellaro, who has been in the industry for three decades, said he understood the highly competitive nature of the sector.
“We’ve had a few furniture stores opening up recently and when someone new comes in, someone else is affected,” Mr Cridellaro said.
“Even though there are still sales out there, you still lose a bit of percentage.”
Asked about his reaction to the JCF closure, Mr Cridellaro said it was “never ideal for any businesses to close”.
“It doesn’t create that confidence in the marketplace,” he said.
“It confirms that things are tough.”
It [JCF closure] doesn’t create that confidence in the marketplace.Robert Cridellaro, owner of Billy Tea Furniture
Mr Cridellaro said two other major factors that have added pressure to staying afloat were online shopping and overhead costs, particularity council rates and supply of energy.
“We used to have about 27 guys working here [Billy Tea Furniture’s warehouse] and overhead costs were half of what it is now – with four people,” he said.
“The move to online has also hurt the industry and businesses in general.
“But our biggest advantage is that we’re boutique and we do custom-made items, including rearranging designs to fit spaces.”
Like Loot Homewares, Billy Tea Furniture is competing in the boutique and higher-end of the furniture sector.
It has diversified its offerings to counter the statewide increase in competition pressures.
“What we’ve done now is to also offer refurbished products and ongoing maintenance of furniture – that’s our niche,” Mr Cridellaro said.
Wagga Business Chamber president Danielle Pascoe said: “We are disappointed to hear the news of the closing of the Wagga store and that there will be job losses for the staff.”
“Wagga enjoys a stable economy; however, there are factors that affect trade in our region that are influenced by macro trends, which can have a negative impact on businesses in our community,” she said.
“Within any sector, there are businesses that are thriving and some that are struggling to adapt and meet the ever changing demands of the market.”
Management at John Cootes Wagga was contacted for comments but referred media queries to the ASX statement by parent company Elanor Investors Group.
ASX statement: closure of John Cootes Furniture by Elanor Investors Group