At Home sales topped $2 billion last year. Here’s why Dallas shoppers are finding out

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Dallas shoppers discover a home decor retailer with sales of over $2 billion last year that most of them have never heard of.

Plano-based At Home just opened its first store inside the Dallas city limits on Skillman Street in the Timber Creek Crossing mall.

At Home boasts of operating the largest home decor stores with 50,000 items in 100,000 square feet of space, which is about twice the size of a Bed Bath & Beyond or about four times the size of a HomeGoods .

What it can’t claim is a strong brand identity, and perhaps even less so since July when it was sold for $2.8 billion to private equity and no longer has a share price to follow for investors. The retailer was privatized by Hellman & Friedman in a deal disputed by a shareholder and resulted in an increase in the sale price.

But it can claim it’s gaining market share, said Lee Bird, president and CEO of At Home. Home furnishings is a $200 billion a year business that was growing 2-4% a year before the pandemic.

It has risen from 6% to 9% over the stay-at-home economy over the past two years, he said. “We’ve had three or four times the growth, and we’re taking market share every quarter. »

At Home’s large blue and gray surfaces, including 240 to date in 40 states, are hard to miss.

Shoppers quickly discover that the stores are brimming with color and style and the selection goes deep into every home decor category. The stores have aisles and aisles of tissue box covers, kitchen gadgets, accent furniture, accent rugs and rugs, pots and planters, pillows, mirrors, fake plants, wall art and seasonal holiday products that change throughout the year.

The At Home store in the Timber Creek Crossing mall was converted from a JC Penney. The company is a major recycler of big-box stores dumped by other chains. (Juan Figueroa / personal photographer)

“Right now our name is not the one that sticks out the tongue,” Bird said, but the retailer is working on it.

As At Home opens more stores, at least 25 this year, it enters new markets such as Rochester, Minnesota, and Asheville, North Carolina, while filling densely populated areas. It opened its sixth store in Orange County, Calif., and followed a successful store from Queens to New York with one in the Bronx this spring. The new store in Dallas corresponds to this strategy.

“We’re a high-growth company, and our investors see us that way,” Bird said. Wall Street wasn’t giving At Home the benefit of the doubt when it leveraged debt to accelerate new store openings and went negative in 2019. (The Irving Michaels-based arts and crafts retailer is went private last year and Dallas-based MoneyGram International said this week it has similar plans.)

At Home rolled back the pace of store openings before the pandemic hit. But as people started sprucing up their surroundings, it resulted in a hyper sales boost of over 40% for At Home. It is now funding growth through cash flow, Bird said, adding that the way the sale was structured, its debt is manageable.

The new At Home store in Dallas opens its doors with mainly spring products.
The new At Home store in Dallas opens its doors with mainly spring products. (Juan Figueroa / personal photographer)

At Home debuted in 2013, and Bird said he believed he could grow into a 600-store chain and he could do it faster as a private company. After a career that included stints at Nike, Old Navy and Gap, Bird was hired in 2012 to reinvent the 30-plus-year-old Garden Ridge brand with 58 weary locations into something new.

He said he was in it for the long haul.

The sale of the company triggered the vesting of most of the restricted stock and stock options held by the executives. Bird’s shares were worth more than $90 million. He turned around and spent $10 million of it investing in At Home as part of a deal with Hellman & Friedman.

At the end of this year, the company will move from its Plano headquarters to new offices under construction in Billingsley Co.’s Cypress Waters development in Irving along the LBJ Freeway. He will keep the warehouse attached to his Plano space.

Bird said the company’s staff of 400 will grow by another 100, and he’s looking for people who can grow in their careers while building this “category killer.”

It’s a term that isn’t used much anymore because online shopping puts most category killers on the shelf in a box labeled Toys R Us, Circuit City, and Linens ‘n Things.

But not at all. Winners of the genre – Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy – stay out of that box with mature online businesses.

At Home had only just expanded its online business when the pandemic hit, and it was able to accelerate it quickly by using its stores as distribution centers for curbside pickup and deliveries.

But stores are key when you offer the widest assortment in a category with items people want to see and take home.

“We only have 1% market share now,” Bird said.

Its biggest competitors are bigger, but not everyone is growing these days.

Sales fell at Bed Bath & Beyond, which also operates Buy Buy Baby, in part due to the sale of five concepts, including Cost Plus World Market, and the 995-store chain’s turnaround efforts have yet to results product. In January, the retailer estimated revenue of $7.9 billion for its 2021 fiscal year, which ends this month. It reported a 10% decline in the quarter that ended November compared to 2020 and a 5% decline from 2019.

Decorative pillows are categorized by color in At Home stores.
Decorative pillows are categorized by color in At Home stores. (Juan Figueroa / personal photographer)

TJX Cos.’ The HomeGoods chain had sales of $6 billion in 2020, down 4% from 2019, but it is recovering, with sales in the first nine months of 2021 already at $6.5 billion.

At Home follows a daily low price strategy and claims to sell 80% of its items at full price. Most of its products are its own private label. It is one of the top 30 importers and is diversifying its country mix to include Mexico and Europe in addition to Asia, Bird said. Transportation costs are up, but he is able to get his product here.

So far, prices are rising selectively, but not at the official government inflation rate of 17% for household goods, he said.

While the new Dallas store opened two weeks ago, its grand opening isn’t until Saturday to give the store time to fill all the shelves. Suburban shoppers are familiar with At Home, which has 10 stores scattered throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.

“I’m a freak on signs. The customer needs to know you’re there,” Bird said.

Dallas’ new At Home store is in a strip mall with sloping ground and a two-story Walmart above a Sam’s Club. Bird made sure a large At Home sign protruded high enough to be visible in the Walmart parking lot. Bird said he believed in billboards and flooded his surrounding neighborhoods with direct mail and digital advertising.

This sign caught the attention of Tammy Mitchell, 40, of Dallas. She said she remembered hearing At Home mentioned in a DIY YouTube video once, but never tried to visit one until it opened in her northeast Dallas neighborhood.

“This is my second time here,” Mitchell said while shopping at the store on Tuesday. “I think it’s going to be fine. Who doesn’t love home decor? »

Some merchandise “looks cheap,” she said, “but you have to know what’s going to look good.” Mitchell was looking for a desk lamp, and she also checked the rugs with an eye on one she thought had a good price at $79 and spotted a “chic vase” and a playful sign that said “soft, southern and impertinent”.

Meredith Walski, 31, of Dallas, said she was thrilled an At Home store was finally near her.

“It’s the first store I go to every time I move, and I just moved again,” Walski told the Dallas store on Tuesday. “It’s a great place for kitchen items, rugs and hangers. I’m here for a lamp, baskets and a spring wreath.

Realtors Elena Richey (left) and Sefe Hernandez shop for staging pieces at the new At Home store in the Timber Creek Crossing mall.  The retailer has a loyalty program for professionals called Insider Perks Boss.
Realtors Elena Richey (left) and Sefe Hernandez shop for staging pieces at the new At Home store in the Timber Creek Crossing mall. The retailer has a loyalty program for professionals called Insider Perks Boss. (Juan Figueroa / personal photographer)

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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