Fast-growing Ashley licensee in the Carolinas and Georgia thrives with dynamic leadership, culture
The Memory Makers at Broad River Retail are moving a lot of mattresses these days. And even in a challenging retail environment, more bedding growth is in the forecast. This is a fast-flowing river.
Just as Disney has its cast members, Broad River, a rapidly growing independent Ashley licensee based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, defines all of its employees as Memory Makers. Company officials say that everyone, regardless of their role, has an opportunity to bring great things to Broad River, for themselves, for their colleagues, for their communities and for the company’s customers – its “guests.”
Those Memory Makers have a purpose: furnishing life’s best memories. Broad River is not just selling furniture and mattresses; It is enriching the lives of its customers with home furnishings that will generate memories for them and for their families, company officials say.
That purpose drives this
dynamic company’s culture every day as it steadily builds its business and expands its footprint in the Carolinas and Georgia, where it operates 31 Ashley stores and outlets.
Under the leadership of the company’s owner-operators, veteran retailer Charlie Malouf, president and chief executive officer, and Manny Rodrigues, chief operating officer, Broad River is a standout on the retail scene, growing 15% annually over the past 12 years.
Sales reached $240 million in 2021, a 33% increase over a rare down year in 2020 when the pandemic took a toll on retailers around the country. This year, Broad River is aiming for sales of $280 million, Malouf says.
Mattresses, adjustable bed bases, foundations and sleep accessories will lead the growth parade. “Sleep products will be as strong, if not stronger, than our total home furnishings growth,” Malouf says.
Broad River generates about 20% of its revenues from the sleep category, and the retailer is intentional about growing its sleep business.
Mattress “scrimmages,” a companywide focus on sleep products, an exciting new vendor and an emphasis on sleep accessories will propel the sleep category this year, Malouf says.
The scrimmages are mattress comfort tests, and they are critical to success in the mattress category, he adds. He also calls them “shots on goal.” He cites a Tar Heel basketball great to make a key point: “Michael Jordan never made a shot he didn’t take. It’s a numbers game.”
Broad River requires its sales team to take two shots — conduct two comfort tests — every day. If customers aren’t abundant on a particular day, the tests can be conducted with store employees. Sales practice does improve performance, the company says. Rodrigues calls it “sharpening the saw.”
Another key to boosting mattress sales is making the category a focus. Broad River recently brought all of its home furnishings and sleep consultants together for a three-day Sleep Summit, its first in-person summit at three years. The summit focused on selling the benefits of a good night of sleep and the products that help deliver that sleep, including power bases, pillows and other sleep accessories.
The retailer is aiming to increase its sleep business this year “by going after the entire sleep system,” Malouf says. That will include sheets, a new category for Broad River, which will come from a new vendor, Purple.
Rodrigues is excited to add purple to the sleep lineup. “We love the product,” he says. “The feedback we got on Purple from our Sleep Summit was that Purple brings something different to our stores, something our customers are asking for. This will give our guests another reason to say ‘yes.’ ”
Purple mattresses and sleep accessories should be on all Broad River store floors by the July Fourth holiday, he adds.
The mattress lineup at Broad River includes Tempur-Pedic, Stearns &
Foster, Sealy and Ashley Sleep, Ashley’s own brand. Malouf says the Ashley line features “a slew of great products.”
He says it is critical to do well with Tempur-Pedic to enjoy success in the sleep category. “You’ve got to be really good with Tempur-Pedic,” he says. “That’s the No. 1 brand. If you don’t do well with Tempur-Pedic, you will struggle.”
Rodrigues, who joined Broad River as director of talent in 2014, was elevated to vice president of human capital in 2015, then to senior vice president, and ultimately became a partner in 2016. He says the company’s Memory Makers spark the company’s success. “The secret sauce,” he says, “is the people.”
Malouf agrees. “It’s a mindset shift from ‘human resources’ to ‘human capital,'” he says. “We look at our people as assets, not liabilities.”
Broad River takes its name from a river that flows through North and South Carolina, where most of the company’s stores are based. And this river is brimming with leadership lessons.
Malouf hosts a weekly podcast of “Stories from the River,” in which he interviews Memory Makers about their work for the company.
There you will hear Kellie Jones say: “I love that I get to help my team, personally and professionally. I like to be there for them.”
You will hear Joseph Alcantara offer his take on how to thrive: “Don’t be complacent. Keep going. Stay hungry.”
You will hear Michael Childers describe the company’s culture: “It’s genuine. Nobody is putting on a show for anyone. These are folks that are passionate about what they do.”
That passion starts with Malouf, who joined Broad River in 2005 as a managing partner and chief operating officer. He became president and CEO in 2015 and acquired majority ownership of the company in 2018.
“Since then,” the company says on its website (BroadRiverRetail.com), “he has been uncompromising in his commitment to inspiring growth and instilling purpose within the Broad River family, the home furnishings industry and the entire community.”
That strong leadership is good for profitability, too. Broad River says Malouf’s “strategic leadership” has helped the company achieve “premier financial outcomes year after year.”
Those outcomes are driven by the strong performance of the company’s sales team. Don’t call them retail sales associates; Malouf says that is old-school terminology that connotes a rigid structure with little room for professional advancement.
Broad River has four levels of salespeople: home furnishing associates, home furnishing consultants, home furnishing professionals and home furnishing experts, each with greater benefits that accrue as they move through the progression. That gives the salespeople clear incentives to gain experience and income. It also gives them a clear development track.
“It’s important to teach all of our folks at all levels about the great game of business,” Rodrigues says. “It’s important to teach them about how we operate and to really dig in and get to know our business.”
Broad River’s empowered, enthusiastic sales team generates strong results for the company.
Two years ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Broad River had 51 million-dollar sales writers. Last year that number almost doubled, to 98. This year Broad River has a goal of 122 million-dollar writers.
Rodrigues notes that almost 40% of the company’s home furnishing sales members are million-dollar salespeople. And those top salespeople are averaging six-figure incomes.
“We love sales and salesmanship,” Malouf says. “We are a sales-driven organization, and we want growth. Our people are inspired by their growth and our growth as a company.”