American Freight Furniture Mattress Appliance's new store in Utah.

American Freight Furniture Mattress Appliance's new store in Utah.

Utah expansion next step in American Freight’s plan for growth

Thomas Lester//Retail Editor//October 25, 2023

DELAWARE, Ohio — When Franchise Group combined its Sears Outlet and American Freight businesses in early 2020, it created a brand that reached most every major market in the U.S.

Now, it’s setting its sights on filling in where it can in key markets. Peter Corsa, CEO of Franchise Group’s home segment, which includes Top 100 retailers American Freight and Badcock Home Furniture &more, as well as lease-to-own retailer Buddy’s Home Furnishings, told Furniture Today that adding stores represents the first of many opportunities ahead.

Peter Corsa
Peter Corsa

“When Sears Outlet and American Freight merged, nearly every major (designated market area) was covered,” Corsa said. “The only two that weren’t were Salt Lake City and Denver.”

To complete coverage, Salt Lake City and Utah are up first for American Freight. The company will open its first store in the state, in Ogden, on Nov. 10, with three store openings to follow, in Layton, Orem and Logan. The 23,000-square-foot Ogden store is located at 4113 Riverdale Road.

“It’s a tremendous market. Businesses are moving there seeking more favorable conditions. People are moving for opportunities. It’s a naturally beautiful place,” Corsa said. “We have appeal across a lot of income levels, and the value people can get as they’re going into their homes aligns perfectly.”

While American Freight is filling its gaps, Corsa said it’s not enough to simply know where those gaps exist. He said in the time since he came on board about a year ago, he and a team spearheaded by retail veteran Norm McLeod built a system that analyzes drive time, population, income level, costs to rent and renovate, retail cannibalization and other factors to create optimum placements for American Freight stores where they will have their best chance for success, within range of one of the company’s distribution centers or one of its third-party logistics partners.

Upon the opening of the first Utah store, American Freight will have 373 showrooms, and Corsa said there’s room for significant growth in the years to come.

“The key for us is making sure we stay within our financial model,” he said. “The commercial real estate market is very dynamic right now, and there are a lot of things happening with companies closing stores, etc. We’re going to be patient and pick where it fits naturally for us and our customers.”

But before American Freight was in position to grow, Corsa said he and his team had to be sure everything was in sync, and that work started shortly after he came to Franchise Group after leadership stints with Nordstrom, TJX, Old Navy, Stuart Weitzman, KSL Resorts and most recently, as president and chief operating officer for the At Home Group. Corsa said putting people in the right places to succeed was job one, and having the right people in those places created all the necessary momentum for what came next.

“There was a lot to do, which made my job uniquely strategic and granular at the same time. How do we get a great team in place? That’s the most important; the people to your left and right are what’s going to make it go,” he said.

Corsa said everything came together under four pillars: sales, profitability, growth and culture. Key tasks under each of those pillars included developing a unified brand voice, re-engaging vendors, reconciling differences between legacy systems from Sears Outlet and American Freight and making sure that the retailer’s product mix was where it needed to be.

“We spent a lot of time on ‘What’s our mission?’ ‘What’s our value proposition?’ The two teams that came together from Sears Outlet and American Freight was a blending of two cultures. We put everybody in the right spots and started working on big things,” he said.

Corsa said when Franchise Group went private earlier this year, it allowed the team to pick up the pace on those big things.

“All of those things can be accelerated and moved forward at a different level as a private company. It allows us to invest and do things at a faster pace,” Corsa said. “The team has been working at a breakneck pace, so we start next year in a really great place.”

Corsa said he’s looking forward to seeing what American Freight can do now that it has charted its new course.

“I’m excited. When I started, I was excited, and that’s done nothing but grow. We all, collectively, believe this can be a best-in-class national retailer that provides a great product, service and experience to our customer,” Corsa said. “We’ve got a tremendous sponsor group. Franchise Group supports our team and us as an organization and that’s all we can ask for.”

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