Art Van Furniture, the Midwestern furniture chain that had operated for more than 60 years, is shuttering all 140+ stores across its Art Van, Art Van PureSleep and Scott Shuptrine Interiors banners after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Liquidation sales at these stores began on March 6.
As many as 44 stores and two distribution centers from Art Van Furniture’s other banners, Levin Furniture and Wolf Furniture, will be sold to its founder’s grandson Robert Levin, pending court approval.
As recently as February, Art Van Furniture had been exploring its options, such as mulling a sale or potential bankruptcy, according to The Detroit News. A private equity firm, Thomas H. Lee Partners, bought Art Van Furniture in February 2017, a year before the death of its founder Art Van Elslander in February 2018.
In recent years the company’s leadership worked to reshape Art Van Furniture. with revamped web sites (which only accounted for 2% of total sales in 2019) as well as reorganized showroom floors with new collections and home accents, including rugs and window treatments. But the store changes “negatively impacted sales and led to increased markdowns from product that was not easily saleable,” according to a court filing.
In September 2019, Art Van Furniture hired former Serta Simmons and Mattress Firm CEO Gary Fazio as CEO to help turn the company around, but these efforts were too little, too late.
“Despite our best efforts to remain open, the company’s brands and operating performance have been hit hard by a challenging retail environment,” said Diane Charles, a spokesperson for Art Van Furniture in a statement. “We recognize the extraordinary retail, community and philanthropic legacies that Art Van Furniture has built for decades in the community.”
This “challenging retail environment” reflects changing shopper habits, which include a desire for more convenience, increased comfort with buying furniture online and a preference toward off-price and mass merchant retailers. In the court filing, Art Van Furniture specifically pointed out Wayfair, Amazon, Ashley HomeStore, Bob’s Discount Furniture and Mattress Firm as key competitors that contributed to the company’s online and local decline.
Pier 1 Imports is the most recent example of a once-popular home business affected significantly by changing shopper preferences; the retailer announced it would be closing 450 of its 942 locations starting in January.
The mattress category, a longtime key product area for Art Van Furniture, also has changed rapidly as DTC digital natives such as Casper, Leesa, Tuft & Needle and Purple continue to take market share from more traditional players. Mattress Firm was the biggest casualty of this shakeout, with the retailer filing for bankruptcy in October 2018 and closing nearly 700 stores.