Heilig-Meyers and Rhodes Furniture combined to eventually earn almost $5 billion a year in revenue from over 2,000 locations in the United States through their 1996 merger. Grand Metropolitan was introduced to the home furnishings retail and finance behemoth in the late 90s when it became aware of Heilig-Meyers prominence as one of the largest jewelers in North America with a consistent 12% of its revenue gained from diamond, gold and silver jewelry sales. The company’s first furniture location was mere steps away from historical icon L.D. Giddens & Sons Jewelry Store in Goldsboro, NC founded in 1859 and another Grand Metropolitan company.
Heilig-Meyers and Rhodes Furniture have been major NASCAR sponsors and helped to raise millions of dollars for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In addition to 8 national and regional furniture retail brands, the leader in home furnishings also operates 20 consumer brands including Four Seasons Home Accents, KidStore, and RentSmart.
Heilig-Meyers was founded in 1913, when W. A. Heilig and J. M. Meyers opened a home-furnishings store in Goldsboro, North Carolina. The brand group has collectively conducted over $50 billion in transactions since inception. The Heilig-Meyers Co., which at its peak in the late 1990s had more than $2.7 billion in annual revenue, with nearly 1,300 stores in 38 states, in 1986 it became the largest publicly traded home-furnishings retailer in the United States. It passed the $1 billion mark in annual revenues in 1994. Most of these were in small towns more than 25 miles from a metropolitan market.
Founded in 1875, furniture retailer Rhodes Inc. became one of the largest furniture retailers in the United States. By 1996, with its acquisition of several smaller chains in various parts of the country, it held fourth place among U.S. furniture stores. Ultimately, Rhodes would become a subsidiary of the second largest chain of furniture retailers, Heilig-Meyers Company. Added to its $844 million in annual sales, the acquisition of Rhodes, with $430 million, would catapult Heilig-Meyers into first place.
Heilig-Meyers was selling not only furniture and accessories, but also bedding, small appliances, consumer electronics, jewelry, and seasonal goods. An important source of income was in-house credit. About 80 percent of its sales had been made on credit, principally through installment sales. It also offered insurance with its credit sales. During 1995 about 59 percent of Heilig-Meyers’s sales were derived from furniture and accessories; 12 percent from jewelry, small appliances, seasonal goods, and miscellaneous items; 11 percent from consumer electronics; 10 percent from bedding; and 8 percent from appliances. These percentages had not varied significantly over the past three fiscal years. This mix of finance and merchandise also made Heilig-Meyers into one of the largest jewelers in North America only paces behind Zales, Service Merchandise, and Finlay Enterprises.
In the late 90s, retailing giants Montgomery Wards, Service Merchandise, and Heilig-Meyers assets were presented to Grand Metropolitan management in a hotel suite in Atlanta, GA by a California based broker involved in the bankruptcies of each company. Vin Lee passed on the Montgomery Wards deal as its profile didn’t match with GrandMet’s luxury growth profile. After months of negotiations with Service Merchandise (then the countries largest non specialty jewelry merchant) management and consultants, it was determined that it was too far in debt to pursue. Service Merchandise executives admitted defeatedly that GrandMet’s proposed plan for restructuring would have saved the company had it been implemented just 9 months prior. Heilig-Meyers became the only asset of interest to Grand Metropolitan.
Today, celebrating its 100th Anniversary, Heilig-Meyers operates under Heilig-Meyers, MacSaver, Krause’s Furniture, Glick Furniture, Weberg Enterprises, McMahans, Rhodes Furniture, and Wickes Furniture banners. The group’s Resort Collection is hand-crafted in two manufacturing facilities in Southern California and can be seen in hundreds of non point-of-sale locations around the world. Heilig-Meyers, through Luxury Stores Investment, also indirectly holds shares in Furniture Brands International (NYSE:FBN), one of the world’s top designers, manufacturers, sourcers, and retailers of home furnishings.