BASSETT, Va. – Bassett Furniture reported $87.2 million in consolidated third quarter sales, a 26.1% drop from the same time last year, and a $13.3 million decline from last quarter. Overall, the company reported a $2.6 million loss.
Wholesale sales fell 28.2% from last year to $56.7 million, representing a $30 million decline from last quarter. In retail, sales fell 26.2% to $52.3 million, around an $8 million drop from last quarter. This is the third consecutive quarter the company’s sales have declined from the previous quarter.
“Writing new business, both at wholesale and retail, proved very difficult in the 12 weeks between Memorial Day and the start of our Labor Day promotion in late August,” said CEO Robert Spilman. “Although we continue to see increased business around the important holiday events, day-to-day store traffic and wholesale order writing between the big events remain very challenging.
“We first began to see signs of a slowdown in the third quarter of 2022, and this year’s period represented another 4.6% decline in wholesale orders. Despite this softness, we continue to maintain a strong balance sheet while executing on the elements of our growth plans with the expectation of returning to profitability.”
Wholesale margins of 11.2% were comparable with the company’s second quarter margins, despite an 8.5% sequential decline in wholesale revenue.
“Once again, we wrote down the value of certain slow-moving styles of our Club Level imported motion line, this time to the tune of $800,000,” Spilman continued. “Recall that our Club Level inventory peaked at $22 million at the end of August 2022. At the most recent August close, our inventory was slightly over $11 million, or some 49% less than last year. Recognizing that we have some $6 million of excess and discontinued inventory, we still have several good selling styles in the Club Level line which produce good margins. Ultimately, we believe that $5 to $6 million of inventory will be sufficient to support this strategically important assortment.”
Spilman said the retail segment was the main reason for the company’s overall operating loss.
“Things have changed dramatically from 2022, our best retail year ever,” he said. “In short, for the period, we did not generate enough retail revenue to break even. Actually, retail gross margins were comparable to prior year amidst a 26% decline in sales, but we were unable to reduce our fixed and variable SG&A costs enough to maintain profitability with the reported level of sales.
“In the five weeks prior to this writing (which include the first four weeks of Q4), average weekly sales have improved markedly but were aided by the expected Labor Day boost and by several new product introductions that coincided with the promotion. Although we cannot predict the longevity or the depth of the furniture industry’s current slump, we are once again focused on the disciplines of margin improvement, customer service, digital outreach and store upgrades as we head toward 2024. Over the next four months, we also look forward to opening two new stores and re-opening an existing location that has been closed for remodeling.
Spilman commented on the debut of the new Bassett website, a project three years in the making.
“We believe that, over time, we will improve site traffic and enhance both e-commerce and store conversions as a result of this investment. We are already seeing that engagement has improved as consumers are spending more time on the new site with each visit compared to previous metrics with our old platform.”
He also highlighted the performance of the company’s domestic upholstery team, which was able to improve margins over last year while dealing with a 31% decline in shipments.
“Their ability to drive efficiency and manage costs in such a demanding environment is impressive. Imported wood margins declined compared to last year but improved sequentially as compared to the second quarter on reduced shipments. The pandemic-related freight costs imbedded in our oldest import wood inventory is beginning to burn off, a trend which should accelerate and result in margin expansion in the coming months. Work schedules in our two domestic wood plants improved as the quarter wore on and continued on that path in the first weeks of the current quarter. It is hard to see the positive in a quarter where wholesale shipments declined by 28%, but we do have several trends that point to better results moving ahead.”