Jim McIngvale | Crain's Dallas

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jim McIngvale

Background:  

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale founded Gallery Furniture in 1981 with $5,000 and a red pickup truck at an abandoned model home park in Houston. It’s now the 52nd-biggest furniture store in the country with annual sales of $148.1 million, according to PBM Strategic Insights’ Furniture Today. McIngvale is famous for his TV commercials that feature his fast-talking sales pitch (to save on ad time he has to buy), outlandish outfits (the early ones had him dressed up as a mattress) and the ending phrase, “Save You Money!” He has lured customers into his stores with furniture-making demonstrations, trampolines made out of mattresses and animal exhibits. He is also known for his big promotions, his latest promising to refund bedding-related purchases of $3,000 or more if the Houston Astros win the World Series this season.

Mistake:

I would have invested more money into the internet site.

When we started 36 years ago, we only had one location. My theory was: You can do so much when you’re watching the store. But then I talked myself into getting a second location and then a third.

We put many millions of dollars into the third store in Fort Bend County, which was growing really fast, and it’s doing well. But it didn’t grow the business all that much. The three stores split the traffic and tripled the overhead.

But I was thinking too much like I used to. I was blinded by my past success.

I was thinking too much like I used to. I was blinded by my past success.

Lesson:

I would have invested online rather than offline, the brick and mortar. It would have grown the business much more.

People buy everything online now, even furniture, so there’s no point in having a 100,000-square-foot store when people like to sit at home in front of their computers or phones and click a button.

We still have all three stores and we are going to make them work because I’m hard-headed. But we’re going to expand our online presence and build more infrastructure and logistics so we can deliver in Houston and Texas and across the country.

It’s going to cost a lot of money. But it’s a fun time to be in retailing. The business is changing faster than it ever has. You have industry disrupters like Wayfair and Amazon, which is making a big push into furniture.

Those who change will do well. Those who don’t will end up like Sears Roebuck [now Sears Holdings Corp.].

Follow Gallery Furniture on Twitter at @GFToday.

Photo courtesy of Jim McIngvale

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