ALL the News about
Mormons, Mormonism
and the LDS Church
Mormon News: All the News about Mormons, Mormonism and the LDS Church
Posted 19 Nov 2001   For week ended October 26, 2001
Most Recent Week
Front Page
Local News
Arts & Entertainment
·New Products
·New Websites
·Mormon Stock Index
Letters to Editor
Continuing Coverage of:
Boston Temple
School Prayer
Julie on MTV
Robert Elmer Kleasen
About Mormon News
News by E-Mail
Weekly Summary
Submitting News
Submitting Press Releases
Volunteer Positions
Bad Link?

News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church

Sent on Mormon-News: 24Oct01

By Kent Larsen

Never on Sunday, Not Even in Las Vegas

SOUTH SALT LAKE, UTAH -- Utah furniture and electronics retailer R.C. Willey Home Furnishings already has a store in Henderson, Nevada and plans to open two more stores in the Las Vegas area, presenting what may be the biggest challenge in the company's 69-year history. For the first time the company is moving into a city larger than Salt Lake, and, more importantly, a significantly different lifestyle, one potentially at odds with R.C. Willey's longstanding policy of closing on Sunday.

That policy's roots lie in the company's Mormon background. Founded by LDS Church member Rufus C. Willey in 1932, the company first sold appliances door-to-door until Willey opened a 600-square-foot appliance showroom next to his home in 1950. His son-in-law, Bill Child, took over the firm in June 1954, when Willey was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died that September. "I knew a little about the business, but not much," Child says. "But that didn't matter. There was no one else to run it."

But Child learned quickly, and soon opened a 2,400-square-foot showroom in Syracuse, Utah just two years after taking over the business. From there he expanded the company's locations, adding a second store in Murray in 1969, followed by one in Taylorsville in 1986, Orem in 1990, South Salt Lake in 1991 and Riverdale in 1996. Each of these stores had about 100,000 square feet. He also expanded the company's product line, adding electronics, a carpeting, and even clearance centers in Salt Lake County, West Jordan in 1994 and Provo in 1998.

Then in 1995, Child sold the business to investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway for $150 million in stock in Buffett's company. Child's shares were then worth $22,000 each, and have since grown to more than $74,000 a share. "My son encouraged me to take at least some cash," Child said. "I'm sure glad I didn't."

In typical Buffett fashion, Child remains R.C. Willey's chairman, and he and his family still run the business, now part of Berkshire Hathaway's furniture division, at $830.6 million in sales the fourth largest furniture retailer in the U.S. R.C. Willey has sales of $400 million, 60% of that from furniture sales, and the company expects to have sales of $500 million next year.

But the purchase by Berkshire Hathaway hasn't been without problems, the biggest of which came when Child proposed opening a new store in Boise, Idaho. Buffett opposed the move, believing that a store in Boise needed to open on Sundays. But Child persisted, offering to buy the land for the store himself for $9 million, and sell it to Buffett at cost if the store succeeded. "The agreement was if the store succeeded, I'd sell it back to him at cost," Child said. "If it didn't do well after six months, we'd walk away. Thank heavens it was successful." The store was hugely successful, within weeks cutting the profits at its competitors by 20 to 40 percent.

With that precedent, R.C. Willey is moving on to Las Vegas. But in Vegas it may face even bigger risks. Unlike in Utah, and even in Boise, where a significant minority of the population is LDS, Sunday is a big shopping day in Las Vegas, "I know in Salt Lake City people are not acclimated to shopping on Sunday, but here it's an important shopping day," said Larry Alterwitz, CEO of Walker Furniture, Las Vegas' largest furniture retailer and R.C. Willey's primary competition in the city.

But for R.C. Willey's future, the move to Las Vegas could answer an important question. Furniture industry data indicate that Sundays are important shopping days nationwide, with some companies generating 20 to 35% of their weekly business on Sundays. Because of this, R.C. Willey's future success outside of Mormon areas or other areas where Sunday shopping is weak may be seen in its success in Las Vegas. Given the company's success otherwise, if it can't succeed in Las Vegas, it seems unlikely that other business that don't open on Sundays will either.


R.C. Willey Will Gamble in Sin City, But Not on Sundays
Salt Lake Tribune 21Oct01 B4
By Lesley Mitchell: Salt Lake Tribune


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information