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Conn’s Leaves NATM, Opens First Colorado Stores

The Woodlands, Texas — Conn’s has left the NATM Buying Corp. after 14 years with the big-box co-op. 4/29/2014 12:39:00 PM Eastern

The Woodlands, Texas — Conn’s has left the NATM Buying Corp. after 23 years with the big-box co-op.

The decision, effective last month, was made as Conn’s presses ahead with aggressive expansion plans that will carry it into the trading areas of additional NATM dealers.

The multiregional furniture, bedding, appliance and CE chain already overlaps with NATM member Curacao in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., and said it plans to open stores in Las Vegas, Mississippi and Tennessee, where it would compete with R.C. Willey, Cowboy Maloney's and Electronic Express, respectively.

Conn’s departure also avoids an intra-group conflict with Nebraska Furniture Mart, which is opening a $1.5 billion retail complex in Dallas next year.

The move leaves NATM with 10 big-box members and total revenues in excess of $5 billion. President/executive director Bill Trawick said the buying group plans to open up membership to one or two retailers that can bring value to the organization.

NATM has long served as an incubator for regional chains with larger ambitions, including past members Circuit City and h.h.gregg, but the group has “always been able to expand and move on,” Trawick said.

Conn’s latest expansion took form this month with the opening of its first two Colorado stores, located in the Denver suburbs of Aurora and Centennial and supported by a major distribution center in Aurora.  Six or more stores are envisioned for the state, COO Mike Poppe told local newspaper The Gazette last month, including a Colorado Springs location that will occupy a former Circuit City site as early as October.

Conn’s retail president David Trahan has described Colorado as a natural fit for the chain, with many credit-constrained and underserved consumers who can utilize its in-house financing. He said the new Colorado beachhead may also serve as a jumping off point for other nearby markets.

Chairman/CEO Theo Wright said plans call for as many as 20 new locations in new and existing markets by January 31, and the company indicated in a 10-K filing that it will soon open a distribution center in South Carolina.

Wright noted during an investor conference in December that the chain could ultimately operate as many as 300 stores, from the Southwest to the East Coast.