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P.C. Richard Finds Renewed Vigor By Going To Bed(ding)

P.C. Richard & Son was not the first, and certainly won’t be the last, independent dealer to buttress its bottom line by entering the high-margin mattress business.

But the Long Island-based appliance and CE powerhouse, now in its 106th year, accomplished the task with greater alacrity and wider scope than any regional white-goods retailer in the business. In the process, it boosted its sales, profits, foot traffic and customer standing by essentially becoming an overnight bedding authority in the sleep-deprived greater New York metro market.

P.C. Richard & Son’s guiding principles and company motto of “Honesty, integrity and reliability” were imparted by founder Peter Christiaan (P.C.) Richard, a Dutch immigrant who started the business as a Brooklyn hardware store in 1909.

Peter retired in 1947, leaving the company in the hands of his son “A.J.” — the late Alfred J. Richard — who added radios, appliances and a service department in the 1930s, and a trucking division to support deliveries.

But perhaps the chain’s most dramatic merchandising move followed its return to the NATM Buying Corp. in 2010, where it rubbed shoulders and shared best practices with companies like Nebraska Furniture Mart and R.C. Willey, for whom bedding was a core competency.

Despite a conservative financial strategy that kept its balance sheet sterling, P.C. was not immune to the fallout from the 2008 recession and the dramatic changes impacting the profitability of its core TV business. So when opportunity knocked in the form of mattress shops, the company went to bed.

The task was given to company veteran and video point man John LaRegina, who tentatively tested the category in Connecticut. But based on the enthusiastic customer response; the company’s longstanding warehousing and large-item delivery capabilities; and backed by the bedding know-how of their fellow NATM members, president/CEO Gregg Richard quickly pulled the trigger and P.C. Richard formally entered the business last year with the opening of mattress departments in 14 stores throughout Connecticut and New Jersey.

Today it carries mattresses by Sealy, Stearns & Foster and Tempur-Pedic throughout the tri-state area in all but five of the chain’s 66 stores, along with such high-margin bedding accessories as foundations, frames, mattress covers, pads, pillows and sheets.

P.C.’s out-of-the-ball-park success with the category is due in no small measure to LaRegina’s quick-study skills; the company’s lean, decisions-on-the-fly management structure; and the shared best practices of the buying group. But it was its own 106-year track record of “honesty, integrity and reliability” that closed the deal with consumers and helped make it a local mattress destination, even above the national specialty chains.

As R.C. Willey CEO and NATM president Scott Hymas noted at the group’s annual gathering last month, “As a customer I buy a mattress from P.C. Richard because I trust them for appliances, I buy my electronics there … why wouldn’t I buy my mattresses here?”