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Furniture business planning Wichita expansion as pandemic-related struggle continues in industry

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 6:24 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The COViD-19 pandemic has caused delays and disruptions to a wide range of industries, including the furniture business.

If you’ve tried buying furniture lately, then you’re likely to experience a significant delay. With pandemic-related issues, delays of three, six, or even nine months aren’t uncommon. On Thursday, June 10, Eyewitness News spoke with the owner of Oklahoma City -based Bob Mills Furniture about the challenges. Bob Mills Furniture President Bob Mills has 50 years’ experience in the industry, but is facing new problems related to the pandemic.

“The business has changed so dramatically, it’s almost approached a situation which you have to get larger or you have to get out,” Mills said. “If you’re not able to meet those kinds of requirements, especially to factories halfway around the world, it’s a tough challenge.”

He said the biggest challenge through the pandemic has been having enough merchandise “to satisfy the needs and the wants and desires of (his) customers.”

As the president of his company, Mills is aware of the logistical problems his industry faces.

“The Pacific Rim countries were just virtually shut down. They were scared to death. they sent their employees home, they stopped manufacturing,” Mills said. “Just as late as two weeks ago, Malaysia shut down.”

The problem is spurred by growing demand, but Bob Mills Furniture has worked through it to be in a position for growth. Last May less than three months into the pandemic, the company bet that people would want to buy furniture, despite economic challenges and shutdowns across the country. Mills placed orders when others were not.

“Business just went through the roof, people’s demands for merchandise went through the roof,” he said. “And we were one of the few dealers that kept receiving merchandise.

Now, the company is expanding its footprint, opening a store in Wichita this fall and hiring about 40 people. The new store will be in the 11800 block of East Kellogg in space that was formally a Michaels craft store in the One Kellogg Place retail development between East Kellogg and Greenwich.

Bob Mills said the Wichita store will be its 10th overall and first in Kansas.

“It’s a challenge. We never look at anything as a slam dunk,” Mills said. “It’s always, ‘you have to work for it, you have to earn it.’ And we have to make sure that we take care of our customers.”

Despite challenges in the industry, Mills said he’s committed to growth.

“We’re still moving, still growing,” he said. “Our three children are all in the business. We have a family rul that if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.”

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