Girl power, indeed. The legendary Nebraska Furniture Mart got its start in 1937 when Russian immigrant Rose Blumkin ("Mrs. B") began selling furniture at a slight markup from a shop basement. Her motto: "Sell cheap and tell the truth!" The famed 450,000-sq.-ft. Omaha location (called the Mart) was built in 1968 and rebuilt by Mrs. B and her son in 1975 after a tornado hit. Two decades later, an electronics and appliance store was added in Omaha; the 77-acre location boasts some 500,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The firm also operates stores in Des Moines, Iowa, and Kansas City, Missouri. Omaha investor Warren Buffett (owner of Berkshire Hathaway) owns a majority stake in Nebraska Furniture Mart.
Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) operates retail complexes in Omaha and Kansas City, Kansas. It also owns Homemakers Furniture in Des Moines, Iowa.
While conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway doesn't disclose financial information for its individual businesses, revenues and earnings from its retail segment (which includes four home furnishings chains and three jewelry businesses, among other retail operations) are on the rise. In 2012 retail revenue topped $3.7 billion, up about 1% versus 2011, while earnings increased by nearly 2% over the same period. Berkshire noted that its home furnishings retailers posted increases in sales and earnings.
Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) is the largest furniture retailer in each of its markets. It's also looking to expand with plans for a new retail store, warehouse, and administrative office in a suburb of Dallas, salted to open in 2015. In recent years, NFM has been focused on renovating its stores and upgrading its services, such as offering customers online bill payment. Focusing on its online store, Nebraska Furniture Mart overhauled its website and added functionality to allow its customers to shop online. It has also expanded its Kansas City store to include a warehouse and distribution center, such as that at its Omaha location.
Despite a lengthy downturn in the economy, the company is seeing signs that customers are willing to spend on furniture again. As part of the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, stakeholders enjoy steep discounts at the furniture firm. Buffett has appeared in NFM's ad campaigns to boost sales and notoriety for the furniture retailer.
Berkshire Hathaway acquired the company in 1983 for about $60 million.
Nebraska Furniture Mart is run by brothers Ron and Irv Blumkin, Mrs. B's grandsons. Mrs. B died in 1998 at the age of 104. She worked at the store until she was 103 years old.
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