With more than 50,000 home accessories, including 500 area rugs, 600 mirrors and 3,000 fashion pillows, At Home is betting that consumers haven’t lost their love for superstores.
The Texas-based home-decor retailer will open its first Minnesota location in Burnsville Thursday in a former Kmart with an inventory that easily dwarfs the home accessories selection at Target, Wal-Mart, Pier 1, World Market and HomeGoods.
The average size of an At Home store is 120,000 square feet. The Burnsville location will be 107,000 square feet and a store that will open in Blaine in June is 138,000 square feet.
Until now, the chain, which was known as Garden Ridge until 2014, had its closest stores in Milwaukee, Des Moines and Waterloo, Iowa.
The Burnsville outlet will be the chain’s 104th store in 28 states. The company has opened 58 stores in the past three years and will open at least 20 more this year. The privately held company may go public this year as it gears up for a major expansion.
“We plan to grow to 600 stores in the Lower 48 states,” spokeswoman Stacey Sullivan said.
After owner AEA Investors of New York hired Lee Bird as its chief executive in 2012, he expanded the selection focused on the Wal-Mart shopper to a good-better-best assortment more in line with HomeGoods and Pier 1. Bird has described the new merchandising as “fast and affordable” and says the retailer wants to “be known as the Forever 21 of home decor.”
Lynne Gonsior, At Home divisional merchandising manager, said that stores receive about 500 new items every week. Eight themes, or archetypes, are created throughout the store. “We try to cover every style from casual weekend getaway to a traditional library luxe style,” she said.
The average At Home customer is a 45-year-old woman who visits four to seven times a year and spends at least an hour in the store each time, Gonsior said. Popular departments include patio, garden and seasonal with rugs, patio furniture and seat cushions as best sellers. “We have 18 sizes of patio furniture cushions in 65 styles,” she said.
Lori Quinters of Savage planned to take off work to be the first in line at the new Burnsville store. She’s a fan after shopping at the chain’s Des Moines and Tulsa stores. “I stopped by the store before it opened just to peer through the glass,” she said. “It’s more affordable than Pier 1 and the quality and style is a bit above Target.”
Interior designer Sue Hunter, of Home for a Change in Minneapolis, describes the superstore as having a deep selection of dining room chairs, mix and match lamps and shades, and topiary plants. “It’s so big that it might be overwhelming for some, but it’s well-organized,” she said. While she thinks the quality of some of the upholstered furniture is more decorative than functional, the store “will definitely be on my shopping list for clients on a budget.”
At Home, which has filed a plan with federal regulators for an initial public offering, had sales of nearly $498 million in the fiscal year that ended in January 2015, up 23 percent. The company posted a net loss of $436,000 compared with a loss of $22.3 million in the previous year.
Although the company has big plans for expansion, adding e-commerce is still not part of the plan, according to Sullivan. A fraction of the company’s products are shown online, but customers cannot order.
The Burnsville store will be staffed by 25 employees. The company starts part-time employees at $9 an hour and full-time at $10 an hour. Employees also become eligible for paid volunteer time and paid sabbaticals. After Bird became CEO, he also discontinued the company’s long history of being open on Thanksgiving. “He believes in people before profit,” Sullivan said.