Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Mar 14 2015, Page 43

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - March 14, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE B6 T HE Dufresne Group — already the largest operator of Ashley Furniture HomeStore locations in North America — has formed a partnership with a company operating four more in the Greater Toronto Area ( GTA). The Winnipeg- based furniture retailer Doug Dufresne started in Kenora in the late ’ 80s has made it clear it’s not doing the deal just to add four more stores to its North American furniture retail empire. The Ashley Furniture HomeStore banner is the No. 1 retail brand for home furnishing in North America, with more than 550 stores. Most of them are in the U. S., and the chain is arguably under- represented in the Canadian market. “ Toronto is the fifth- largest homefurnishing market in North America, and right now it’s virtually untapped ( in terms of the presence of Ashley stores),” said Troy Davis, president of the Dufresne Group ( TDG). “ We have our sights set on growth, and we believe there is room in that market.” Davis would not put a time frame on it, but he said TDG’s ambitious plans include the addition of as many as 16 new Ashley stores in the GTA and throughout southern Ontario. From another operator, that might sound like wishful thinking, but TDG has proven to be one of the savviest and growth- oriented players in the market. Michael McMullen, a longtime executive with IKEA and Ashley ( and is currently the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce), said the retail furniture business is in the midst of an aggressive consolidation play, where the big chains are getting bigger. “ There’s no doubt the Dufresne Group can grow in this environment,” said McMullen. Before this deal, the Dufresne Group already operated 13 Ashley Furniture HomeStore locations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta as well as 11 Dufresne Furniture & Appliances stores in Manitoba and Ontario. In 2012, the company formed a partnership with a large U. S. furniturestore operator that owned a number of Ashley stores, to form Dufresne Spencer Group ( DSG). It now has 33 Ashley stores and four other Stashbrand locations in nine states, based out of Memphis, Tenn. As well, TDG manages a buyers group for about 110 independent retailers across the country called Dufresne Retail Solutions Group ( DRSG) based out of Cambridge, Ont. Members pay a fee and receive marketing, advertising, management and other operational and merchandising assistance to better compete against big- box players. “ Many people in Winnipeg associate our company with the Dufresne Furniture & Appliance storefronts,” said Davis, the former chief operating officer of the Brick. “ But when you peel the onion back, there is a lot more to the TDG organization than most people appreciate.” In fact, it has become one of the largest — if not the largest — Canadianbased furniture retailers. The company has become so successful that in December its former CEO, Mark Dufresne, left the business ( that he still owns) to become CEO of Ashley’s global retail business, in charge of that chain of 550 corporate and licensee- operated stores. It has been reported the Dufresne Spencer Group partnership in the U. S. likely generated about $ 250 million in revenue in 2014 from its 37 stores. Dufresne’s partners in the U. S. run that business, but the Winnipeg offices handle IT and accounting for the American operations. Not counting TDG’s substantial Canadian operations, the Dufresne Spencer Group was ranked 49thlargest in the U. S. in 2013 by the trade publication Furniture Today. Clint Engel, senior retail editor at the Greensboro, N. C., publication, said those operations grew by 90 per cent last year and will likely be higher up the rankings when the 2014 list comes out in May. TDG now has about 1,100 employees in Canada and close to 1,400 in the U. S. “ We are a private company, we’re nimble; we make decisions and move on them,” said Davis. “ We are a growth organization. We are not maintainers. It is in our DNA.” The company also maintains a low profile, and Davis said the hard- working, humble reputation is not just the image, but the reality of the company. He said the current economic conditions are not the best for the kind of growth he’s talking about, but it is nothing the company has not faced in the past. martin. cash@ freepress. mb. ca Target names first closures / B10 BUSINESS BUSINESS EDITOR: SHANE MINKIN 204- 697- 7308 I BUSINESS. DESK@ FREEPRESS. MB. CA I WINNIPEGFREEPRESS. COM SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 2015 B 6 SUBMITTED PHOTO There are more than 550 Ashley Furniture HomeStore outlets, most of them located in the United States. The Dufresne Group is eyeing the addition of as many as 16 more in southern Ontario. Troy Davis is the president of the Dufresne Group. BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The little company that grew.... AND GREW Dufresne Group has quietly become one of the biggest furniture retailers in the country By Martin Cash Making his Mark MARK Dufresne helped build the Dufresne Group into one of the largest and best- run furniture retailers in the country. But in December, he left the company ( that he still owns) to take on the newly created position of CEO of global retail for Ashley Furniture Industries. Based in Tampa, Fla., he is now responsible for the 550 Ashley Furniture HomeStores, the largest furniture retailer in North America, arguably one of the most important positions in the retail furniture business in North America. Michael McMullen, an industry veteran who’s spent time in senior positions with IKEA and Ashley, as well as the North West Co., has known Dufresne for many years. “ He is a brilliant strategist. He has put together an organizational structure ( in Winnipeg) that can just nail execution,” McMullen said. “ I would project Ashley will grow leaps and bounds ( under Dufresne’s leadership). He is going about it in an extraordinarily thorough, detailed way.” Dufresne has being selling Ashley products since his family’s first store in Kenora in the late ’ 80s, and he’s by far the largest Ashley operator in Canada. But there were some eyebrows raised when such a large Ashley operator was put in charge of the company’s retail operations. Dufresne was unavailable for comment. Troy Davis is now the chief executive in charge of the Dufresne Group’s Canadian operation. Chad Spencer runs the Dufresne Spencer Group out of Memphis, Tenn. — Cash B_ 06_ Mar- 14- 15_ FP_ 01. indd B6 3/ 13/ 15 8: 04: 44 PM

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