Wednesday, October 07, 2009
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Despite signs, Mostly Sofas to sit tight

Mostly Sofas in downtown Roanoke will close, but only temporarily, amid a name change to the Home Shoppe.

Diana Howell (left) looks at rug samples with Shelly Wheeler, a designer at Mostly Sofas, which is changing its name to the Home Shoppe.

Photos by JEANNA DUERSCHERL | The Roanoke Times

Diana Howell (left) looks at rug samples with Shelly Wheeler, a designer at Mostly Sofas, which is changing its name to the Home Shoppe.

Mostly Sofas has been advertising that the store will be closing its tall, 44,248-square-foot site beside Interstate 581. But the closure will be only temporary.

Mostly Sofas has been advertising that the store will be closing its tall, 44,248-square-foot site beside Interstate 581. But the closure will be only temporary.

Much of the merchandise there is discounted. The store is looking to broaden the perception of what it sells.

Much of the merchandise there is discounted. The store is looking to broaden the perception of what it sells.

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Yellow signs dotting the sides of major Roanoke Valley roadways and street corners project a strong message about Mostly Sofas in downtown Roanoke. It's having a "Store Closing Sale."

But the store is not closing -- at least not permanently.

It will shut its doors for 10 days to two weeks and reopen with a new name, the Home Shoppe. This identity change likely will take place in December, said owner Stewart Boehmer. The store will remain on Bullitt Avenue, inside its tall, 44,248-square-foot building beside Interstate 581. Perfect Touch Interiors, a custom decorating business inside the structure, also will stay put.

The new name is an attempt to change the perception of the retailer as one that solely sells sofas, Boehmer said. The store carries a wide array of tables, chairs, bedroom suites and other furnishings.

Also, Boehmer, who co-owns the store with his wife, Kathleen, is swapping some of the merchandise with new furniture lines. Much of the store's inventory is discounted, though there is not one specific percentage discount for the entire selection, Stewart Boehmer said. Shoppers can negotiate with salespeople for deals, he said.

But advertisements for this closing sale are stumping consumers who believe the retailer is shutting down for good.

"It's a little misleading," said Michelle Coffman, while taking a smoking break Tuesday with her co-workers outside Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield's office in downtown Roanoke. The building is near Mostly Sofas.

"I don't think it's truthful," said Carolyn Doak, another Anthem employee who walked along Franklin Road in front of her office.

Hearing that only the store's name was changing, Doak suggested a more accurate advertising sign, such as "Mostly Sofas leaving. More to come."

Shoppers who step into the store also are confused.

"We have had so many people telling us, 'Please tell us you're not closing,' " said Stewart Boehmer. "There's no motive at all whatsoever to deceive the public. This is typically what this industry does when they're going from one identity to another."

Paul Farris, a professor who teaches marketing courses at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, said he's seen this kind of advertising with furniture and carpet retailers. It's a way to drive business, because these kinds of retailers sell items that are discretionary purchases.

Sales are down for furniture retailers nationwide because of the slow housing market and consumers scaling back their spending on items that are not considered necessities.

"You convince them [consumers] that these kinds of prices will not happen again," Farris said.

But he said these kinds of campaigns are risky because they may give consumers a false impression about a business.

The Boehmers already changed the name of their Mostly Sofas store in Forest to the Home Shoppe with little apparent confusion from shoppers, Stewart Boehmer said, who owns his retail businesses under Javin Inc.

Even so, that store closed its doors in Forest and relocated to a spot on Lynchburg's Wards Road commercial corridor.

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