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Nebraska Furniture Mart Goes BIG in Texas


Most retailers are reducing their footprints, but not Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM). In fact, the retailer is doing just the opposite and has opened the nation’s largest home furnishings store. Located in the new 433-acre mixed-use development, Grandscape in The Colony, Texas, the two-level NFM has a whopping 560,000 sq. ft. of selling space. Including an on-site warehouse, the space totals more than 1.8 million sq. ft.

The store sells 100,000 products, ranging from very high-end items to value offerings, with another 500,000 items in stock in the warehouse. NFM, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, partnered with Interbrand Design Forum to design the mega-store. It took two years to build.

“When you think about the volume of merchandise, this is like building a brick-and-mortar Amazon of merchandise for your home,” said Amanda Kohnen, senior creative director, Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio. “This has been an exciting design challenge to help NFM create a store with a vast assortment, but that is also easily shoppable for the customer.”

LAYOUT: To make the gigantic store feel smaller and more manageable, the designers incorporated open sightlines that help orient shoppers and give them a view across the space. Another key was the creation of a design system that uses towers and beacons to provide a framework for using the space. The system helps shoppers intuitively identify departments.

“In addition to developing a smart design system, we spent a lot of time on intuitive navigation and wayfinding through both signage and subtle visual cues,” Kohnen said. “It was also important to invite shoppers to dream and explore as this is truly the ultimate home decor shopping experience.”

The inspiration starts upon entering the 60-ft. tall atrium (the main entry), where a glass dome provides warm natural light. From this vantage point, shoppers have a view to multiple categories and get an immediate sense of the store’s many possibilities.

The floor plan is divided in half by a main boulevard, flanked by two “inspiration towers” that celebrate a variety of product categories and highlight trends. A third tower farther helps draw people in.

Furniture is to the right where the merchandise is grouped and styled by rooms in a diverse mix of styles. The first level also includes electronics where shoppers can find everything from smartphones to home theater products and fitness equipment; kitchens; appliances; office furniture; and a huge assortment of flooring, including carpet, rugs and tile.

On the second floor, the living room space covers the center area. Mattresses and bedroom sets ranging from cribs to kings are on the left and dining options are on the right.

TECHNOLOGY: Interactive kiosks are used throughout the space to enhance the shopping experience, including touchscreen monitors that allow customers to search and obtain directions to specific categories, brands or products. There are also interactive design tools and brand-specific touchscreens. Large video screens inspire, convey brand messages and entertain at key moments.

The store uses digital price tags, which are expected to generate big savings. The tags allow associates to change prices up to twice a day via infrared technology. And to supplement the 65 cash registers, associates can provide mobile checkout on the sales floor with tablets.

Consumer insights were crucial in developing the strategy for managing the presence of vendor brands.

“From our research we know that there are certain categories where brand plays a bigger role in the purchase decision,” Kohnen said. “Electronics and appliances were two areas where consumers shop by brand, so in those categories we included vendor shops and displays where the manufacturer brands could tell their stories.”

Some highlights of the store include:

  • Treehouse focal in the kids bedding area, where animated movies are shown;

  • “Man cave” area featuring pool tables, game tables and bar counters;

  • Ninety-six-ft. interactive headphone wall;

  • High-end kitchen shops showcasing the latest high-tech options;

  • Pop-up shop whose theme will change out quarterly; and

  • An upfront accessories bazaar featuring 8,000-plus items that change out seasonally. The area plays an important role in driving repeat business since furniture is not a frequent purchase.

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