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20 Things You Didn't Know About Nebraska Furniture Mart

Nebraska Furniture Mart is the largest retailer of home furnishings in North America. They sell furniture, electronics, appliances, and flooring. The store has an impressive history and has risen to become a leader in the industry. We have twenty things to share about this mega giant that many people are not aware of but need to know.

1. The history of Nebraska Furniture Mart is interesting and impressive

The massive retail outlet was founded by a lady from Omaha, Nebraska in 1937. Her name was Roses Blumkin and she was born in Belarus and immigrated to the United States where she established one of the most successful furniture businesses on the planet. Her story is touching and it shows how the American Dream can be turned into a reality with hard work and passion. She was known to all as Mrs. B.

2. There is no such thing as a "quick trip" to NFM

If you haven't been on the inside of a Nebraska Furniture Mart, then you're in for a big surprise. The stores are so large that they supply maps to help you navigate through them. There are so many items tastefully displayed that a minimum of two hours is required to even begin to feel satisfied that you've seen enough. Even at this, you'll want to return so you can see the rest of the inventory. When you go, make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to browse through their huge selections.

3. This store was started on a shoestring budget

It's hard to believe, looking at Nebraska Furniture Mart as it is today, that it was started on a very small amount of money. When Mrs. B first established her business, it was started in the basement of a shop that was owned by her husband. She made an initial investment of just $500 dollars to stock her new startup and the business achieved tremendous success.

4. The Late founder set an example for women entrepreneurs
Rose Blumkin didn't retire until she was just three months short of reaching age 95. She spent 60 hours a week working at the store during the majority of her long and prosperous career. She was tenacious and only retired because of a rift in her family, but immediately after retiring, she opened up a factory outlet business that was competition for the Nebraska Furniture Mart directly next door to it. When the family rift was mended, her new store merged into the Mart. She celebrated her 100th birthday at the store.

5. Mrs. B sold her interest in Nebraska Furniture Mart

In 1983, Mrs. Blumkin sold her interest in the company. The sale was made to Berkshire Hathaway, Incorporated. They gave her $60 million for her share. They have an 80% interest in NFM which means that they own the controlling shares and are now calling the shots for major corporate decisions. Even though Rose sold her share of the interest, she still remained actively involved in the business for as long as was possible. She served as a true inspiration for everyone that knew and worked with her.

6. Mrs. B knew how to make money

While some new retailers will sell their merchandise for the highest possible price, this wasn't Rose's strategy at all. She believed that the way to make money was to make wise purchases, raise the price to make a five percent profit and sell as much at this rate as possible. It's obvious that she knew what she was doing because her business has grown into a retailing giant. She maintained her strategy and avoided the pitfall of becoming greedy. This is a lesson that many new company leaders can learn from because her method has been proven to be highly effective.

7. Nebraska Furniture Mart has some high-end expensive items for sale

NFM isn't a high-end retailer, but it does offer some of the finer things for sale. You can find items in all price ranges, but they do offer some expensive things like a 90-inch Sharp television that sells for over $10,000, a Freemark table that comes with six side chairs and two regular chairs for over $17,000 and a hybrid built-in grill that goes for more than $17,000. Don't let this keep you from checking out the store though. They offer even more items that are marked at moderate to low prices. There's a little something for everyone within all budget ranges on their sales floors.

8. Times got tough during the early years of the business

There have been multiple periods of ups and downs in the Nebraska Furniture Mart history. There were times of surplus, and times, when it looked like the business, may fail because of rough economic conditions. At one point, Mrs. B. was faced with bills that she owed her suppliers that she didn't have the money to pay. Refusing to admit defeat, she took the best logical course of action that she felt was appropriate. She sold every piece of furniture along with all of the appliances that he had in her own home so she could satisfy her debts and keep the young business running. How's that for dedication and commitment?

9. There are times when employees must take a shuttle to work

While this may sound like an extreme situation, there are days when traffic at the giant retailer's several locations become very busy with shoppers. On these days, employees are required to park off of the stores' property and take a shuttle bus to work. They must do this so there are more parking spaces available at the store. The traffic is so massive that there are times when there is no room to park in their 1,800 space parking lot.

10. Nebraska Furniture Mart is much more than a retail store

NFM has earned a reputation for being a novelty because of its massive size. This fact has created a high amount of curiosity from people who live in North America as well as from countries all around the world. it is widely recognized as one of the top tourist attractions in Nebraska with more than two million visitors checking out the store annually.

11. Workers are compelled to physically prepare each day

Although it may sound a bit odd, everyone who is employed at the Nebraska Furniture Mart in the warehouse departments is required to perform stretching exercises prior to starting their shifts each morning. The reason that this is a requirement is to help in preventing physical injury from the lifting, stretching, twisting and turning that is a necessary part of most of the positions that work in this area. We think that it's absolutely wonderful that the company shows so much concern for the well-being of their workers.

12. Nebraska Furniture Mart has a lot in common with football

Because of the massive size of the stores, Nebraska Furniture Mart has published a binder that they call the "playbook." It contains details for employees to inform them about what is going to happen when the store sponsors huge shopping events. This is a good idea because it helps the workers to mentally and physically prepare for a huge influx of customers and it's a great way to plan for how they will manage their teams in advance of big shopping days.

13. The founder was generous towards the community

An activity that is becoming a requirement for most business franchises is to be actively involved in the community and sponsoring events or activities that will somehow enhance and give back to the people who live in the surrounding area. Rose Blumkin understood this as being the right thing to do and she wasn't motivated by the fact that it would give the business a positive image in the community. She truly wanted to give back just for the sake of doing it. She donated $1 million to fund the building of a nursing home. The home bears her name and it is located near the Jewish Community Center.

14. Nebraska Furniture Mart has its own fraud team

Shoplifting is an issue that most retail businesses must deal with on a regular basis. Because of the sheer size of this business, Nebraska Furniture Mart has employed a team of fraud investigators as well as security staffers to lessen the tremendous impact of shoplifting. The company has also installed a series of camera systems to combat the problem.

15. Four generations of the family worked at Nebraska Furniture Mart

Rose Blumkin set the example for her family by being a dedicated and hard worker. After World War I, two of her family members joined her in the venture and it continued to be a family business with her children and other family joined her in various positions. Currently, several of her great-grandchildren are working at the storer, even though someone else now owns the controlling share of stock.

16. The electricity bill is monstrous

The next time you think your electrical bill is high, think about this and you may feel better. On average the monthly bill for electricity for Nebraska Furniture Mart is almost $100,000. It's this high and not even all areas of the storer have air conditioning. It's practically like running a small city, but that's just the cost of doing business for them.

17. Rose Blumkin had an excellent philosophy for business

Of course, hard work was just a given that we don't hear much about. It was just what people were supposed to do, but in addition to this, Mrs. B freely shared her philosophy with anyone interested in hearing about it. It can be summed up in this. "Sell cheap and tell the truth." She did that very thing because she only marked merchandise up by 5% and she was a straightforward and honest person who got ahead by establishing a reputation for being honest and for selling quality merchandise. It's tough to beat that kind of work and business ethics. Customers soon learned that they could shop with the confidence of knowing that the store stood behind their products.

18. Mrs. B was working past the age of 100

By now, it should come as no surprise that Rose Blumkin kept working for as long as she was physically able. Even though she sold out her interest in Nebraska Furniture Mart at the age of 89, her career in the industry was far from over. As unbelievable as it may sound, she continued on working in sales. She sold carpet until she reached the age of 103. How's that for tenacity and commitment? She was working far past the age that many people never reach because they die of old age. Mrs. B was one of the most amazing women who ever lived and her story is an inspiration for women around the world.

19. The size of the Omaha store is massive

The Nebraska Furniture Store that is located in Omaha doesn't refer to their property as merely the grounds, but it is known as the campus of the store. If you had to guess, how big would you estimate the area to be? As far as you can see, the store goes on and on for an incredible 77 acres. It's no small wonder that so many of the people who plan to visit the store set aside a minimum of 4 hours to spend browsing.

20. When Mrs. B passed away it was business as usual

There are many people who would insist that the Mart should have closed its doors for a day to honor the life of its founder, who had passed away. When it came time for her funeral, the store remained open. This was ordered by the family because they believed that it would displease her. After all, she worked come rain or shine and it was actually a gesture of respect for her strong work ethic and love of the Nebraska Furniture Mart that caused them to keep the doors open and honor her in that way. Her family knew her best and this was possibly one of the last ways that they could pay their respects to the great female entrepreneur who had accomplished so much in her many years of life on this earth.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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