Did millennials kill Art Van Furniture?

click to enlarge Did millennials kill Art Van Furniture?
Photo via GoogleMaps

What started as a small retail store on Gratiot Avenue in 1959 grew to the biggest and most popular furniture retailer in the Midwest — but now, Art Van is shuttering its doors for good.

"Despite our best efforts to remain open, the company's brands and operating performance have been hit hard by a challenging retail environment," spokesperson Diane Charles said in a statement.

Some of those challenges may include the way millennials have changed the way they buy furniture. “The rise of the internet and ecommerce has had a massive effect on the furniture industry,” blogger Tina Eaton noted in a post, “and millennials have embraced those changes wholeheartedly.”

Further, with $600 million in buying power, millennials also aren’t spending much of their money on furniture. According to BDI Designs, a craft furniture design company, furniture and bedding account for just 4.5% of millennials’ total spending, compared to 7.3% for Gen X and 10% for boomers.

The evolving housing market and lower credit card usage may also be contributing factors, all of which were too much for the retailer to overcome. Acquired by Thomas H. Lee Partners in 2017, rumors of the pending closures began earlier this year.

Art Van Furniture was founded by noted Detroit philanthropist Archie “Art” Van Elslander, who died in 2018. Art Van experienced rapid growth in the 1970s and 1980s when it launched its own credit card. Advertising was also a significant feature of the Art Van brand, with familiar commercials that changed regularly.

Van Elslander and Art Van were also known for their charitable works in and around Detroit. In 1990, the family helped preserve Detroit’s historic Thanksgiving Day Parade. Van Elslander made a contribution to keep the parade afloat and matched the contributions of other businesses. The parade was later renamed America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van.

"We recognize the extraordinary retail, community and philanthropic legacies that Art Van Furniture has built for decades in the community,” the company statement continued. “On behalf of the company we want to offer our sincere appreciation to our employees for their dedication, commitment and hard work. We also want to extend our gratitude to the many customers, vendors, franchisees, charities and communities who have supported these retailers.”

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

About The Author

Biba Adams

Biba Adams is a Detroit-based national freelance writer. Her work has been featured in Visit Detroit, Model D, VIBE, and more. She is currently working on her debut book, Scenes From a Renaissance: Detroit Hip-Hop 1996-2006.
Scroll to read more Metro Detroit News articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.