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Nebraska Furniture Mart | December 10, 2018

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Sell Cheap and Tell the Truth


In 1937, when Rose, or Mrs. B as she was widely known created Nebraska Furniture Mart in the basement of her husband’s pawn shop, her business model was simple. Her theory was to operate on a small profit margin and to simply “sell cheap and tell the truth.”

The business model worked and customers enjoyed the tiny margins and felt fairly treated. Her local competitors felt less than positive about her business practices. Eventually, from the urging of local competitors, manufacturers actually boycotted Mrs. B and the Nebraska Furniture Mart ideals. Not allowing this to get in her way, Mrs. B would travel by train to Kansas City, Chicago, and New York bargain hunting and buying directly from the large furniture stores at a rate of 5% above their cost to fill her store. Even though the situation was less than ideal, her low markup sales strategy still allowed her to offer Nebraska Furniture Mart customers a great deal at a fair price that was better than the competition.

Eventually, her competitors took her to court over what they claimed were unfair trade practices. Rose explained to the judge how she would buy items at this cost and then sell them at a small mark-up. The judge threw the case out based on Rose’s testimony, finding her trade practices fair and her “sell cheap and tell the truth” mantra exemplary. The best part of the story is that after the case, the judge became a loyal customer by visiting the store and purchasing carpet from her!

In the end, Mrs. B’s integrity and grit, honesty with her customers, and creative thinking helped her create America’s largest home furnishing store.


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