Art Van bets against snow, buyers win big

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
The Detroit News

The New England Patriots may have won the big game Sunday, but a bunch of Art Van Furniture customers in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois also won big on Super Bowl Sunday thanks to a promotion from the Warren-based retailer.

Art Van shoppers in the Toledo, Fort Wayne and Chicago areas who bought furniture, TVs and mattresses on certain days in January will get their merchandise for free thanks to the store’s “Let It Snow” promotion. The retailer bet customers that if it snowed more than 3 inches in each of the cities that it would refund the purchase price on the items.

After the winter storm finished raging through the Midwest on Sunday, snow totals in some areas measured more than a foot. That means nearly 3,000 shoppers at nine stores in the three states will get their furniture for free.

The offer applied to $2.5 million in sales, according to Art Van.

It also means Chicago attorney Michelle Mann will get her new $700 couch for free. “Betting on Chicago weather is never a good plan,” said Mann, who just moved into a new apartment with her girlfriend and had never been into an Art Van store before.

They didn’t intend to purchase anything at the store on Jan. 17, but they found something they liked. The promotion wasn’t that big of a factor in their decision, she said. But she’s certainly happy about it now.

“All the months in the future I would have had to pay off the credit card, it’s definitely a perk,” she said. “I’ve mentioned (Art Van’s) name to 10,000 people this week, so they are definitely getting good marketing out of it.”

The snow total in Chicago on Feb. 1 was a record-breaking 16.2 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Toledo got 10 inches and Fort Wayne got 9 inches. After Art Van receives certification from its insurance provider that more than 3 inches of snow fell in each market, the winners will receive an email or call with information on how to get their refunds, the retailer said in a statement.

“We threw out the ultimate pass to our guests, the chance to receive their purchases for free, and thousands of Art Van Furniture shoppers caught these incredible furniture and mattress savings,” said Art Van Elslander, founder and chairman of the retailer. “It’s a big win for fans of our stores who found a great reason to cheer, instead of jeer Sunday’s snowstorm.”

Eligible stores were in Batavia, Bedford Park, Chicago, Orland Park and Woodbridge in Illinois; Merrillville and Fort Wayne in Indiana; and two stores in Toledo. Art Van spokeswoman Diane Charles said the company did not offer the promotion in Michigan because the state wouldn’t allow for that type of conditional rebate program.

The retailer won’t really be out $2.5 million: Insurance provider Lloyds of London will cover the entire loss, so in reality, Art Van is only out whatever amount it paid to the insurer. The company is not releasing that information.

And all the publicity is still a win, said Charles.

“We just made 3,000 families very, very happy, plus it was something fun and positive to come out of the winter storm,” she said. “We were thrilled.”

Steve Watlock from Huntley, Ill., a northwest suburb of Chicago, is thrilled that he took the bet on Jan. 1 at his local Art Van store.

He didn’t buy his $1,800 loveseat and sofa sectional because of the promotion. He was in the market and his neighbor, an Art Van employee, told him about it while he was in the store.

“As we were walking around, he advised me of the deal, and it kind of sealed the deal, you know,” said Watlock, who is in the electronics sales business. “Now we wish we had bought a lot more.”

So during the Super Bowl, he and his wife and 5-year-old daughter spent the game sitting on their new furniture, watching the snow totals add up.

“It was like, ‘It could happen, it could happen,’ ” he said.

Watlock says he hopes that even though Art Van stands to lose money on the promotion, it will give them publicity and result in more business. As for the $1,800, he’s getting back thanks to the record snowfall, he’s got a plan.

“I’m already looking at vacations,” he said.

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