August 9, 2002, 12:00 AM

How Haverty Furniture’s web traffic predicts its store sales

It doesn’t sell online, but Haverty Furniture says increases in traffic to its web site translate into increases in stores sales four or five days later.

Atlanta-based Haverty Furniture Companies Inc. doesn’t accept online purchases at Havertys.com, but the web site definitely affects sales in its 106 stores, Thomas Curran, vice president of advertising and Internet strategies, tells InternetRetailer.com. "We get daily reports on web traffic, and when we see upticks in web site traffic, four or five days later we see upticks in stores," he says.

In customer focus groups, he adds, a large percentage of customers routinely say they visit the company’s web site before shopping in its stores. "Almost a majority of customers say that’s how they start to shop," Curran says. Haverty does not promote the web site beyond placing the URL in all print and TV advertising.

Encouraged by the effect that online shopping has on offline buying, the company has been sprucing up its web site with promotional features. It recently added a zoom function that enables customers to enlarge photos of rooms decorated with Haverty furnishings, Curran says. The site also includes a design planner that assists shoppers in choosing coordinated furnishings presented in room settings.

The company says sales for the first seven months of 2002 totaled $397.9 million, up from $373.4 million during the same period last year. Haverty does not sell online, Curran says, because it believes products returns would be too high. "We assume there would be more returns from people shopping online compared to when they actually come in and touch our products," he says.

In addition to its web site activity, Haverty e-mails newsletters with special sales promotions and decorating ideas to as many as 10,000 customers each week. Although Curran says Haverty doesn’t have numbers to show the newsletters drive sales or store visits, it has been increasing the newsletter circulation by 15-20% each month.

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