Why Peak Sales Season Is Tax Season For Retailer American Freight

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January 29 marked the first day Americans could file their 2023 taxes, meaning the early birds out there have already submitted their returns and can expect any refund they’re due in the next few weeks, maybe even in the next few days.

The biggest incentive for most early filers is getting that refund as soon as possible, so they can tackle debt, invest or maybe purchase a big-ticket item they’ve had their eye on. For consumers who might not be in the position to replace a fridge, washer or couch at other times of the year, getting a refund of a thousand dollars or more can make a huge difference in making a needed purchase.

That reality is what makes tax season — not the holiday season — the biggest sales period of the year for appliance, furniture and mattress retailer AF, which was formerly known as American Freight. AF typically sees a 30% sales lift during tax season, according to Peter Corsa, CEO of the Home Segment of FRG Inc., which is the parent company of AF. He says the company’s recent survey of 1,000 customers found that 85% planned to use their tax refunds to purchase a big-ticket item, with the top three categories being furniture, appliances and mattresses.

AF offers affordable, high-quality inventory online and in its 370 warehouse stores across 40 states, where customers can purchase items like fridges, ranges, washer/dryers, dining sets and mattresses and take them home that day rather than having to wait weeks or months for delivery like they would with most retailers.

But where the retailer really differentiates itself is by offering the largest assortment of open-box appliances in the US.

These aren’t used products; they’re new items from trusted, primarily domestic, manufacturers including Electrolux, GE, Hotpoint, LG, Samsung and Whirlpool that have typically sustained some cosmetic damage during manufacturing or shipping.

AF also owns and operates seven distribution centers nationwide, where certified technicians repair, clean and test open-box appliances, ensuring they meet the original manufacturers’ standards. This infrastructure is what allows AF to sell open-box items at big discounts (while also helping keep them from ending up in landfills). The appliances are also photographed and color-coded by their degree of imperfection so customers, both online and in-store, are 100% clear on the condition of the item they’re buying.

Corsa notes that AF’s open-box value proposition appeals to shoppers across the income spectrum, from young couples buying appliances for their first home to owners of dozens of rental properties, who often shop the retailer to outfit their rentals with quality appliances that may have just a minor ding that isn’t even visible.

“We are very competitive on delivery and financing,” says Corsa. “And often, open-box appliances have only a small scratch, so the value they get for the price makes a huge difference to consumers.”

American Freight was founded in 1994 in Ohio, acquired by Franchise Group Inc. in 2020, then merged with Sears Outlet and FFO Home before going private in August 2023. The official rebrand to “AF” from “American Freight” just happened last week, when the company unveiled its new visual identity, including a new logo, color palette, and interior and exterior store signage. New AI/AR applications and other tech advancements are also part of the brand refresh.

AF also began testing a new, more spacious layout in selected stores that it plans to roll out more widely nationwide across this year. Those moves build on a revamp of the in-store staffing and incentive model under Corsa that was designed to boost retention and job satisfaction while providing a more pleasant and enjoyable customer experience.

“We want the value of our brand to speak for itself, to be the type of retailer people recommend to their friends and family, which is why we are investing in making it a great experience for people when they come into the store and shop online,” says Corsa.

With its unique value proposition, open-box offering and redesigned customer experience, Corsa is confident that AF is poised to grow significantly in the next few years, including, potentially, more than doubling its store count nationwide.

“We want to be the company that provides that next big item for people at a great value, especially when these items can represent a large part of someone’s income,” he says. “To be able to give customers a discount of thousands of dollars off is a great feeling.”

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