Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Appliance, electronics chain Conn's plans fall opening in Colorado Springs

By Rich Laden Updated: March 18, 2014 at 11:53 am 0

Texas-based Conn's Inc., an appliance, electronics and furniture chain that caters to consumers with credit problems, plans to open in Colorado Springs this fall.

The retailer expects to open as early as October in a former Circuit City store, southeast of Academy Boulevard and Platte Avenue on the Springs' east side, said Mike Poppe, Conn's chief operating officer. The building has been vacant since Circuit City went out of business in 2009.

Conn's is scheduled to complete its purchase of the building the first week in April, said Brad Bird, brokerage services director for the Colorado Springs office of national real estate firm CBRE, Conn's local real estate representative.

Conn's entry into Colorado Springs is part of a major expansion into Colorado. The publicly traded retailer, whose web site says it began more than 120 years ago as a plumbing company, plans six or more stores in the state and will have a 250,000-square-foot distribution center in Aurora. Its first two stores will open next month in Aurora and Centennial.

Conn's is in growth mode, opening 15 to 20 stores a year, Poppe said. In the last 18 months, it's expanded in western Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and now has about 80 locations.

"As we keep filling out the western side of the United States, Denver and Colorado and the surrounding area is a target area for us," Poppe said.

Conn's sells brand-name kitchen appliances and washers and dryers; electronics, including televisions computers and computer accessories; and living room, dining room and bedroom furniture, including mattresses.

The company specializes in a variety of customer financing plans targeting consumers who lack top credit, which puts it in competition with rent-to-own retailers, as well as traditional retailers such as Sears, Best Buy and others.

"We give people with a lower disposable income the ability to buy quality home products, top-name TVs, appliances, computers, furniture and mattresses at an affordable monthly payment," Poppe said. "Our financing program will generally be more accessible to people that don't have very good access to credit. But our financing option will be much more affordable than your typical rent-to-own financing option that they may have access to today."

About 70 to 75 percent of Conn's sales are financed through the chain's in-house credit program, which typically averages two years for customers to pay off and own their product, Poppe said. Interest rates vary by what's statutorily allowed in each state. Generally, he said, interest rates average in the mid-20 percent range or about one-third to one-half cheaper than what consumers might pay if they were buying at a rent-to-own store, he said.

Another financing program for consumers with better credit histories offers 18-, 24- or 36-month no-interest payments through G.E. Capital, Poppe said. Conn's also has a rent-to-own or lease monthly payment program; customers also can pay cash or use credit cards.

Bird, of CBRE, predicts Conn's will do well in the Springs because of its product mix, which focuses less on electronics that have small profit margins, and more on furniture, appliances and home furnishings.

"They just have a different product mix," Bird said. "Also, being able to provide in-house financing that they control is a huge asset and benefit to them."

The Colorado Springs store will be about 40,000 square feet, Poppe said. Conn's typically employs 30 to 35 full- and part-time people per location, and will probably have only one location in the Springs, although it will evaluate the market after its store opens, he said.

Conn's is the latest Lone Star-state business to come to the Pikes Peak region, joining Golfsmith, Cavender's Western Outfitters and home d?or store Garden Ridge.

Garden Ridge took over a former Target store next to the old Circuit City that Conn's will occupy. Those moves fill two big-box retail spaces along Central and South Academy, which city officials have labeled as a troubled corridor in need of improvement.

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Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228

Twitter @richladen

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