Buffett Attends Opening of Vegas Furnishings Store

Las Vegas, NV, June 25–More than 41 years after he first visited the city as a young honeymooner, businessman Warren Buffett returned to Las Vegas to mark the opening of his latest successful business venture, as reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Flanked by coworkers and curious bystanders, the Nebraska billionaire was on hand Thursday for the grand opening of the area’s second R.C. Willey Home Furnishings store, which opened May 1 at 3850 S. Town Center Drive near Interstate 215.

Buffett said the retailer has already built upon the success of its first local store, which opened in September 2001.

“The worry always is when you open up a second store in an area, how much are you going to cannibalize sales at the first store,” said Buffett, whose company also owns nine R.C. Willey stores in Utah plus one in Idaho. “I can tell you right now that the Henderson store and the Summerlin store are No. 1 and 2 in R.C. Willey, which has had enormous success elsewhere.

“We certainly found that two stores made a lot of sense” in Southern Nevada.

R.C. Willey Chief Executive Officer Scott Hymas said the company’s stores typically report annual sales of $35 million to $90 million. Though he declined to specify an exact number for each store, he said the Henderson and Summerlin stores routinely rank with a third store in Salt Lake City for highest written sales volume in the company.

“We were exceeding expectations in Henderson, which is why we opened a second one here,” Hymas said.

Buffett said he wasn’t initially convinced a furniture company whose policy is to close its stores on Sunday would work outside of Utah, where the predominantly Mormon populous eschews shopping that day. However, he’s been pleasantly surprised by R.C. Willey’s results in Southern Nevada.

Buoyed by that success, Buffett said the company will soon open more stores, both locally and around the United States. However, Buffett gave no short-term time frame for such steps to occur.

“Ten years from now we will have a number of new stores and there will be more than two stores in Las Vegas,” Buffett said.

The chief executive officer and majority owner of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett earned his billions by parlaying premiums collected from his various insurance interests and investing them in companies such as R.C. Willey, which the Berkshire Hathaway Furniture Group purchased in 1995.

Buffett said furniture companies aren’t typically a good investment, though he was impressed by the leadership and work ethic displayed by R.C. Willey’s management team, particularly Chairman William Child.

“Bill Child took this company from $250,000 to well over $500 million (in sales) this year,” Buffett said. “He just outworked and outthought the other guy.”

R.C. Willey’s corporate history dates back to 1932 when Rufus Call Willey founded a door-to-door appliance sales company near Syracuse, Utah. He later opened a 600-square-foot store in 1949. Today, Willey’s son-in-law, Child, runs the company with the assistance of Willey’s grandsons.

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