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Buy furniture "Build-A-Bear" style
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Furniture shopping could become a completely new experience with "Furnish 1-2-3," described by industry insiders as a potential "Build-A-Bear" of furniture stores.

Ashley Furniture, a large furniture manufacturer and retail chain, is working on a new store concept aimed at making furniture shopping exciting, fun and affordable for "Generation Y" shoppers.

"We've been working on this concept for four years," said Kerry Lebensburger, president of sales for Ashley Furniture. "It's targeted for 25 to 35 year old shoppers. They shop differently. They are very independently and don't want to be told what to buy."

These new stores are considerably smaller, about 4,000 square feet versus a typical 30,000-square-foot furniture store, and come with a "one price fits all" pricing model for merchandise. So all the sofas cost $399, all rugs start are $99, all lamps are $99 and all table sets are $199.

"You just build your furniture set as you move through the store," Lebensburger said.

Robert Cole, who opened the prototype store last year in Pottstown, PA said the concept makes sense to him as a business owner. "My overhead expenses are less because the store is so small," he said, adding that he has just one employee and a manageable number of products in his store.

Given the small space, Cole said he's invented a novel way of displaying sofas, hanging one on top of another.

Lebensburger said the new stores are not owned by the company but a "handshake" between Ashley Furniture and store owners. "We will provide the design, merchandise and online expertise to the owners," he said, noting that more than 200 stores are expected this year.

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Last updated February 19 2010: 10:32 AM ET
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