Canada’s top 500 CEOs
CEO # 92: Terry Leon
Financial Post Magazine November 04, 2008
With the economy wobbling like it is, you’d think Terry Leon would worry that people will buy less furniture. He doesn’t. The CEO of Weston, Ont.-based Leon’s Furniture Ltd. has been taking steps to recession-proof his furniture company for a year and a half, mainly by shifting focus from expanding the chain to growing sales in his existing 64 stores through the use of advertising and discount pricing.
Leon has been in the family business since he was seven years old, when he was paid a bottle of Coke to fold flyers for his grandfather, company founder Alban Leon. The current Leon became CEO in 2005; since then, shareholders’ equity has risen 35%. Even though the company may take a hit from the shaky economy, it’s expected to remain healthy due to its debt-free balance sheet and strong brand name. “Leon’s is likely able to withstand economic hardship better than many of its peers,” BMO Capital Markets analysts Adam Clark and Stephen MacLeod wrote in a note, although they warned the company might not be immune to a downturn in spending.
Historically – the company celebrates its centennial next year – Leon’s has proven itself a conservative but reliable player. In the past decade, the furniture retailer has nearly tripled its store count. Going forward, Leon’s debt-free status puts it in a good position to seek acquisitions, buy discounted merchandise and snap up cheap land once the economy shows signs of recovering. The company has a head start with its recent acquisition of appliance wholesaler and retailer Appliance Canada. “Suppliers prefer the bigger players,” Leon points out. “Even though the economy has slowed down generally, we’re as strongly capitalized as we’ve ever been.”