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From Home Furnishing Business

Take 5: Don Essenberg President, Legacy Classic And Roy Calcagne President, Craftmaster

Late last summer, Legacy Classic and its sister company, upholstery producer Craftmaster, began shipping the highly-anticipated Rachael Ray Home Collection, the cooking celebrity’s first foray into furniture.

The collection, which features imported case goods from Legacy Classic and domestically-made upholstery from Craftmaster, was well-received by retailers at the High Point Market, but results of the acid test – how many consumers are actually buying it – are just starting to come in.

To get an update on the line and the strategy behind it, Larry Thomas, senior business editor of Home Furnishings Business spoke with Legacy Classic President Don Essenberg and Craftmaster President Roy Calcagne. Calcagne and Craftmaster, it should be noted, are no strangers to licensed collections because Craftmaster has produced the upholstery portion of the successful Paula Deen Home line since 2009. (Paula Deen case goods are from sister company Universal Furniture.)

The Rachael Ray line consists of 100 case goods pieces, including bedroom, dining room, occasional, home office and home entertainment. There also are 12 upholstery groups with more than 50 sofas, loveseats, accent chairs, settees, chaises and ottomans.

Home Furnishings Business: What is the early feedback from retailers?

Don Essenberg: It has been fantastic. The consumer response has far exceeded anyone’s expectations.

Roy Calcagne: We’ve had phenomenal success right out of the gate. With a program like this, it normally takes three or four months on the sales floor before it takes off, but we’ll double the volume that we did with (the first year of) Paula Deen.

HFB: What competitive advantage does this line give your company?

Essenberg: It adds perceived value, and it ensures the collection is displayed together at retail.

Calcagne: It is a meaningful licensed brand that is designed to appeal to the consumer as an aspirational purchase. And it is designed to drive those consumers into the stores of our retail partners.

HFB: There are dozens of celebrities – living and deceased – who are available for licensing programs. Why did you pick Rachael Ray?

Essenberg: Rachael has millions of fans. Her Emmy Award-winning television show is broadcast five times a week.  She has a very successful line of cookware, so we don’t have to explain who she is as part of our marketing.  And I believe Rachael has yet to peak.  We’re not partnering with someone at the end of their career.  Finally, she has a real passion for furniture.

Calcagne: Rachael is one of the best-known brands in the country. She connects to the target consumer from a demographic standpoint, she has a top-rated TV show, she has a very successful monthly magazine, a strong social media presence and is already in the home due the fact that she is a celebrity chef. So the connection from the kitchen to the living room, bedroom and dining room is easily made.

Craftmaster has also had tremendous success with the Paula Deen Licensed Collection with sister company Universal Furniture. The Rachael Ray Collection is much different as far as the target consumer to which it appeals. The styling direction and fabric selections are very different, and there is little cross-over between the target consumers.

HFB: What consumer demographic are you targeting?

Essenberg: Her fans. It’s primarily women between the ages of 35 and 55 with a household income of $50,000 to $75,000. Rachael has a national following.

HFB: Is the line being promoted on her television show and on social media?

Essenberg: Rachael’s passion for the home is evident in every connection she has with her fans.  Her furniture is the furniture on the set of her show.  Rachael’s enthusiasm is evident on her show and social media.  Rachael has already given away houses full of furniture as featured on her show.

Calcagne: She has mentioned the collection on several episodes during the year, along with the May 11th episode, which pretty much filled the entire show. It was basically a 45-minute program about the Rachael Ray Home line. All of the furniture on her CBS set is now from the Rachael Ray Home Collection — upholstery and case goods.

HFB: What is the inspiration for the designs?

Essenberg: Rachael’s life. All three current collections are a reflection of how and where she lives. Rachael wants her furniture to solve problems and make life easier.

Calcagne: Capturing her lifestyle is paramount to the collection. We have two city collections that epitomize how she lives in New York, and the Upstate Collection that represents her retreat home north of the city. The design direction for the upholstery is a collaboration between Rachael and her team along with the Craftmaster merchandising/product development team

HFB: What is the level of Rachael’s personal involvement?

Essenberg: Rachael is fully engaged. She approves every item, every finish, even the hardware. This is her furniture.  It’s a real partnership.

Calcagne: She is very involved from a design and fabrication standpoint. We take her input and start developing the styles. She also reviews the fabric selections and makes recommendations and suggestions. And since the upholstery is made here in North Carolina, the made-in-USA story is very important to her. She often mentions how important it is for American jobs.

HFB: Has the program enabled you to open many new dealers? Or are existing dealers giving you more floor space?

Calcagne: Both. We have expanded our assortments with the current Craftmaster (retail) customer in addition to adding many new dealers due to the tremendous product offering and value along with the power of the brand. It fits in the upper moderate price range below Paula Deen and above the regular Craftmaster line.

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