The dramatic impact that the coronavirus has had on the world this year is undeniable. The first half of 2020 was an exercise in adaptation as COVID-19 continued to affect our lives, our jobs and our businesses. But the second half of 2020 is a different story: we need to plan how to evolve—and take control of the year.
In the midst of all this uncertainty we set out to find the Class of 2020 not knowing what to expect. What we received was the largest number of nominations in the history of the program, ranging from a VP who got his start in furniture because of a dead car battery, to a 30-something CFO who restructured $25M in bank debt resulting in a covenant free mortgage. It is a forward-looking class with vitality and muscle that promises to sustain long-term growth.
Our vision for the Forty Under 40 has always been to find, recognize, and celebrate the young talent in our industry. Those that are or want to be leaders who can create a roadmap that defines where the business is, where it wants to go, and how to get there. “Shining a light on the rising talent in our industry is more pertinent than ever, especially as the vision for 2020 has shifted its course,” said Doug Culmone, president and CEO, Storis. “As digital and tech-center initiatives rise in importance, the future leaders in our industry will be paving the path for the industry’s future as a whole.”
As we introduce you to the Class of 2020 you will find some of the most promising young people in the industry. They have focus, integrity, inner drive, and the desire to succeed, along with genuine care for their company, teams, customers, and communities. They were selected for the meaningful contributions they have made in their stillyoung careers. No matter how you measure success, this year’s Forty Under 40 are focused on a clear vision to help their companies reach their goals. So, to the Class of 2020 we say, congratulations! We are passing the torch to you to help create a clear vision for tomorrow. To you, our readers, we say sit back, get comfortable and get to know the Class of 2020.
Brian Adams, 32
Vice President –
International Sourcing Operations, Procurement, Quality, & Regulatory Affairs Ashley Furniture Industries
Brian has demonstrated his passion and commitment to Ashley Furniture and the furniture industry from the start of his career as a Regulatory Analyst. His numerous responsibilities are critical to Ashley’s operations. This, coupled with his community philanthropic commitments, defines him. Brian and his team manage a purchasing portfolio of over $2B for Ashley. He has been instrumental in developing a variety of processes to ensure Ashley achieves the best value throughout their supply chain. Due to COVID-19 and Brian’s early foresight related to anti-dumping duties, he and his team initiated over 120 new vendor relationships throughout Southeast Asia. This required moving over $300M of China-based products to non-China vendors, including the launch of three new countries for material sourcing.
Brian serves as a mentor to other Ashley employees and works with them weekly on the development of their career. He serves as a leader for the Chippewa County 4-H program and volunteers for Ashley for the Arts, one of Wisconsin’s largest charity events. He also volunteers at the American Society for Testing Materials for Furniture Safety and Bunk Beds creating standards to keep children safe.
Gina D’Amore Bauerle, 35
Interior Designer/ Partner D’Amore Interiors
Growing up in a family owned home furnishings business, D’Armore Interiors, Gina began work in the retail environment at the age of 12. By 18, she began offering design services and became the top producing salesperson. After college, Gina spearheaded the marketing responsibilities for the business. Today, she manages a majority of the company operations and is responsible for more than two-thirds of gross sales. Under her leadership, the business expanded to offer complete interior design services and offers its own line of products, which are designed and made inhouse. Gina has also created new product lines for various vendors under her social media brand, Design Boss Gina. She has won 18 awards for her interior design projects and has been published 13 times with full editorial features in regional, national, and international publications. She is passionate about letting her generation know that when you put your heart and soul into what you do, great things can happen!
Gina and D’Amore Interiors support the Children’s Diabetes foundation and Drifters Hearts of Hope, an organization dedicated to saving horses from the slaughter pipeline.
Marcus Bontrager, 33
President Fusion Designs
Furniture First member
Marcus is a true team leader, innovator, and motivator through his passion at Fusion Designs where he oversees operations, new product development, marketing, and sales strategy. He also recruits and trains team members for manufacturing, finishing, and shipping. Focused on what is best for the company to maximize production and produce quality furniture for customers, his quick problem solving, hands on training, and strong work ethic earned him the respect of the company’s employees and business partners.
In 2008 when the economy was going backwards, Marcus established the Fusion Designs brand and took the company to new heights. By the time the economy recovered, Fusion Designs had a stronghold on the high end market by implementing lean manufacturing to produce products faster with less waste. When Fusion Designs bought Borkholder Furniture in early 2020, Marcus led the transition for both parties and neither company missed a beat.
Marcus is an active and strong supporter of his local church. He also supports and donates to Onetreeplanted.org where the mission is to leave the world beautiful for future generations.
Jordan Boyst, 36
Director of Partnerships Home Furnishings Association
Jordan is a powerhouse who stepped into a leadership role at the HFA and created a pathway for more robust partner relationships. He oversees all partnerships between non-retailers and the Association. Leaning into his exceptional analytical skills, Jordan streamlined reporting processes utilizing technology to build a program that allows members to call in and receive a concierge-based approach to problem solving, created a lead aggregator to help non-retailers connect with retailers more effectively, and developed a format for non-retailers to receive daily data about the retailers that come to market. He is also a key stakeholder in the redesign of the High Point Market Retailer Resource Center. As a leader, he provides feedback, support, and strategic direction for his team to enable them to achieve their goals and expand the value of their department.
Jordan finds ways to connect to good causes through the groups he belongs to. His Rugby team hosts a “Toys for Tots” toy drive every year. He writes letters of encouragement to foster children who recently graduated and will enter the world outside the foster care system, offering hope and real-world advice.
David Cartlidge, 32
Senior Product Manager Corsicana Mattress Company
David is one of the bedding industry’s rising stars with 10 years of retail and manufacturing experience. He is currently responsible for developing customer-specifi c products and new product lines at Corsicana Matt ress Co., the sixth largest bedding manufacturer in the U.S., while overseeing its existing product portfolio and tracking productivity of various matt ress models. He has used his retail experience gleaned during his time at Art Van Furniture to develop matt ress collections that resonate with consumers. David joined Art Van Furniture in 2009 where, at the age of 24, he became the youngest buyer in the company. Here, he helped spearhead the industry movement to focus on adjustable power bases as a key category, nett ing the retailer more than $10M in added profi t over the next few years.
David annually donates time to The Pantry House, which serves underprivileged communities by providing after-school activities, learning supplies, and other essentials. At Art Van Furniture, he started a promotion geared toward donating matt resses to the less fortunate, granting families brand new matt resses for Christmas through the retailer’s partnerships. Cartlidge is also an avid blood donor.
Alex Cihak, 30
Vice President of Business Development
At Elements International, Alex is currently responsible for leading the sales team of over 35 independent sales reps and sales managers. He also masterminds the overall margin for Elements’ business, which includes all import product categories and domestic upholstery business at Style-Line. As Alex moved into this new role to help lead the sales team, he has also maintained responsibility for managing inventory, turns, stock position, and margin for a domestic warehouse, warehouses in Vietnam and Malaysia, and several customer managed third party logistics warehouses in North America. It is rare to fi nd such a young person with his early mastery of the intricacies of furniture business who is so willing to both learn and teach. He rises to the occasion as a leader both internally with employees and externally with customers and suppliers. He has earned the respect of a seasoned sales team of industry veterans that he partners with to drive business forward. He also has managed and continues to take on special projects, and has earned and maintains his CPA License.
Will Conway, 35
Chief Operating Officer City Furniture
Beginning in Operations with City Furniture after college, then moving up the ranks to Senior Vice President of Operations, Will oversaw all delivery, warehousing, and customer care activities with over 1,000 associates on his team. Showing his determination, Will earned his MBA from Northwestern Kellogg while working at City Furniture. He has continued to grow in his current role as COO where he has taken on additional responsibilities including Operations, Human Resources, and is an integral part of City Furniture’s senior team that plans and manages all aspects of its business. Smart, dedicated, and with a steady management style to boot, he delivers on all his targets including developing an improved staffi ng forecast across the company, improving productivity, and beating budgets with his inherent thriftiness. Will has gained everyone’s respect and admiration.
Will supports all City Furniture philanthropy, including City Cares, a charity devoted to providing the homeless clothing, in addition to the Pine Crest School and his local church.
Colleen Daly, 39
Vice President Howard Elliott
For the last 13 years, Colleen has worked at Howard Elliott and helped build the business from the ground up. As vice president, she oversees operations, sales, and marketing. She manages all of the SKU data, customer service needs, warehouse capabilities, showroom set-up, and sales meetings. She keeps the website updated and relevant and seeks account and business development opportunities for the company. Through it all she still manages to fi nd time to help sales reps in every way. Her eff orts have helped increase Howard Elliott ’s e-com business over 400%! Colleen’s focus is on effi ciency and value. She pours her heart and soul into her job as well as the home furnishings industry in general. As a leader, she continually provides feedback and value to those around her, helping them grow as the company grows. Colleen participates in community service projects through ART (Accessories Resource Team). She volunteers as a group leader and donates products to projects for veterans. During the COVID-19 crisis, when she wasn’t at work Colleen helped coordinate the production and donation of masks in the Chicago area.
Craig Daniels, 29
Marketing Director Furniture Fair
FMG Buying Group member
Impact Consulting Performance Group member
Craig is a 4th generation family member at Furniture Fair where he oversees all marketing campaigns and collaborates on initiatives with product vendors, media agency suppliers, and non-profit organizations. Among his responsibilities are budgeting, contract negotiations, and maintaining Furniture Fair’s market share. He increases visibility for the company via their online presence and community engagement, and he pinpoints new target audiences. He communicates the company brand through social media events, non-profit charitable events, and the company’s sales team. Craig has also increased staff awareness of charitable activities in which Furniture Fair is engaged. He is the leader of Furniture Fair’s Values Board, which seeks to improve employee engagement and culture. He assists in orchestrating the annual golf outing supporting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society helping raise over $1.5M. He also collaborates with other local businesses to host one of Cincinnati’s first female veteran’s military appreciation events. He led the company in its donation event of over one thousand hygiene products for local homeless female vets and helped raise awareness for opportunities available to them. He also holds a Six Sigma Certification.
Brittany Duncan, 31
Creative Implementation Officer Kathy Ireland Worldwide
Brittany Duncan is a millennial member of the kathy ireland Worldwide team. She began her career with kiWW during summer vacations from high school at the young age of 16 and had increasing responsibilities over the years. Today, she serves as creative implementation offi cer for Jon Carrasco, EVP and Global Creative Director of kiWW. Britt any implements Ms. Ireland and Mr. Carrasco’s creative discipline across multiple platforms including home, art, fashion, web, fi ne jewelry, packaging, trade shows, signage, and entertainment programming. She att ends each home market, and supervises a creative and administrative staff of over 40 people, many with MBAs and doctorates. Britt any has been recognized as a “Future Leader” by the International Home Furnishings Hall of Fame. She is passionate and knowledgeable not only about the home furnishings industry, but the needs of the clients on the B-to-B side and the B-to-C side. She conducts research and development for kathy ireland Worldwide, and is responsible for the creation and implementation of advertising and POP materials.
Britt any supports the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, and DIFFA
Ryan Egbert, 34
National Director of Distribution Malouf
Ryan oversees nearly four million square feet of distribution centers in four states and works with a team to manage over 200 distribution center employees. To ensure success, he determines processes, systems, and policies for warehouse operations. He also develops and manages onboarding and training. Many of the details customers love about Malouf are because of Ryan’s work, like drop-shipping, no minimum order quantities, and split case packs. When Malouf acquired a former Toys-R-Us distribution center in Texas, an advanced conveyor belt system had to be retrofi tt ed to work for their needs. Ryan partnered with software engineers and the chief information offi cer to customize the system allowing small-parcel items on the conveyor up to four times faster, freeing up manual labor for larger items. Ryan focuses on putt ing people fi rst by coaching and supporting his team members to develop leaders with emphasis on personal development is what sets him apart.
Ryan is one of the founding members of the Malouf Sustainability Council. He also had a major role in founding and continuing the popular Warehouse Sale fundraiser for the Malouf Foundation to support rescue and aftercare missions for child sex trafficking victims.
Sabrina Eouse, 38
CFO AFD HOME
Under Sabrina’s leadership, AFD Home has achieved a position of fi nancial stability from prior overhead debts by the restructuring of loans and major software advancements. Sabrina excels at providing executable business solutions. One pivotal achievement was the restructuring and refi nancing of an over $25M bank debt that occurred over three stages to fi nally secure a long term covenant free mortgage, allowing the team to refocus on profi table growth. She also facilitated the replacement of a 15-year old software system with a newly improved system that allowed her to cap the expenditure of the install and roll out to 30% below projection— with zero down time. Sabrina also manages the e-commerce team and spearheaded an automated connection between the software and their e-commerce platform, with no prior knowledge, for pennies on the dollar. Having seen her older brother fi ght childhood cancer, Sabrina became an advocate for Cancer Research. When a local 18-monthold girl was diagnosed with brain cancer Sabrina worked to raise funds and awareness. She also co-hosted an auction event to give toys to children for Christmas.
Steve Frey, 36
CEO Factory Mattress
Steve started working at the family business when he was just seven years old, sweeping and cleaning the warehouse. Although he worked for other companies as he grew older, he chose to work at Factory Mattress after college graduation. He moved into a sales position and achieved a very strong “be-back” and closing ratio. He earned the respect of the employees, expanded the company’s advertising programs, and formed a marketing and merchandising department. He also rebranded the company, enhanced the website, and helped grow the company from 14 to 19 locations. Steve worked with a consulting firm over the years to prepare to become president of the company. Since then he has improved the culture of the company and created a strong vision. He restructured all departments, upgraded store locations, opened four more locations and has two more pending for 2021. With annual sales of $17.8 M, Stephen’s goal is to hit $20M by the age of 40. With the help of vendors, Steve donated mattress sets to the victims of the Bastrop Wildfire, and the West Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion. He also partners with the Season For Caring and has worked alongside The American Red Cross.
Justin Garner, 35
VP Corporate Retail Operations, 35 W.S. Badcock Corporation
Justin started with W.S. Badcock accidentally. His car battery died, so he walked into Badcock’s and started talking to the store manager to see if he could borrow jumper cables. Within an hour he was waiting on customers. That was 12 years ago. Today, Justin is one of the youngest executives to be promoted to vice president. His responsibilities include running the day-to-day of all company owned stores and directing the efforts of all of the employees working in corporate retail. He is charged with directing and managing the Dealer Retail Operations field team and coordinating their efforts to serve their dealer network and the 300+ stores they represent. He played an important role in the conversion of all dealer stores to the Sales Based Model, and was part of the complete overhaul to the Dealer Commission Model. Justin also served on the committee that implemented and rolled out the company’s E-Commerce platform, bringing the company into the online selling space for the first time. Justin has volunteered at his church to help feed the homeless. He also volunteers to speak at the University of Florida to their business and communications classes.
Deena Gardner, 39
Vice President of Marketing & Communications Reverie
Deena is not just passionate about helping people live better lives through the power of better sleep — she wants to change how the entire sleep solutions industry thinks about the traditional vendor-retailer relationship. She views it as a true alliance, and makes sure Reverie takes time to learn about each retailer’s business needs, opportunities, and frustrations. She also leads the inhouse marketing team with enthusiasm, innovation, and thoughtfulness to deliver the best results to partners and customers. Deena oversees the development and execution of marketing strategy for Reverie’s consumer and wholesale channels. Working closely with the company’s in-house creative team, she is constantly searching for more effective ways to communicate the link between better sleep and better health. Deena is an advocate for and supporter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA). Her passion is personal, tied to her own daughter’s diagnosis who has since been cured. She is a long-time volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events in her community. As VP of Membership of WithIt, Deena serves on various committees for the organization.
Laura Harris, 40
Vice President Lott’s Furniture
In an industry where most people are 50+ in age, Laura began her career with Lott’s after graduating from Georgia Tech with high honors. She joined the 74-year old family business and opened a new store on Amelia Island, Florida in the midst of the 2008 downturn. The store has set record numbers each year and now has sales over $5M per year. She has opened, designed, and laid out an additional new store on Sadler Square, which opened in July 2018 and is considered by many as one of the most attractive stores in all of Florida. Here, she is responsible for buying and all displays in the 29,000 sq. ft. showroom. Laura is very involved in her community of Fernandina Beach, Florida, where she is on the Board of Directors of the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce. She has promoted donations to Joy to the Children by promoting Stress Less chairs through which she raised thousands of dollars to help support children at Christmas time with toys, clothing, bedding, books, and more.
Kyle Heikes, 27
Client Strategist FurnitureDealer.Net
In just two years at FurnitureDealer. Net, Kyle has become a trusted digital advisor to their clients, several of which are Top 100 retailers. He manages 30 retailer websites and has built strategic relationships with them to understand their business goals, create action plans, improve digital strategy, and identify ways to keep brands relevant using FurnitureDealer.Net’s platform. He worked closely with a Top 100 retailer to increase their e-commerce business by a whopping 55%! He created a “5 Best Practices for E-commerce” guide, a resource now used by FurnitureDealer.Net’s client base to help them grow their own e-commerce business.
Kyle earned his certifi cation in Google Ads and helped launch his company’s fi rst Google Ad Services program. In 2019, he single-handedly led that program, spending personal time confi guring how to run successful digital campaigns for clients. He has managed to drive paid traffi c that is just as good quality as organic traffi c- a rarity. Whenever asked what motivates him, Kyle always responds with “helping people.” He is active in Next Generation Now and volunteers on the registration team for the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame dinner.
Rebecca Howsam, 29
Gallery Leader Restoration Hardware
After only four years at Restoration Hardware, Rebecca rose from sales associate to gallery leader. She is the point person that keeps the Birmingham RH Gallery running and sets the vision and culture for the team. Being in the community for just over one year, she leverages the community connections she made to educate both trade partners and clients on the ways RH can serve them. As a leader, she seeks out connections internally by forming coaching partnerships with each of her team members. She is always adapting her teaching style to fi t the team and fi nds ways to boost their skills. When the gallery was closed due to COVID-19, she found ways to keep her team motivated, productive, and excited. Under her leadership, the Birmingham location is ranked among the top within the company, which is quite an accomplishment considering Birmingham is a much smaller market than those in New York, LA, and the like. While working in New Orleans at the RH Metairie Gallery, Rebecca served on the team that designed and created costumes for Mardi Gras. She also volunteered with the New Orleans Fruit Tree Project.
Caitlin Jascewsky, 28
Marketing Supervisor Storis
Caitlin is responsible for the daily operations and strategic vision of the Storis marketing department. This includes supervising a team, their workloads, and their personal growth. Caitlin exemplifi es a talented, focused, and inspiring professional impacting the future of the industry. She consistently exceeds her personal and professional goals and takes initiative to set new benchmarks. Her eff ort regularly delves into the bett erment of retailers. She uses her creativity to think beyond retail technology to get to the heart of what will help consumers delight in their experiences with the home furnishings industry. There are many facets to Caitt in’s job including but not limited to overseeing website content and SEO performance. She also analyzes the strategy and eff ectiveness of marketing eff orts. Caitlin grew her career at Storis from marketing communications coordinator, then to communications & digital specialist, to her current supervisory position. Caitlyn was recognized as one of the Women on the Rise in 2018, and is a presenter at the annual ICFA Conference. She volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, and Pass It Along, Christmas in the City, where she helps secure age appropriate gifts for children.
Jenni Kimpel, 37
Sr. Director, Final Mile Business Development J.B. Hunt Transport
Expanding final mile solutions to provide more value to customers in the furniture industry is Jenni’s main focus at J.B. Hunt. She brings a burst of energy as she leads her team to building new solutions for delivery in a changing world. With her background in industrial engineering and her can-do approach to innovation, she’s able to combine real numbers with a hard-to-fi nd human touch in a challenging area. She is establishing a foundation and a set of tools that will benefi t all sides of the marketplace for years to come. Jenni was recognized in the Engineering and Technology group as a Engineering MVP in 2017. This, along with her performance, led to Jenni being asked to join the Engineering and Technology Executive Team. Jenni is a recipient of The College of Engineering Early Career Alumni Award, which recognizes the exceptional professional and personal achievements of University of Arkansas College of Engineering graduates.
Jenni was named Board Member of the year (2019) for the Northwest Arkansas Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Chapter. She is the auction chair of the chapter’s largest fundraising event. Jenni was also a mentor for Industrial Engineering students at the University of Arkansas.
Isaac Knorr, 36
President Knorr Marketing
Isaac has worked his way up the ladder at Knorr Marketing and has helped transition the company from a traditional full-service agency to an omni-channel agency that focuses on results and accountability. He began his career with the agency in 2006 as production department manager. In 2011, he transitioned to the account team and helped develop the agency’s KnorrWeb Internet platform. He was named COO in 2018 and president in 2019. Isaac is a key reason Knorr is a leader in providing marketing and advertising for home furnishing retailers. He has facilitated various emerging technologies that benefi t their clients. One of these technologies helps target IP addresses to serve online ads that match-back retail sales to home addresses. Another imperative technology uses OTT (over-the-top) to deliver commercials and target specifi c demographics/psychographics that match a retailer’s customer profi le on Internet and Online Streaming TV programming. Isaac has presented numerous seminars in the HFA Retail Resource Center during markets. He directs the Knorr Community Project, which works with local groups to enhance the lives of the people of the Grand Traverse Region.
Bryce Larson, 27
Director of Marketing Maven
At 27, Bryce has already risen through the ranks and garnered respect from colleagues. He works continuously to understand the market through in-store analysis of packaging and trending items, which infl uences the direction Maven takes with new products. He is described as proactive, motivated, intelligent, and a hard worker. Bryce specializes in licensing and recently helped secure a deal with Dr. Oz. He helps pitch to potential retail partners and then works to manage relationships and projects. He is preparing for an ambitious fall launch of a line that is projected to hit millions of dollars. One of his most ambitious plans has been creating brand teams. With multiple brands being developed with diff erent voices, audiences, and styles, Bryce’s brand managers make sure the representation of the brand across all platforms is consistent, helping to minimize ineffi ciencies, streamline communication, and diff erentiate brands. Larsen sits on the Friends Board of the local Children’s Justice Center, an organization that helps child victims of abuse. He has traveled around the world with his family to both fund and volunteer for projects that bring clean water to underserved areas.
Logan Matthews, 31
Store Manager Turner Furniture
Furniture First Buying Group member
Impact Consulting Performance Group member
Logan Matt hews is a maverick! His leadership skills and drive to succeed are admirable. He built an outstanding team at his store location and surpassed store sales volume goals in his fi rst year as the store manager. Logan is a transformational leader who strives to provide a phenomenal guest experience and takes pride watching his team members grow. He brings his own high standards to the team so that store guests really do benefi t. In 2019, Logan’s team ended the year with over $1,000,000 in matt ress sales volume, breaking all records since the store’s opening. He reached new heights with metrics of top volume, most comp over last year, top in fabric protection, top in bedding, and top in recliners. In 2019, Logan’s store location was voted by the community as the best place to purchase furniture and matt resses out of all furniture stores in town. Every year his store donates to United Way. That same year, he and the Turner family helped to refurbish an entire home that was lost due to a house fi re.
Marcus Moore, 33
VP of Marketing & Advertising Morris Furniture Company
FMG Buying Group member
With a can-do att itude, Marcus is responsible for driving shoppers into all 20 of the Morris Furniture showrooms. Using data, he is maximizing ad dollars to reach today’s shoppers in new ways with great results. He sets high standards for his team and motivates associates throughout the company. His extensive ad agency experience has helped Morris move beyond traditional media platforms in more eff ective ways. He has brought a fresh perspective to the leadership team and is able to initiate new programs in a decisive manner. He has expanded online sales success by creating a Live Chat team and improved the speed of the online sales entry process, has improved email marketing ROI and implemented a text marketing campaign. Morris Furniture Company partners with local organizations to provide beds to kids that do not have a bed of their own. Marcus was instrumental in helping improve the visibility of these programs so these organizations can raise more money in the future. The Pink Ribbon Girls help fi ght cancer and Marcus encouraged our company to support this organization by providing furniture for their conference room.
Brian Morgan, 36
Co-Owner Austin’s Couch Potatoes Furniture
Brian is one of three Couch Potato owners that started in the furniture business from scratch, living in the warehouse, and growing their business to a substantial level in nine years. Despite advice to not manufacture their own upholstery, Brian is part of the team that not only made it happen, but also made it successful. They have built a thriving retail chain of stores that has grown to three locations with a fourth, larger location being built in partnership with the Furniture Mall of Kansas— the Furniture Mall of Texas is under construction. As the Covid-19 crisis grew, Marcus helped the company pivot and shift their in-house upholstery production to the production of masks and PPE. The community-minded focus of Brian’s leadership style is apparent in the store’s social media posts throughout the Covid-19 closure as the store shifted production to making masks and PPE for front line workers. Brian is also a board member of Hopegivers International.
Stuart Stump Mullens, 31
Partner Stump & Company
As a partner at Stump & Company, Stuart is responsible for all phases of merger & acquisition work, beginning with fundamental fi nancial analysis, and working with furniture clients to execute the sale of their business. She manages preparation of all off ering memorandum materials, managing the sale process, and leading the legal negotiations and fi nal sequencing of the closing. Now in her 5th year at Stump, she has quickly gained the trust and respect of numerous CEOs in the furniture industry through her professionalism, decorum, and integrity. She has received superior remarks from clients and team members in the execution of over 16 transactions, all in the furniture industry. She has quickly become a visible face and leader in the industry. Stuart is an active member of WithIt, a speaker at High Point Furniture Market Industry Overview events, and a candidate of MBA level graduate courses to support her concept of continuous improvement. She is a member of the University of Virginia Jeff erson Scholar Selection Committ ee (she was a Jeff erson Scholar and continues to support her alma mater), and an active member of her church.
Alexandra O’Hare, 32
VP of Merchandising and Strategic Initiatives
Hooker Furniture Corporation
Alexandra possesses a rare mix of intelligence, common sense, and consumer and industry insights that makes her extremely eff ective across multiple disciplines within Hooker Furniture. She manages merchandising for key categories within Hooker casegoods brands, manages their showrooms, and also has oversight responsibility for the development and execution of new strategic initiatives across the legacy Hooker brands. Alexandra was able to not only bring exceptional products to market, she also helped reorganize and reposition the showrooms, established go forward plans across numerous new strategic initiatives, and developed a new SKU analysis process that has allowed us to increase our SKU management and planning processes multi-fold. Her ability to take ideas from ideation to execution is remarkable and undoubtedly will continuously expand her value to both Hooker Furniture and the wider industry. Alexandra is an active member of the Junior League of High Point, has been active with the Communities in Schools mentorship program, and has recently become a member of the charitable Garden Club of Martinsville and Henry County.
Eric Poupard, 36
Regional Manager Hudson’s Furniture
Impact Consulting Performance Group member
Eric has been instrumental in Hudson’s Furniture’s continued eff orts to help its customers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. When the company needed a way to communicate quickly and effi ciently with staff , Eric led the way through his use of the Podium system while also overseeing sales for his region. He kept everyone at Hudson’s Furniture in the loop and ready to roll by training and helping the team to organize while simultaneously updating the Podium system. Always the fi rst to volunteer for a project, he leads his teams with a smile, confi dence, and a positive att itude without fail. This trait is contagious and inspires those he works with and meets. Eric donates a very generous amount of his time off to assist with new Hudson’s Furniture staff growth and keeps the current staff prepared not only for the present, but also for the future. Eric continues to seek out opportunities for personal development and consistently cultivates ways to improve work fl ow through effi ciency, budget awareness, and determination. Hudson’s Furniture staff and its customers are up to date and prepared because of Eric’s hard work during the COVID19 crisis.
Rodd Rafieha, 30
Senior Vise President Abbyson
An expert in the home furnishings wholesale market and sales channel distribution, Rodd is a professional that fully supports his team. He is an Internet entrepreneur with exceptional knowledge and experience in sales and marketing. He put his creative mind and strategic business skills together to develop Abbyson’s award winning drop ship program. He built the drop ship program and retail business each to multi-million dollar heights. Rodd exemplifi es success in business management, operations, merchandising, brand development, and managing high volume at a national level. Rodd is an accomplished furniture designer who is not afraid to innovate using new technology. He created Abbyson’s patented iTable mini, which allows users to control their motion furniture’s functionality from anywhere that is visible. Rodd works tirelessly to make sure his partners feel valued and heard. When hit with tariff s, he came up with a game plan for every single one of his accounts to help them maintain and grow their businesses. Rodd donates to A Sense of Home, a local children’s charity. He utilizes sustainability practices when designing furniture and helped implement an environmentally friendly workspace for the Abbyson corporate offi ces.
Erfan Reed, 37
Senior Software Developer Malouf
As a senior software developer, Erfan manages the software engineering team. He specializes in development, web projects, apps, electronics, and fi rmware. Under his leadership his team built three diff erent custom printed circuit boards for diff erent applications. His creativity and proactive att itude have helped move Malouf into the realm of technology. He leads his team in pioneering out-of-the-box initiatives including a custom warehouse management system. When members from Amazon toured Malouf’s facility, they said it was the most sophisticated, and user-friendly system they had ever seen. The team is currently updating the technology of a new distribution center, which will eliminate 14 hours of manual labor per week and provide more accurate data. They are also building out capabilities for an integrated home automation program that allows users to control their adjustable base across multiple smart home devices. Reed entered the United States as a refugee from Iran in 2008 and became a United States citizen in 2013. He is using his life experience to help others through the Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection.
Emily Robinson, 35
Design Director Glen Raven – Sunbrella
Emily has dedicated over 10 years to developing and designing one of the worlds most trusted indoor and outdoor performance fabrics. She worked her way up from a designer out of NC State Design School to becoming a design director at Sunbrella in 10 years. She leads a team of 12 designers and oversees and manages the creation of over eight new fabric collections every year. But Emily does not just design. She is also a key asset to the sales team and the overall success of the entire organization. She travels on many sales calls to customers’ locations and has developed strong and fruitful relationships with industry leaders. Emily supports animal shelters through adoption. She is active in her local church as well as in the healthcare community in her town of Burlington, NC.
Mario Vizcarra Sanchez, 38
General Manager Ashley Furniture HomeStore
Furniture was not just a career choice for Mario—it became a lifeline after a horrifi c car accident landed him in a wheelchair from 17–21. He did not know what the future would hold, but when the furniture industry came into his life it gave him a reason to live. Mario is responsible for the daily operations of an Ashley HomeStore in El Centro, CA. Driving results through training and accountability, he developed a sales team that knows how to hit their mark. When Mario took over the store, sales increased nearly $1M after the fi rst year and almost $2M after the second year. Matt ress sales increased 20%. During COVID-19 when the store closed and the staff was laid off Mario single handedly kept sales going using marketing techniques, social media, and cold calling. Mario is the son of Mexican immigrants and fi eld workers who worked hard to bring their family to the U.S. He always looks for ways to help those in need. Mario speaks publicly at churches and rehab’s homes to build up the local community with positivity & pride.
Desiree L. Sauerbrey, 40
Account Manager Hickory Springs Manufacturing
Desiree is a proven sales leader for HSM, ranking among the top two in sales revenue within Hickory Springs’ foam fabricators sales division for furniture-component related sales. With 12 years of experience serving the High Point, North Carolina region, she is a forward thinking business professional with a goal-oriented mindset that increasingly delivers solid results. Managing four of the company’s top-tier major accounts for furniture and foam products, she consistently meets or surpasses her sales goals with existing customers and continuously fi nds strategic new accounts for the company. Her technical understanding of HSM products, competitive knowledge and experience working with the company’s operations team to problem solve and gain effi ciencies deserves recognition. In addition to her residential furniture and bedding components expertise, she boasts extensive knowledge of the hospitality industry. She also manages a diverse portfolio of products for the company’s diversifi ed products division. Sauerbrey is very active in her local church, teaching Children’s Church for the past 12 years. Committed to helping those in need, she has also been involved in her church’s Shepard’s Inn and Baby Meal Ministries.
Patrick Shelton, 32
Vice President of Sales Valdese Weavers
Patrick oversees sales activity for all of the Valdese Weavers brands and is at the forefront of developing new and eff ective sales strategies that will provide an elevated service level and product to its customers. He has trained in nearly every department during his ten-year tenure, which has provided him with the ability to understand diff erent perspectives and appreciate how important every department is to the success of the company. This experience proved critical during the developmental phases of proprietary performance brands by allowing him to bridge the gap between departments and challenge the norms of what each believed was possible, resulting in the fi rst all-inone performance fabric on the market today. Patrick has been a leader in the expansion of performance fabrics into the residential market and was instrumental in developing the InsideOut and Sustain Performance Fabrics brands. Patrick supports fundraisers for cancer research, The American Heart Association and Miracle Hill Ministries, South Carolina’s largest provider of homeless services. He frequently participates in industry panel discussions and is asked to lead educational seminars about textiles.
Paul Toms III, 36
VP Lifestyle Brands, Perigold and Wayfair Canada Wayfair, Inc.
At 34 years old, Paul has accomplished great things for Wayfair. He worked his way up through the organization and has become a driving force in their growth. His leadership across the lifestyle brands added signifi cantly to the overall volume of the Wayfair company with much of it due to identifying and hiring great people, as well as his exceptional work ethic. Under his leadership, the Joss & Main brand hit its true stride functioning as a fl ash sale platform for a large segment of consumers. Paul was the thought leader behind the birth and development of the Perigold brand. He has been able to help many furniture executives bett er understand the value of executing against the pure-play space. Paul is very involved in the diversity initiatives at Wayfair and serves as the executive liaison for WayBlack, a resource group for employees who identify as African-American, African, or Caribbean. He serves as Chairman of The Hyannis Sound, helping to bring a cappella music performance and education to the Cape Cod area.
Marlene Vidal, 35
Corporate Sales & Marketing Manager Coaster Company of America
With a wide range of responsibilities Marlene has a proven track record of developing, implementing and executing projects, budgets, business plans, contracts and promotional campaigns. She is also the liaison between the marketing, sales, and product development teams to ensure brand consistency and success. Marlene has been in the furniture industry for over 10 years. She began her career at Direct Buy as an Interior Design Associate. Since then, she climbed the corporate ladder to become the sales and marketing manager for a leading North American furniture distributor. She is an ambitious individual with passion and wisdom. She single handedly implemented a new customer relationship management system for Coaster’s sales team, which has been very successful. She has implemented and trained the sales team on in-store kiosk programs and restructured the marketing department to be more eff ective and effi - cient to ensure their success. For the past 4 years, Marlene has been an active volunteer, att endee and donor at numerous fundraisers within the furniture industry supporting the City of Hope.
Victoria Vizard, 34
Manager, Web Advisor Group MicroD
Victoria is responsible for developing customer relationships promoting retention and loyalty. She enables success by ensuring clients are satisfi ed with the services they receive. She has risen from an advisor role to a leadership role where she helps more than 350 furniture retailers. She played a key role on the team that delivered an industry-leading B2B e-commerce platform for a major furniture manufacturer. Victoria skillfully wrote a customer success measurement system that pulled client satisfaction data points from diff erent systems to ensure all clients receive the service level and support they expect. She also provides strategic direction to MicroD developers for improvements to the OmniVue e-commerce platform. These improvements have directly led to more sales leads and increased sales for the company’s clients. Victoria is active in coaching and mentoring her team and serving as a leadership resource for colleagues. Victoria has volunteered at a rescue and rehab facility for horses coming from abusive situations, as well as a facility that serves children with disabilities, teaching them how to ride and care for their own horse.
Josh Walter, 38
Co-founder and CEO Josh Walter launched Brandjump in 2011. Since then the company has become a leading e-commerce sales and marketing fi rm in the home furnishings industry. The unique model delivers merchandising, content, and marketing expertise to optimize their clients’ online presence and drive revenue through Internet retail channels. Josh leads the team and is directly responsible for new business opportunities. He has assembled a team of talented young professionals and has created a business model that no one to this point has emulated. Josh is a young entrepreneur with a visionary mindset. His ability to create a company that has not yet been matched within the industry proves that what he has done is not easily replicated. Prior to co-founding BrandJump, Josh served in a business development role at Light, a decorative lighting sales agency. Josh received his JD/MBA from Pepperdine, and is a member of the California Bar. Supporting Habitat for Humanity is important to Josh. He is working with the local chapter in Los Angeles to raise the required amount in funds and donations to achieve his dream of building a home.
Cameron Wanek, 28
Senior Vice President, Business Analytics & Supply Chain Planning Ashley Furniture
At the age of 13, Cameron started his journey at Ashley working with the ground crews after school. Since then, he has performed most jobs within the company. He is currently responsible for Ashley’s production and inventory control teams, thus closing the loop on holding all of the major supply chain planning positions into a single team. This encompasses over 21,000,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and distribution worldwide. Cameron leads a team that executes integrated analytics, inventory planning, and supply chain functions. They are implementing Artificial Intelligence for “real-time” data science that will allow for increased efficiency. Cameron is also focused on developing a cloud-based accountability process to track assignment workflows. The program results have led to increased efficiencies with savings of 25%-30%. His commitment to knowledge-based systems has dramatically impacted Ashley’s HomeStore Retail logistical business. This new system and process has already impacted efficiencies and product availability by over 10%. Cameron is the driving force behind the City of Hope Wanek Family Program to Cure Type 1 Diabetes.
Jessica Weber, 36
Director of Merchandising and Marketing Montgomery’s Furniture First member
Jessica is a game-changer. She has the ability to look past the status quo to find new and more efficient processes while being a great leader and team player. Within three years of joining Montgomery’s, Jessica became Director of Merchandising and Marketing. She is responsible for the overall leadership, growth, and strategic planning of the Merchandising department, where she works closely with merchandisers to lead planning, stay on top of trends, gross margin optimization, and inventory management. Jessica is extraordinarily selfless. She is always doing things for others even though she has an extremely busy schedule. She holds a leadership role in her organization’s Culture Club, which ensures the company’s culture is upheld through social interactions and employee recognition. She attended the University of South Dakota and got her B.A. in Business Administration, and B.S. in Contemporary Media & Journalism, Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations. Jessica’s dedication and knowledge are apparent from the moment you meet her. Her knowledge of the business reaches far beyond merchandising and marketing.
Leadership: One Size Does Not Fit All
There is no one-size-fi ts-all template for how to be a great leader. Sometimes people will respond to your entrepreneurial mindset or creativity, and other times it’s the support and guidance you give that motivates and inspires those around you. But one thing all leaders have in common is that they work tirelessly to push their teams forward.
Forbes contributor Brent Gleeson, who writes about leadership and organizational excellence, offered the following insight in a May 2019 article highlighting what great leaders focus on: 1. The result not the task. As opposed to good leaders, great leaders have a unique talent for defi ning a clear vision, gett ing feedback on that vision, gaining buy-in, proving boundaries and inspiring creative solutions. They assign a result, not necessarily the tasks associated with achieving that result. That is the team’s job.
2. Leading and following. Great leaders understand the true dichotomy of leadership: leading and following. They know when to shut up and get out of the way – knowing when they are sometimes the obstacle standing in the way of team success.
3. Serving from the boom. Similar to knowing when to lead and when to follow, great leaders are authentic servants of their people. They put the needs of the team before their own. Not simply the “needs” associated with mission success, but also the individual needs of each team member. Their org chart looks like an upside-down pyramid.
4. Allowing creativity and innovation. Once the desired “result” has been defi ned and agreed upon by the team, great leaders know how to align rituals, behaviors and actions with achieving that outcome. Innovation and creativity are imperative not just for keeping team members engaged but also for driving the best possible results. This mechanism is the cultural bedrock of the highest-performing teams in special operations and in business.
5. Developing themselves then others. Great leaders are in a constant state of self-improvement. Not just in their ability to lead, but also in mental and physical wellness. They are usually avid readers and fi tness enthusiasts. Most importantly, they crave transparent feedback from those around them. Good leaders are open to feedback while great leaders apply that feedback and take action. They know they can’t authentically develop others unless they develop themselves. Constantly.
6. Transformational leadership. A transformational leader goes beyond managing day-to-day operations and crafts strategies for taking her company, department or work team to the next level of performance and success. Transformational leadership styles focus on teambuilding, motivation and collaboration with employees at all levels.
As job losses mounted, many consumers cancelled, restricted, or redirected their spending. While the unemployment rate did improve 1.4% in May as stores and companies began the process of reopening, unemployment was 9.7% higher compared to May 2019. In addition, Consumer Confidence was still down 47.5% and the stock market remained wildly unstable. In this article we dive into the impact of three months of the pandemic on consumer spending and retail sales for March, April, and May, comparing the level of impact on different consumer categories. The article also strives to quantify the advantage given to online retailers and brick and mortar stores deemed “essential”, and the devastating impact that advantage has had on brick and mortar businesses forced to close.
The decline in consumer spending for furniture and home furnishings was considerably less than the plummet of retail sales for brick and mortar furniture and home furnishings stores. The difference centers around consumers taking to the internet like never before as well as warehouse price clubs (Sams/Costco) and big box stores (Walmart/ Target) being allowed to stay open while retail furniture stores and other brick and mortar stores deemed non-essential were forced to close. As shown in Table A, with the exception of total retail sales, the steep decline began in March when a majority of the country shut down by mid-month. Propped up by online sites and “essential” brick and mortar retailers, total consumer spending decreased only 6.6% in March, followed by an additional 12.6% drop in April, but rebounded 8.2% in May as businesses began to reopen.
While consumer spending on furniture and home furnishings suffered greatly from March to April (-17.2%), retail sales from furniture and home furnishings stores forced to close dropped a record 50.6% over the same time period. After many closures were lifted in May, sales in furniture and home furnishings stores responded – jumping 98.4% from April to $7.7 billion. And while this jump almost doubled sales over the previous month, May was still 23.4% below May of last year. Consumer spending on furniture and furnishings in all retail channels increased 29.4% in May compared to April. Consumer Spending (All Channels) by Product Type
In March, consumer spending on durable goods stalled almost immediately as most consumers curtailed spending out of either necessity or caution (Table B). Dropping 12.4% the first month of the pandemic, spending on durable goods decreased another 12.4% in April, before jumping 28.6% in May. Due to a massive rise in grocery sales during March as consumers stocked up, consumer spending on nondurable goods increased 3.9% before dropping 14.0% in April. Spending on nondurable goods increased only 7.7% in May. Not surprisingly, as the shelter-inplace orders began, consumer spending on services decreased down 8.9% in March and another 12.2% in April. May increased 5.4%.
Consumer spending on furniture declined 9.5% in March and another 18.3% in April to an annual rate of $99.5 billion. In May, furniture consumption increased 32.8% (Table C) as consumers fled to newly opened stores. Smaller home décor purchases often made over the Internet like clocks, lamps, lighting fixtures, and other household decorative items, still declined 9.5% in March and another 15.9% in April. Numbers in May were up 15.5%. Carpets and other floor coverings fell 17.6% in April and spending jumped 50.4% in May.
Appliances, televisions, and other household consumer purchases also took a major hit during the first months of the pandemic as shown in Table D. Consumer spending on major household appliances fell less than other home products as major home and garden retailers, like Home Depot and Lowes, were able to stay open. Major appliance spending declined 9.3% and 6.2% in March and April before increasing 16% in May. Initially decreasing just 6.2% in March, spending on televisions dropped 11.1% in April before increasing 16.1% in May.
Only falling 3.0% in April, the tools and equipment for the house and garden category fared much better during the quarantine, as many consumers spent time working in their yards, again as building materials and garden stores were deemed “essential” and allowed to remain open. Spending in May was up 12.6%
Consumer spending on personal computers/tablets and peripheral equipment grew 4.6% in March due in part to online learning for students and much of the workforce having to work from home. While spending on telephone and related communication equipment, including cellphones, tanked in April compared to March (-29.7%), consumer spending growth on cellular services remained flat (Table E).
Initially, consumer spending on groceries jumped 23.0% in March before dropping 12.2% in April. Growth eased up in May increasing 3.2% over April. Spending on restaurant and fast food meals declined sharply beginning in March down 25.4% from February and continuing through April (-30.8%). As restaurants opened in May, growth jumped 24.6%. Clothing and footwear, despite the Internet, also took a huge hit as consumers curtailed much of their spending in March and April – down 28.8% and 28.6% respectively. Interestingly consumer spending on newspapers and periodicals did show an increase throughout the pandemic as many people turned to reading as a way to fill their extra time – up 5.5% in March, 10.2% in April, and 10.8% in May.
Retail Sales by Type of Store Overall retail sales were up 3.9% from February to March before falling 12.4% in April. Total sales rebounded in May by 21.9% as stores reopened but were still 3.4% less than May 2019 (Table G). Furniture and home furnishings retailers felt the brunt of store closures in April – dropping over 50% to $3.8 billion in sales. While retail sales were up 98.4% for those stores in May, sales during May 2019 were still 23.2% higher. Non-store retailers (e-commerce and mail order), had positive growth throughout the pandemic as most consumers turned to online shopping. Warehouse clubs and supercenters comprise about 70% of the general merchandise stores category. Not surprising, this category which for the most part was considered “essential” and allowed to keep doors open, increased by 17% in March before decreasing by 14% in April and then evened out in May – up 14%.
With many consumers quarantined and home during March, April, and into May, sales from the “essential” building material/garden equipment retail stores grew exponentially, increasing an average of 16.2% a month, as many turned to yard work and home projects as a way to stay busy (Table H).
During March and April, retail sales for electronics and appliance stores declined sharply – dropping 13.1% and 48.3% respectively as stores remained closed. In May stores were up 61.5% over April, a number still 31% less than May of 2019. Clothing and clothing accessory brick and mortar stores were among the hardest hit by closures with sales decreasing 42.4% in March, followed by a 74.9% decline in April. Sales rebounded 209.2% in May but still 63.3% less than May of the previous year.
As shown in Table I, gas station sales decreased 7.4% in March and another 21.7% in April as a result of people not driving or commuting to work. Sales increased by 20.4% in May but with gas prices low and many people still working from home, gas sales were 31.5% below May 2019. Grocery store sales jumped 32.5% in March as people swarmed the stores to stock up in the early weeks of the quarantine. Sales fell 12.8% in April before increasing 6.2% in May. As restaurants across the country slowly opened, retail sales among food services and drinking places increased by 38.1% in May after dropping 23.8% in March and 36.6% in April.
Looking at the cumulative impact this year through May compared to the first months of 2019, the brick and mortar distribution channels forced to close during the quarantine still have a long way to go to catch up to 2019 (Figure 1). Through May, furniture and home furnishings stores were still 18.1% below 2019. Electronics and appliance stores and department stores fared slightly worse, down 19.3% and 21% respectively. It will be a few months before data is available to quantify how much of E-commerce’s 16.6% May YTD growth furniture and home furnishings were able to capture.
Residential Construction and Sales Not surprisingly, the housing industry also halted during most of March and April, as shown in Table J. Housing permits declined 5.7% in March and 21.4% in April, but did increase 14.4% in May once many state’s shelter-in-place orders were lifted. Housing Starts also dropped dramatically during March and April, falling 19% and 26.4% before increasing by 4.3% in May. New housing completions have yet to show positive growth – still down 7.3% from April to May. New residential sales were down 14.5% in March compared to February, and another 5.2% in April before rebounding in May up 16.6%. Existing home sales continued negative growth over the previous month throughout the three months – March (-8.5%), April (-17.8%) and May (-9.7%).
As we look to the future, the remainder of the year will be hard for furniture stores as factories just restarted in May. The pandemic is still not fully understood and high unemployment will continue as companies work to adjust to the uncertainty. At press time many states were in the midst of a second resurgence of COVID-19 infections. While many consumers still desire and missed the physical act of shopping and going to retail stores, the preceding few months have shown the necessity and power of e-commerce and online ordering. For many consumer products, the online exposure during the first three months of the pandemic will perhaps permanently change shopping habits. But on a positive note, especially for the furniture industry, the consumer appears to have sorely missed the shopping experience.