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Quaker Fabric to Sell Another Factory

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 Quaker Fabric Corp. has agreed to sell Plant I, a 53,000-square-foot factory located in Somerset, Mass., for $1.75 million.

The company said selling the plant is consistent with its efforts to reduce operating expenses by consolidating the Fall River, Mass.-area manufacturing operations into as few plants as possible. Quaker announced earlier this month that it had sold a 240,000-square-foot plant for $1.4 million.

The purchase and sell agreement allows for an inspection period that runs through May 1, and the deal is expected to close no later than July 14. The buyer, Fred Smith of Cumberland, R.I, has placed a $25,000 deposit for the property.

Maricich Points to Luxury Market Opportunity

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 By Powell Slaugther

Furniture retailers at premium price points, who are considering trading down to more mass market prices, might learn a lesson from specialty luxury retailers.

Century Chief Executive Officer Bob Maricich gave the example of Saks Fifth Avenue, as a company that found down-pricing led to confusion among their consumer base and lost sales to competitors, during a CEO roundtable Monday at the NHFA/AHFA All-Industry Conference in Orlando, Fla.

As a supplier of high-end furniture, Maricich's position may be in his company's best interest, but he offered attendees a compelling object lesson outside furniture in Saks' case.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Saks began to approach lower price points and a younger, hipper image that eventually led to the recent naming of a new chief executive, Maricich said. Competitors like Nordstrom and Nieman Marcus continued their focus on the luxury market and grew sales as Saks lost ground.

Saks' approach of lower prices and a more youthful image alienated its traditional customer base, Maricich said, pointing out that the lesson shouldn't be lost on furniture retailers.

"The last two years have been the best for luxury marketing in every category, except furniture," Maricich told the audience. "The biggest failure in our industry is the failure to provide a luxury experience. Luxury is more than product – it's an experience that incorporates everything from advertising to marketing to display."

Premium price-point goods represent only 4 percent of the $70-plus billion furniture business at retail, he said, but it's a profitable segment that could get larger.

"I maintain that if more retailers focused on creating that luxury experience in their stores, that would be more like 6 percent to 8 percent now," he said. "And the demographics are very good. Gen Xers and empty nesters are the fastest-growing consumer groups. What happens when you become an empty nester? You have more disposable income, and 23.1 million consumers will be hitting that tier in the next few years."

Market research, he said, indicates that once consumers trade up, they rarely settle for less.

"Once you fulfill that luxury experience, you've got them," Maricich said. "And if you have a good, better, best strategy, you'd better make sure to differentiate the 'best' in your marketing and store experience. You have to give consumers a reason to pay more."

Retail Sales, Furniture Spending Drop

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 U.S. retail sales – including those of home furnishings – dropped off significantly in February, after consumers helped usher the year in with big spending, according to a new government report released this week.

Figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday point to a larger-than-expected 1.3 percent dip in overall sales last month. The drop, larger than the 0.8 percent decline Wall Street initially forecast for February, comes after unusually big spending the month before. Revised Commerce Department figures for sales in January show an increase of 2.9 percent gain from December.

The report noted that sales at furniture stores showed notable decline. Sales fell 4 percent from January. The drop is the largest outside of the auto sector.

Two Promoted to Vice President Posts at La-Z-Boy Residential

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 Jennifer Sievertsen and Mark Wagner have been named to vice president positions at La-Z-Boy Residential.

Sievertsen has been named vice president of brand marketing, and Mark Wagner has been named vice president of store development and marketing. Both are new positions for the company.

Prior to the change, Sievertsen was director of brand and retail marketing, and Wagner was director of Furniture Galleries excellence and marketing. Both report to Steve Matlock, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

In her new role, Sievertsen will lead all brand and retail marketing functions and develop long-term brand marketing strategies, focused on building equity, preference and loyalty. She will coordinate and administer all national advertising, public relations, licensing and consumer research programs, develop and manage Web site and e-marketing activities, manage database marketing and lead the company's in-store gallery and general dealer retail marketing programs. Sievertsen will also oversee the marketing operations and analysis function, including fulfillment of all marketing materials to La-Z-Boy dealers.

Sievertsen joined La-Z-Boy in 2002 as a director of brand marketing and brings with her more than 12 years of experience in brand development and product management. Prior to joining the company, she was senior product manager for Calphalon Corp., where she had profit-and-loss responsibility for all Calphalon and Wearever brands of bakeware. Prior to that, Sievertsen spent seven years with Motorola, where she held a number of brand and channel marketing roles with various divisions.

In his new role as vice president of store development and marketing, Wagner will lead the development and execution of the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries model, and the continuous improvement of all La-Z-Boy proprietary store programs. Wagner will oversee display planning, retail training and education, La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries marketing and the retail operational excellence system.

Wagner brings more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience to his new role, having started with La-Z-Boy in 1996 as retail advertising manager. In 1999, he was promoted to La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries advertising manager, where he managed and developed communications programs for the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries stores. Wagner was promoted to director of retail marketing in 2002. In 2004, he became director of Furniture Galleries excellence and marketing.

Prior to joining La-Z-Boy, Wagner served as territory manager for Peoria, Ill.-based Multi-Ad Services, where he developed retail marketing support programs for leading consumer goods manufacturers. Wagner was also a partner and sales and marketing manager of a marketing communications firm, Key Multimedia in West Bloomfield, Mich. Wagner began his career at Levolor Corporation of Greensboro, N.C., as sales representative and district sales manager.

Stanley Taps Senior VP of Manufacturing

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 Rick Lovorn has been named senior vice president of manufacturing for Stanley Furniture Co., the company announced Monday.

He reports to Jeff Scheffer, chairman, chief executive officer and president.

Prior to joining Stanley, Lovorn was director of manufacturing for Masco Builder Cabinet Group where he gained experience in implementing lean manufacturing practices. Before that, he managed tow plants of a Masco subsidiary, Merillat Industries, which won the Shingo Prize for Manufacturing Excellence under his leadership.

In his new position, Lovorn is responsible for Stanley's four manufacturing facilities, as well as engineering.

"Rick brings a wealth of experience and expertise to Stanley Furniture Co.," Scheffer said. "As we move forward, he will focus on manufacturing processes to drive continuous improvement in our factories. We are confident that his leadership will result in better quality, lower costs and improved customer service."
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