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From Home Furnishing Business

Universal Stands By Paula Deen

Universal Furniture will continue to work with cooking celebrity Paula Deen  on the company's Paula Deen Home Collection.

Controversy has surrounded Deen since she admitted to, and apologized for, using a racial slur. In recent weeks, she has endorsement contracts JC Penney, Home Depot, Target and Wal-Mart, but after several weeks of talking with retail customers, High Point-based Universal decided to keep its licensed collection with Deen on board.

In a letter sent to retailers yesterday, Universal President and CEO Jeff Scheffer  said that while Deen's remarks "do not represent our own diverse culture and beliefs at Universal," the company will continue to market the Paula Deen Home Collection from Universal Furniture.

"Several factors contributed to this decision--our belief that Paula is not the person portrayed by the media, our confidence that the brand will continue to have significant retail value, and most importantly the feedback that we have received from you, our customer," Scheffer said. "During the last couple of weeks, we have heard from many of you expressing your passionate support for Paula, urging us to 'hang in there.' Other retailers have removed Paula Deen banners, tent cards, hang tags and the like from their floor displays--effectively de-branding the line. To be sure, Paula, her brand and yes, her furniture have become a rallying cry for some and a lightning rod for others. What everyone seems to agree on is that the product design is strong and her collections continue to sell well."

While Universal will continue the line, Scheffer acknowledged that it won't make retailers present the product under the Paula Deen banner.

"As with many other furniture brands in your stores, we realize how the product is displayed and marketed is your decision," Scheffer said in the letter.

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