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From Home Furnishing Business

Universal President Scheffer to Retire; Sean O’Connor Named Successor

Jeff Scheffer, president and CEO of Universal Furniture since 2008, announced he will retire at the end of the year, ending a 45-year career in the home furnishings industry.

He will be succeeded by Sean O’Connor, a Universal executive since 2011 and currently the company’s senior vice president of sales. The changes will officially take effect Jan. 1.

During his tenure at Universal, Scheffer has transitioned the company, a division of Samson Holding, from a commodity case goods manufacturer to a whole home resource offering fashion-forward looks across multiple styles in the upper middle market segment.

He has driven the company’s modernization and expansion including a new High Point showroom building, a new domestic upholstery program, successful licenses with brands such as Coastal Living and Miranda Kerr Home, and the introduction of a to-the-trade program for interior designers.

“Jeff’s leadership at Universal has been exemplary,” said Samuel Kuo, chairman of Samson Holdings. “Both his vision to revitalize the company and his ability to successfully navigate the business through unprecedented challenges, including a recession and a pandemic, are laudable.”

Scheffer’s career included a stint as Universal’s vice president of national sales from 1992-96. He also was president of American Drew from 1996-2001 and president and CEO of Stanley from 2001-08. He began his career as an assistant buyer in furniture for Burdine’s Department Store in 1978.

In addition, he served as chairman of the High Point Market Authority (2017-2018) and board member of the American Home Furnishings Alliance (2018-2022).

“It’s been an honor to work with Samuel and Grace at Samson. Their trust and support allowed us to change the company’s course and attract a new level of retailer, while expanding into the interior design trade,” Scheffer said. “I’d like to thank our employees, the people that I’ve worked for and learned from, and my industry colleagues, all of whom have made this such a wonderful ride.”

The company said O’Conner has been instrumental in the development of Universal’s upholstery program, both domestic and imported, and said he is a life-long student of the home furnishings industry, having spent 14 years at Rowe before moving to Universal.

“Leading a company like Universal has been a long-term goal,” O’Connor said. “Jeff is a great mentor with a widely-held reputation for personal integrity, and it has been an honor to work with him for the last 11 years.”

Scheffer said O’Conner is “well-prepared for the next chapter in his career,” noting that the two have been working closely together the past two years on the day-to-day operation of the company.

“More than anything, we want Universal Furniture to continue to be known as the easiest company to do business with,” O’Connor said. “We look forward to continued success in the future as we build on the relationships, craftsmanship and design expertise that has brought us this far.”

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