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From Home Furnishing Business

Cover Story: Making the Future Happen: Home Furnishings Business’ 10th Annual Forty Under

For a decade now, HFB’s Forty Under 40 has been a flagship that shines a spotlight on the rising stars who are shaping the future of this vibrant industry. As the landscape of home furnishings continues to evolve, it is crucial to acknowledge and honor the talent, creativity and innovative spirit that fuel its growth and transformation.

Throughout these pages, we invite you to meet a remarkable group of individuals who have not only demonstrated success but have also contributed to the industry in a variety of impactful ways. These talented individuals represent various sectors of the home furnishings industry, including design, manufacturing, retail, marketing, technology and more. Each one has brought their unique skills, vision and dedication to their respective fields, elevating the industry to new heights.

The Forty Under 40 honorees have demonstrated outstanding leadership, entrepreneurship and a keen understanding of consumer preferences in an ever-changing market. They have embraced the challenges of the digital age, incorporating technology and data-driven insights to reimagine traditional practices and foster innovation. These young leaders have successfully navigated the evolving landscape, adapting their strategies to meet the demands of the generation of consumers while preserving the essence of craftsmanship and quality.

In addition to their professional accomplishments, these extraordinary individuals have also made a positive impact on their communities and the broader society. Many of them are actively involved in philanthropic endeavors, sustainability initiatives, and advocacy for responsible business practices. They are not only shaping the home furnishings industry but also influencing the world around them, inspiring others with their dedication to social and environmental causes.

As we embark on this 10th annual celebration, we also take a moment to reflect on the journey so far. Over the past decade, HFB’s “Forty Under 40” has become a prestigious platform that provides a launching pad for young professionals to reach new heights in their careers. Many past honorees have gone on to become respected industry leaders, influencers and game-changers, leaving an indelible mark on the home furnishings landscape. They have built upon their recognition and leveraged it to create new opportunities, collaborations and ventures. Home Furnishings Business is honored to play a role in recognizing and promoting these individuals, and we are excited to present The Class of 2023. This year’s honorees have been nominated by their peers and selected by our distinguished industry experts, taking into consideration their achievements, vision, potential and commitment to excellence.

We invite you to join us in celebrating the outstanding achievement of these rising stars as we showcase their stories, aspirations and contributions. In the following pages, you will find inspiration, innovation and a glimpse into the future of the home furnishings industry through the eyes of its most promising leaders. Together, let us applaud the Class of 2023 and continue to support those that will shape the future of this dynamic industry for years to come.

NATALIE APTER, 31
Ekornes Stressless Sales Representative,
Apter and Associates

Sales representatives are brand ambassadors in the marketplace, so it’s important that they maintain the highest level of integrity—a personal quality that exemplifies Natalie Apter. Not only is Apter hard-working, but she brings positive energy with her wherever she goes .and is eagerly responsive and ready to help problem solve. Described as someone who is ready to roll up her sleeves and jump right in, Apter is always ready to assist with building sales displays or constructing floor samples any time she is asked. With an outstanding work ethic, Apter deeply cares about the success of her clients and the company she represents. Her follow through and follow up abilities are second to none as she consistently goes above and beyond for each account she handles.

When she’s not at work, Apter volunteers her time to work with special needs children, as well as at the Food Bank of San Francisco. She also works with the Benicia Community Action Council to provide dinners for senior citizens. In addition, Apter is an advocate for Arts Night in San Francisco in support of underserved children.

TYLER BASSETT, 36
IT Director, Customer Experience & Business Intelligence, Bassett Furniture

Optimizing the customer experience, both on its website and in a traditional retail setting, is a priority at Bassett Furniture and Tyler Bassett is the person in charge of that task. He leads the team that develops and implements technology solutions that allow customers to digitally see and “feel” the stores customizable products online. He owns the technical strategy and management of Salesforce platforms, manages Basett’s digital transformation initiatives and directs the 3D product visualization strategy. He is also the one leading the technical deployment of Bassett’s new eCommerce solution, which supports the new web platform across the business and includes the deployment of CRM, customer tracking and phone software. Tyler represents the fifth generation of the Bassett family at Bassett Furniture.

When he’s not working, Bassett serves on the selection committee for the Park Scholarship Program at NC State University and is an active Member of the Henry County, VA Broadband Planning Team. He is also a volunteer coach for children’s soccer and baseball teams.

CHELSEA BOHANNON, 33
Director, Internal and Corporate Communications,
Andmore (formerly International Market Centers)

Chelsea Bohannon is an integrated communications professional with experience promoting arts, culinary, fashion, gift, design, home furnishings and hospitality clients. Her expert traditional media relations skills, datadriven digital strategy and industryspecific knowledge gained from hands-on, in-house experiences yields impactful storytelling and relationship building that effectively influences target audiences. She is devoted to learning the elements that make each industry under the Andmore umbrella unique and seamlessly weaves professionalism with personality to serve those with whom she works. Her natural curiosity and drive for excellence has provided her with invaluable insight into a variety of topics including trend developments in consumer goods, retail buying habits, planning and execution of large international events, day-to-day operations of fine-dining and hospitality organizations, client management and the passion of the arts and non-profit community. Bohannon is adept at community and media relations, executive communications, influencer marketing, social media management, media buying, email marketing, content creation, trend forecasting, special events and account management.

Bohannon is an active member of Georgia’s Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and a gold member of Atlanta Junior League.

CRYSTAL BRUNS, 32
Director of National Accounts,
Cozzia USA

In the five years she has worked at Cozzia, Crystal Bruns has shown progressive growth in all areas. Responsible for growing the eCommerce channel for Cozzia, Bruns monitors the call center, which she helped establish, and makes sure all customer service issues and sales questions are handled appropriately. Crystal has been instrumental in growing Cozzia’s special accounts using the different brands under the Cozzia umbrella and in particular JPMedics. She has also helped grow commercial accounts. In addition, Bruns handles Cozzia’s paid advertising programs with various trade publications. Because Crystal’s role within the company is extremely varied, her success shows that she has drive, discipline and the focus to be successful.

Crystal donates her time working on charitable events for the Atlanta Hawks organization. She also helps run a camp for “Next Play”, a non-profit organization that is sponsored by the Jeremy Langford foundation. The foundation supports youth mental health by using positive reinforcement through life enhancing activities.

SHAUNA CARDENAS, 40
Catalog Data Manager, AVB Brand SourceFurniture

Shauna Cardenas leads AVB BrandSource’s largest data entry & analysis department and is responsible for of managing the buying group’s global online catalog of hundreds of home furnishings vendors, which is deployed on hundreds of retail websites. She is tasked with optimizing her team’s performance, launching new digital processes and enhancing the quality and breadth of the catalog itself. Despite the challenges of a constantly shifting online landscape, Cardenas works diligently and tirelessly behind the scenes on behalf of the group’s furniture technology source dealers. She successfully united four separate teams spanning multiple time zones into a single, cohesive unit. Cardenas also achieved 100% staff retention despite a reorganization, which included changes in titles and responsibilities.

Cardenas is active with Veterans Affairs and is an animal lover who fosters strays and abandoned pets. She is described as “an all-around sweetheart who is a joy to work with and an inspiration to all.” She embodies the best of AVB BrandSource and its members-first focus.

PHILIP CARLITZ, 31
Chief Revenue Officer, Bedding Industries of America

As chief revenue officer, Philip Carlitz is responsible for leading the sales and marketing efforts for Bedding Industries of America’s portfolio of mattress collections, which include the newly debuted Eclipse Glacier series, Hemingway Key West and Lifestyle collections, the Eclipse Hope Charity line, and the Eclipse Cares roll pack series. During his first 18 months with the company, he spearheaded many of the company’s growth and sales initiatives. He is credited with executing the company’s acquisition of Illinois Sleep Products in 2022 and launching several successful new collections nationally for the company.

Beyond his professional achievements, Carlitz serves on the Young Professionals Committee in Illinois, a group that is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center through fundraising events and educational programs. He is also an Ante 4 Autism sponsor, working to raise money and awareness within the home furnishings industry for families who have been impacted by Autism.

JOE CRANDALL, 35
Independent Sales Representative,
Crandall and Associates

Joe Crandall is an excellent example of an outstanding and youthful sales representative. His success is rooted in 10 years of outdoor specialty retail experience. His professionalism and integrity is highly respected by everyone with whom he works. Selected as a finalist for the International Casual Furnishings Association’s Sales Representative of the Year since 2020 (including 2023), Crandall has received numerous awards and multiple times in some cases from manufacturers over the last five years including: TUUCI Territory Growth Award, the Brown Jordan Hubert Jordan Award for outstanding sales growth, the TUUCI Retail and Trade Territory Improvement Award, the TUUCI Rep of the Year Award and the Jensen Outdoor Representative of the Year. He is a rational arbitrator in disputes between manufacturers and retailers, and trusted by dealers to guide them in the right direction. His dedication to working hard is a refreshing inspiration for younger men and women to recognize the success and appeal of being an independent rep. Committed to giving back, Crandall was a founding member of the ICFA Casual 100 Club, which created a new funding stream for City of Hope. He is a father of three girls under the age of six and a dedicated family man.

MARLON DAVILA, 39
Merchandising Manager,
Rana Furniture

Marlon Davila is the merchandising manager for Rana Furniture in Doral, Florida. He is responsible for buying all furniture & Accessory categories by collaborating strategically with suppliers, graphic designers and global leaders in order to create winners and maximize GMROI. With 20 years of product design success his portfolio includes hundreds of successful products. Using his experience together with market analysis and design interpretation, he curates products by leveraging strategic partnerships & furniture shows to gain insight into furniture design trends that will help maximize sales growth. Davila is also a passionate leader who is adept at strategic management including setting objectives, analyzing the competitive environment, analyzing the internal organization, and evaluating strategies to help meet its goals.

Davila has volunteered with City of Hope, the organization dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people with cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.

ANTHONY (TONY) ERICKSON, 36
Senior Client Support Lead,
FurnitureDealer.net

Overseeing the FurnitureDealer.net client team, Tony Erickson and his team provide website support to over 100 brick and mortar retailers across the U.S. and Canada. His responsibilities include assisting on multiple top 100 retailer’s websites, new client onboarding, tool support and training and onboarding new team members. He has long been a key behind the scenes member and mentor at the company and an important contributor to the client journey. In his 10+ years in the industry he has played an integral role in the success of many retailer’s digital strategies as well as training and mentoring many members of the company and its retail partners. As the lead of the client support team, he has been heavily involved in designing both the internal team member and new client onboarding programs. Tony has long been a key behind the scenes contributor to the success of FurnitureDealer.net and it’s retailer partners.

Erickson participates in a series of charity video game marathons called GamesDoneQuick that feature high-level gameplay by speed runners raising money for charity donations. The group teams up with several non-profit organizations, including Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Erickson holds multiple world records for speed runs in video games.

RACHEL GOMEZ, 36
Vice President of Marketing,

Rachel Gomez joined the DreamFit team in July of 2022 as its vice president of marketing. Her primary responsibility is to implement a cohesive marketing plan that will help increase the brand’s awareness across all platforms. Since joining the team there have been tangible results in terms of her efforts to grow the company’s digital presence and increase its digital sales. After a relaunch of the company website, and the effort Gomez put into generating new and creative ways to engage with retailers and consumers, the results were substantial including an increase in followers, brand awareness and online sales. Utilizing the company’s online wholesale portal, unique product swatch cards with QR codes and a monthly newsletter, DreamFit was able to effectively communicate with its retail partners, which ultimately helped increase sales.

Gomez is passionate about helping women succeed in the workplace and donates 50 hours of her time each year consulting with women of all ages to help them achieve a healthy work/life balance. By donating her time, she hopes to empower more women in the industry.

BRETT GROLEAU, 39
Vice President of eCommerce,
Kingsdown

Brett Groleau serves on the executive leadership team at Kingsdown where he is responsible for all strategy and planning of the eCommerce business, providing thought leadership as it relates to omnichannel growth. Not only has he made significant contributions to the growth of the company’s eCommerce presence, but also the business overall. Two years into the role, Groleau was able to grow the eCommerce channel by more than 300 percent. In a move that would ultimately prove to be a game changer, Groleau performed his own version of a brand audit. Not only did he help remerchandise the online assortment, but he also improved online content and launched Kingsdown’s highly regarded Sleep Love Share product review program, which now exceeds 7,000 online reviews of 4.7 stars or higher. Groleau was also responsible for generating $1 million in profits. Groleau’s love of the outdoors and sports align with his passion for helping others. He raises money for the children at St. Jude’s hospital. He also donates to and provides resources for the National Alliance on Mental Health.

DANIELLE HALL, 33
Vice President of IT, Backoffice
and Operational Applications,
Andmore, formerly known as International Market Centers

In her seven years at Andmore, Danielle Hall has progressed through the company’s digital marketing and IT departments. She began as a digital marketing coordinator at AmericasMart and when they merged with Andmore, she became the digital optimization manager. Most recently she transitioned to the IT department first as a project manager and then to her current position. Danielle’s work touches the tools that impact Andmore’s business including its financial, HR, registration, leasing and property management software. She oversees the enterprise application platforms, serves as the primary IT leader for the executive business stakeholders and helps guide these initiatives through Collaboration Framework for their applications. She defines and designs solutions that will meet the business objectives and strategic goals.

Danielle is instrumental in the company’s dedication to ongoing education around issues of diversity, inclusion, human rights, and social justice.

SYDNEY HARRIS, 27
Director of Organizational Development, Furnitureland South

As a member of the third generation to be involved in the family furniture business, Sydney Harris is making an impact at the world’s largest furniture store. Having joined FurnitureLand South in 2018 as a sales and design consultant, she transitioned into the role of sales education team trainer, where she spent three years training new sales associates and educating the company’s team of 150 sales and design consultants. In July of 2022, she was promoted to her current position and since then has been working with upper management to improve processes and develop curriculum and metrics to allow for measurable success. She is described as an incredibly hard worker who possesses impressive character and integrity.

Harris has been recognized as a WOW Future leader award finalist, a 20 in their 20’s by the Triad Business Journal, and an HFA Emerging Star of the Year. She has served as vice president of membership at WithIt and is also a member of the board of advisors for her local Salvation Army.

MITCH HODGES, 37
Vice President Sales, Bassett Mirror

Mitch Hodges is described as a selfmotivated, determined young man who strives to succeed in his career as well as in his personal life. He has proven himself time and time again to be an empathetic leader and has a terrific sense of being able to look at the big picture and make decisions that lead to success. He progressed from an entry level sales manager at Bassett Mirror to vice president in less than five years, accomplishing so much along the way. He is a great motivator who is responsible for driving a top tier sales force to success in the U.S. and Canada. He is also the company’s youngest vice president in its 100 years history. Hodges strives to better himself on a daily basis and in doing so helps others to accomplish their goals.

He volunteers as a referee for football, basketball and baseball games even though he does not have a child that participates in these sports. He also leads an anti-bullying campaign within the local school district. Additionally, he works closely with the local homeless shelter and helps fundraise for them to assure they have the necessities. Mitch has a mission to change any negative perspective to a positive one, from his family, friends and even co-workers. He thrives to encourage everyone to see things in a new perspective and desires to see others succeed at life and business.

MEGAN HUDSON, 39
Merchandising Manager, England

As merchandising manager, Megan Hudson is responsible for introducing and merchandising new styles for England. From conception to research and development to marketing she works across all departments and fabric mills to assure the fabrics are approved, in stock and ready for Market. She has a vast knowledge of fabric buying, flowing and application. Her eye for design trends, colors and style has helped to mold the England line into a more transitional look. During the course of her tenure at England she has grown to be responsible for not only Merchandising the England line but also in Marketing it to the public through the website and social media. She overcame various obstacles and managed to bring to market small offerings of new styles in the midst of the pandemic.

She also has an incredible memory and can recite the names of almost all the fabrics that have been introduced in the past 17 years.

JORDAN JONES, 35
Delivery Manager, Turner Furniture

As the delivery manager of Turner Furniture, Jordan Jones is an exceptional individual who has consistently demonstrated his ability to lead and achieve remarkable results. His sincerity for the well-being and development of his team sets him apart. Jones is a resultsoriented manager and has set new standards of excellence. Since joining the management team, he has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction. He always goes the extra-mile to make sure that tasks are completed promptly and with the utmost accuracy. In his first year as delivery manager, Jones achieved an outstanding feat by setting an all-time company record for overall delivered value in dollars. This accomplishment serves as a testament to his leadership skills and ability to motivate and inspire his team. He displays a genuine interest in his team members’ well-being, supports their personal development and creates a positive and nurturing work environment. Jordan actively participates in volunteer opportunities with the Boy Scouts, the Chamber of Commerce and the YMCA.

FAUZIA KABANI, 36
Corporate Manager, Exclusive Furniture

As the corporate manager of this family business with eight locations and one distribution center, Fauzia Kabani is a major contributor to the success of Exclusive Furniture. Working alongside her brothers, she coordinates supply chain logistics, oversees operations, manages inventory and maintains the customer service experience as well as the brand. Kabani has worked hard and has been an inspiration to those around her as a strong female presence in a male dominated industry. Her leadership skills have helped increase sales and revenue through effective strategies, streamlined operations and a customer-centric approach.

She has developed high-performing teams, created a positive work culture and expanded the company’s market presence through strategic partnerships. Wanting to give back to the community, Kabani has played a key role in establishing successful philnthropic outreach programs, which have made a significant impact by improving the lives of those in need.

ANDY KAHAN, 33
Business Development, Regal Fabrics

Since 2018, Andy Kahan has been an integral part of Regal Fabrics, the Kahan family business. He spends his time focused on various areas of the company, managing the samples department, creating the company newsletter, leading marketing initiatives and overseeing operations. During the pandemic, when supply chain challenges were prevalent, Andy dramatically increased the speed and capacity of the samples department. This was a major factor in the company gaining market share during a time when others could not even get their product to market.

In addition, Andy led efforts to successfully grow relationships with contract distributors. In a move designed to improve communications within the organization, Kahan also created —and continues to maintain— the company newsletter. He brings a youthful energy and a new set of eyes to a traditional business in an older industry. He consistently looks for new ways to create efficiencies in the work environment to achieve increased productivity, making him a valued member of the team with whom he works.

SCOTT KAHAN, 37
Business Development, Regal Fabrics

In 2019 Scott Kahan joined Regal Fabrics as a member of the third generation of the Kahan family. During his burgeoning career he has been tasked with pursing new opportunities for the company. He has led the effort to acquire one of its competitors, Diversitex Home and its evolution into Kindred, an expanded selection of stylish, sustainable fabrics for a growing segment of eco-conscious consumers. He also pioneered Regal’s entrance into the digital printing business including buying the printer and hiring an expert to operate it. Kahan spearheaded efforts to further develop Regal’s business relationships and growth with eCommerce companies and continues to look for ways to pursue new opportunities for the company.

JAMES LAMB, 40
Tradeshow Coordinator, Lean Practitioner and Woodlands Manager,
Telescope Casual Furniture

James Lamb organizes Telescope Casual Furniture’s exhibition in 12 industry trade shows each year, from selecting featured products to the extensive logistics of packing and delivery to onsite set-up and breakdown. He has completed training and certification to lead the company’s just-in-time manufacturing methodology and oversees the management and maintenance of the company’s 8,500 acres of timberland in upstate New York. During his 10 years of employment, he has pursued advancement of his love of forestry with the company’s timberland and gained expertise to lead the manufacturer’s lean production protocols. His close involvement on the production floor has been a catalyst for the company’s commitment to superior environmental concern and efficiency. Lamb has earned admiration throughout the company for his diligence to handling the unique needs of the sales team.

James supports organizations that do good for the community and is an advocate for City of Hope.

KATIE MOCOL, 36
Senior Product Catalog Specialist,
FurnitureDealer.net

Katie Mocol has long been a key contributor and mentor behind the scenes at FurnitureDealer. net. Her responsibilities are to ensure that manufacturer catalogs are fully up-to-date and properly convey to the end customer the reasons their furniture might be right for them. Katie is responsible for the customer experience for the brands that she manages as well as handling any product data issues that might arise. Her knowledge of furniture is vast, and she is always happy to share what she knows with newcomers to the team as well as its retail partners. Mocol has long been responsible for managing many of the most important vendor catalogs that FurnitureDealer.net maintains. In addition to being a mentor to team members, Mocol helps onboard new employees. She is also involved in guiding the company’s standards for producing content for its clients websites and creating a leading furniture and mattress shopping user experience.

Katie is a member of WithIt, a non-profit organization dedicated to the professional development of women in the home and furnishings industry.

ALANA MOSKOWITZ, 37
Vice President Communications,
Kravet, Inc.

As the VP of communications at Kravet, Alana handles everything from strategy for Kravet’s brand and partner collection launches to PR and media partnerships. She has developed meaningful relationships and strong programs for the designers and the design community as she positions Kravet as the go to resource for luxury interiors. Moskowitz successfully brought modern marketing methods to an over 100-year-old family business. When she began working for the company in 2016, she launched an influencer program, which enhanced existing relationships. With an intimate understanding of the interior designer’s approach, she was able to build mutually beneficial and meaningful partnerships between the company as the brand and the ‘influencer’. Additionally, she has taken the lead on digital advertising, defining the brand’s approach, which led to an increase in trackable lead generation.

Alana is involved in New York Cares and Jewish Family Services. She is also committed to some of the most meaningful Kravet philanthropic tie-ins from Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, to DIFFA, to the Kaleidoscope Project, the Ronald McDonald House and more.

KAYLEIGH NETT, 27
Sales Manager,
Dunk & Bright Furniture

Kayleigh Nett quickly earned a promotion to sales manager at the newest 90,000 square foot showroom of Dunk & Bright Furniture. She is directly responsible for managing five designers, three salespeople and two bedding specialists. Nett helps to close sales for others and works with customers herself. She also improved the online shopping experience for customers by organizing and uploading hundreds of merchandise photos to the Dunk & Bright website. The sales team that Kayleigh leads is the largest of Dunk & Bright’s and sells $10M annually. In addition to her management responsibilities, she is on-track to sell $600K in her first year of furniture sales.

In terms of civic and community involvement, Kayleigh supports and fundraises for Hello Health, an organization that treats drug and alcohol addiction in the Upstate NY community. She also raised a significant amount of donations for her participation in Hello Health’s annual 5K run in May 2023. She was a local restaurant owner in Central NY, prior to her employment with Dunk & Bright, and employed dozens of people in the community. Through her restaurant, she donated food to homeless shelters and others in need.

MEGAN OSBORNE, 30
Visual Merchandising Director,
Codarus

Megan Osborne was hired by Codarus as an intern in the spring of 2014 while she was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in visual merchandising at North Texas University. She was such a good fit that she was offered an entry level position at the end of the internship. The following year, she was promoted and given more responsibility. Being with the company for nearly 10 years, she has played an important role in the company’s success. Osborne is responsible for merchandising five Codarus showrooms around the country as well as working with 12 different brands point of view. Her colleagues say she handles this work. with ease because she has a great work ethic, is creative, and is extremely dedicated to her field. Osborne is also an excellent communicator and expertly manages a team of furniture movers, contract helpers and other industry tradespeople in the frantic environment of a market showroom set-up. Osborne is also dedicated to making sure the large product donations that are allotted to Habitat for Humanity and Dwell with Dignity are organized and prepared so they can be distributed to various locations throughout the country.

BREANA PENNINGTON, 38
Vice President,
Diamond Mattress

Breana Pennington is a fourthgeneration leader at Diamond Mattress and has been with the company for nearly 20 years. She works closely with the executive team to advocate sleep wellness while developing a culture aligned with the company’s ICARE core values. Pennington started her career at Diamond as general manager upon graduation from college. She exceled under the mentorship of her father and brother and was promoted in 2017 to her current position as vice president. Her contributions to the company, including helping to drive explosive growth in the last five years, is immeasurable. She assures communication and collaboration among all departments, and leads initiatives that focus on continuous improvement and strong company culture. An advocate for diversity and inclusion Pennington supports the empowerment of other women in leadership roles. She is the driver of key projects within the company and initiatives that relate to the company’s finances including capital investments, purchasing and taking advantage of market conditions.

BRIANNA PHARES, 36
Director of Marketing & Product,
Dorel

Involved in product development, marketing and sales, Brianna Phares has been with Dorel for over twelve years. She has strengthened many customer relationships and launched successful programs. She brings a refreshing enthusiasm to her work as she keeps the bar high for her team. As director of marketing & product Phares partners with the senior director of sales to lead the development of new collections and product line extensions from concept to execution while focused on targeting traditional furniture retailers. She also establishes long global product strategy for all phases of product development. In her role she works closely with the design, marketing and sales departments as well as overseas and domestic factory teams. Phares’ most recent accomplishments include the development of a B2B wholesale website strategy, leading the development of a new CRM system and marketing over 80 successful case goods product launches in the past two years alone.

JESS PRICE, 36
President, Owner/Operator,
Price Furniture

Jess Price is the owner/operator of Price Furniture, a family business that has been a fixture in Las Vegas, New Mexico for over 65 years. He successfully took the reins of this growing business and helped turn it into a multimillion-dollar retail furniture operation in a town of only 15,000. The success of Price Furniture has been built on decades of relationships and community involvement, and Price’s strength in these areas is evident in the positive feedback and loyalty he receives from customers, and from the team he built and maintains around him. Price is laser focused on customer service and involved in all aspects of the business, including handling deliveries, community outreach, and all the other tasks that a typical family-owned business owner/ operator has as part of their responsibilities. Even during challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires that ravaged the west last year, he and his team persevered and emerged even stronger than before.

LUKE QUINN, 30
Store Owner/Manager,
Posh Pelican Furniture

Owner and manager of a 30-yearold retail furniture store located in Englewood, Florida, Luke Quinn has a passion for business and his local community. The family run business reaches customers along Florida’s Southwest Coast as far north as Tampa and as far South as Naples. Quinn is a “roll-up your sleeves kind of guy” who gets involved in every aspect of the business including managing the employees, attending Markets as a buyer and making deliveries while remaining flexible to fill in wherever needed. During a career change and while in the Army Reserve as a company commander, he began working for his aunt and uncle, who were the owners of the Posh Pelican. He dedicated all his time to learning every aspect of the business and after approximately two years, he purchased the business from them. Since then, the Posh Pelican won Englewood’s “#1 Furniture and Home Décor Store” every year from 2018 to 2023. Quinn has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce since 2019, a Rotary Club member since 2020, and he continues to be involved in the community by sponsoring sports teams, and volunteering for a wide variety of events. Quinn is always eager to help others in need. Within hours after Hurricane Ian’s devastating landfall, Quinn helped community members with business and residential issues, tarping, cutting drywall, and providing mattresses to those who lost so much.

RICKY RILEY, 36
CEO,
Spring Air Florida

With CEO and bedding industry veteran Ricky Riley at the helm, Spring Air Florida/ Compass Sleep Products is fast becoming the premiere bedding solutions factory in one of the fasting growing regions of the country. Launched last summer, Riley not only played an integral role in securing the licensing agreement with Spring Air for Compass, but he also laid out and outfitted the brand new 53,000-square-foot manufacturing, warehousing and equipment repair complex. When he set out to staff the entire operation, located in rural Florida, the first job fair he hosted attracted 103 people in a town with a population of 240. As a result of being aligned with Spring Air, Riley was able to grow the company much faster than anticipated. He created a go-to-market strategy necessary to gain significant floor space for Spring Air in Florida following the brand’s hiatus in the state. He has created a winning combination for retailers and consumers throughout Florida, while focusing on producing quality, medium-range price points. Compass Bedding Products is an arm of a group of manufacturing businesses that provide training programs for youth in foster care designed to set them on a path for future success. Riley is actively involved in the program and the community, serving on the board of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce and among other things, providing bedding.

BRIAN ROBINSON, 37
Sales Manager,
STORIS

Ten years ago, Brian Robinson joined the STORIS team and quickly made his mark as a client advocate. After a few years in this role, he moved into business development and saw tremendous success as a direct result of his solid work ethic, excellent follow-up skills and strong command of STORIS’ technology platform. While software is widely considered to be a complex sale, Robinson keeps things simple while uncovering problems to be solved and then leverages the company toolbox to help retailers flourish and make the most of their investment. He has added more than 20 Top 100 home furnishings retailers to the company’s roster and was the lead sales professional on the biggest deal in its history. Robinson was recently promoted to sales manager largely based on his performance and willingness to help others on the team be successful. Described as a very generous individual, Robinson often shares his time and expertise with those around him. He is an active participant in company fundraisers including STORIS’ Christmas in the City program.

IAN SCHWARTZ, 38
Vice President,
Kravet, Inc.

Having spent his entire 21-year career at Kravet, Ian Schwartz has held many positions within the company. He started as an intern, worked in the Kravet studio and export departments, and also worked as an outside sales rep for the residential division. He later worked as the national sales manager for the fabric company’s commercial division, Kravet Contract, where he lead the commercial sales team, oversaw key accounts and worked with Kravet’s executive team on sales strategy. He even managed Kravet’s government division. No matter the position he holds, Schwartz has what it takes to not only increase sales but to also increase efficiencies within the company. He was elevated to his most recent role as vice president during very challenging times surrounding the pandemic. Yet, through it all, Schwartz has proven to be an outstanding leader to his team and a valuable asset to the company. Schwartz won Kravet’s Creative Seller of the Year award winner in 2018. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children.

DARLENE SEXTON, 28
Director of Training,
Myriad Software

Darlene Sexton started her career with a strong retail background, so she embraced her role at Myriad Software immediately as she moved from training specialist to director of training. A results driven leader, Sexton is highly skilled in training technologies and virtual training content and manages the process to onboard Myriad’s web application, PointCentric, successfully, while going the extra mile to assist her clients as they embrace their new RMS system and make it live. Sexton’s outreach into the community extends to the homeless in downtown San Diego, as well as tending to the Ocean Beach Community Garden that provides organic produce for their community, and volunteering to lead walking tours in the historic Gaslamp area of downtown San Diego. Darlene has also been involved in the WithIt, a non-profit organization dedicated to the professional development of women in the home and furnishings industry and plans to volunteer more with them in the next year.

PREET SINGH, 35
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer,
imagine.io

Preet Singh built a 3D technology platform that helps furniture and home decor makers save time and money by creating dynamic 3D content that outperforms traditional studio photography. With an easy-touse web interface customers can create 3D images in minutes instead of days, giving consumers more confidence in purchasing after using their platform. Using digital prototyping that encourages collaboration, Singh is changing the way the home furnishings industry is doing business. He has made it his mission to educate people that they do not have to have a background in 3D engineering or design to turn out superior images. Singh is involved in emphasizing the importance of vocational training and education in underprivileged communities in India. He provides aid to these communities by donating supplies necessary for vocational training with a focus on STEM.

OLIVIA COX SMITH, 30
Chief Marketing, Human Resources & Administration Officer,
Custom Outdoor Furniture & Restrapping

Olivia Cox Smith is a third generation family member to own Custom Outdoor Furniture & Restrapping. She is the chief buyer and showroom merchandiser, overseeing the retailer’s sales and marketing initiatives, monitoring human resource protocols and directing the implementation of a new POS system that tracks inventory and production. Smith encourages her team to keep customer service at the heart of every interaction as she leads by example. By using clear communications and boosting employee success and morale, she is a respected leader and the people around her are proud to follow, giving rise to a loyal work team. Prior to joining the family business, she was an event manager, which laid a strong foundation for her to host instore promotions and communityrelated activities. Olivia is involved in Salkehatchie Summer Service, assisting with repairing homes in need in her community, supporting ICFA’s partnership with City of Hope, serving on the education committee at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church in Murrells Inlet, SC, as well as contributing to the Champion Autism Network.

STACY THOMAS, 38
Designer,
Bass’s Tradition House

Stacy Thomas has a talent for understanding what Bass’s Tradition House customers want and works with them to design their rooms in a manner that suits their style and needs. She has amassed considerable knowledge about furniture and design in the last 17 years, working diligently to expand her skills, and earning the respect of her customers. She spends time listening to what they are looking for and always goes an extra mile to help them achieve the desired outcome for their home. She works with each customer, paying close attention to details, to create a cohesive look while coordinating colors, patterns and fabrics that work best. In addition to her work at Bass’s Tradition House, Thomas spends time with her family and also supports the Masonic Lodge and its community efforts, including Veterans organizations and the American Legion. She also supports Motorcycle Associations that raise money for local charities.

CLEVELAND TUBBS, 34
Bedding Category Director,
Havertys Furniture

An experienced buyer with a demonstrated history of working in the furniture industry, Cleveland Tubbs is a man with high integrity and strong character. As the director of the bedding category, he manages all things bedding including partnerships with multiple vendors, merchandising, negotiations, training directives and delivering on sales and profitability metrics. Having been with Havertys for 14 years, he started as a sales consultant and worked his way up first as an assistant manager, then as a branch manager and general manager gaining valuable knowledge and experience. Tubbs transitioned into the bedding category leading Havertys to new levels of success in his first two years in the position. He is skilled in purchasing negotiation, pricing strategy, supply chain management and team leadership. Committed to being the most effective team member he can be, Tubbs leads from personal conviction. He is a strategic thinker who is honest and straightforward in his engagement with others and has the unique ability to accomplish goals in a creative way.

VICTORIA VALENTINAS, 33
President/Principal Designer,
VLV Designs

Victoria Valentinas is a rising entrepreneur who started her own interior design and custom art business in the middle of a global pandemic. Three years later, the company is thriving. As principal designer at VLV Designs, Valentinas masterfully runs every aspect of the firm, which specializes in bespoke room design packages, custom bedding and window treatments, faux finish paint treatments and custom art. She has demonstrated a remarkable ability to conceive innovative and visually stunning design concepts and consistently pushes the boundaries of creativity, delivering unique and captivating spaces that delight clients and industry professionals alike. An example of this includes the fact that she strategically developed a niche in the interior design market in her region becoming the go-to firm for bespoke hand painted wall and ceiling finishes as well as custom painted fine art. Despite her young age, Valentinas demonstrates an impressive track record of continuous professional and personal growth. Additionally, she always makes time to give back and has already made a significant and lasting impact on her local community.

LINDSEY WALDICK, 29
Visual Display Manager,
Turner Furniture

Lindsey Waldick is a visual display manager whose extraordinary talent and dedication have transformed showrooms into captivating spaces that leave an impression on all who enter. Her strong foundation in interior design has made her an invaluable asset to the Turner Furniture team. Waldick spatially plans and designs the showroom floor for three stores including Turner’s Fine Furniture and Turner’s Budget Furniture in Beachton, GA, as well as Turner’s Budget Furniture in Tallahassee, FL. She has the ability to curate a comfortable and inviting space that inspires their customers, reflects individual personalities, and sets her apart in an ever-changing world where a home serves as a personal sanctuary. Waldick has earned several awards for her outstanding talent and commitment to excellence in her craft, including the prestigious Turner’s Showroom of the Year Award for 2022 as well as numerous Showroom of the Month Awards throughout the year. Her talent and creativity helped set the stage for record-breaking sales performance in the showroom several times during the year. Waldick’s love for her work stems from her profound belief in the transformative power of well-designed spaces. Beyond the showroom, Waldick makes a positive impact in her community by supporting the Northwest Florida Great Dane Rescue, Going Places Street Outreach, and the Red Cross. Additionally, she has donated her time and skills to Big Bend Habitat for Humanity.

DYLAN (DONG) WANG, 33
Chief Operating Officer,
KUKA Home

As the recently appointed COO at KUKA Home, Dylan Wang is tasked with operation management, human resources, cultural development and coordinating and overseeing various tasks between headquarters and its subsidiaries. He has been with KUKA Home for 11 years and his exceptional performance and work ethic have earned him a reputation as an excellent leader and as an expert in the industry. He has a deep understanding of both the United States and the Chinese markets, which has proved pivotal in driving the company’s success. Additionally, he welcomes all employees with open arms and takes the time to not only get to know them but to help them recognize their strengths and weaknesses to help them succeed. He knows that the success of the company is not just his but belongs to everyone around him. Through mentorships, Wang has taught over 100 lessons to help individuals improve their English language skills and understand the home furnishings industry in the United States. Additionally, his support of the LGBTQIA+ communities has helped support diversity and inclusion and he has been a voice for those who may not have a platform to speak for themselves. Supporting educational initiatives through donations is also very important to Wang as he recognizes that positively shaping young minds has the power to change the world.

ALEX WRIGHT, 33
General Manager,
Wrights Furniture and Flooring

Alex Wright is helping to drive growth for his 5th generation family-owned business, which is over 130 years old. He oversees all the advertising activities and helps implement campaigns utilizing television, radio, social media and digital channels as well as direct mail for major promotions. He is also involved with the store’s merchandising efforts. Like many business owners, he contributes to all facets of the operation. His frequent presence at furniture markets and trade events is one of the things that helps him grow and learn firsthand from other professionals. Wright has also helped drive recent growth through acquisitions as the company expanded from their Dieterich, Illinois store into the Springfield and Robinson area markets. His commitment to the company has helped fuel growth as he is part of the team that makes the decisions that will set the company up for success into the future. Wright believes in giving back to his community and volunteers his time to organizations such as the Dieterich Community Development Corporation, Dieterich Business Association, Wright Family Center, Dine in Dieterich Fundraiser, Small Town Christmas Fundraiser and more. He was the YBNext (Junior Chamber) President and the Effingham Chamber Community Leader Under 40 in 2018.

ROB DAVIS, 39
President,
Diakon

When we last featured Rob Davis, he had been named an honoree in the Class of 2017. At the time, he was VP of client solutions at Diakon and was described as “the type of young, innovative and ambitious talent the industry needs but has difficulty attracting.” Six years later, he is the president of the company and has helped Diakon become the largest privately held last-mile delivery company in the country. He is a servant leader with the ability to develop highly productive teams and relationships that are built on trust and integrity. He has consistently led the company through innovation and growth year-over-year despite economic downturns. Davis is 100% dedicated to helping the industry evolve and innovate to compete with the e-commerce giants. Davis helped form and has donated a considerable amount of money to the National. Home Delivery Association Foundation (NHDA), whose mission is to advance educational and other charitable activities in the delivery industry through a scholarship program set up for frontline delivery associates.

JAIME WASSER HACK, 38
Vice President ,
Wasser’s Exclusive Furniture & Interiors

Jaime Hack is a furniture maven who excels in building relationships and creating successful partnerships. She is responsible for developing strategies to grow Wasser’s Residential Design Division. With a talent for connecting with employees, clients, vendors, and business partners, she hosts events to foster learning and connections among designers and willingly shares knowledge and trade secrets to assure project and business success. Being deeply passionate about furniture and design, Hack prioritizes a stellar 5-star client experience. She listens attentively to clients’ needs, understands their space utilization goals, and expertly guides them through a seamless design process. Her meticulous attention to detail ensures nothing is overlooked. Jaime’s innovative thinking extends to launching new revenue streams, including the baby and juvenile specialty department called Little Wasser’s. A proponent of giving back, Hack has participated in Race for the Cure charity runs and has hosted fund raising events for the American Heart Association in the showroom. She has also donated to the Lotus House who’s mission is to improve the lives of homeless women by providing tools and resources to empower them to improve the quality of their lives.

KYLE JOHANSEN, 38
Executive Director,
HOM Furniture

Last featured as a member of the Class of 2013, Kyle Johansen was the merchandise manager at HOM Furniture. Today he is the executive director, merchandising and marketing. He joined HOM in 2003 as a showroom support person. The following year he was recognized as a top sales writer and his responsibilities have continued to increase ever since. His impact has been felt throughout the years as a key leader in developing new initiatives. Most recently he added two product categories — area rugs and outdoor furniture— and has nurtured them to become top performing categories for the retailer. As Johansen built his career, he has always remembered how important it is to give back. He is a mentor for business students at University of Minnesota and is a member of the board of directors at the Mercy and Unity Hospital Foundation. He also supports several fundraising initiatives in which the store is involved. Johansen continues to be a shining example of what a future leader should be.

IMAN SCHROCK, 38
President,
Gigacloud

Iman Schrock is part of a new and fastgrowing segment in the industry. As the president of Gigacloud, he exhibits strong leadership in an ever-increasing cloud-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) environment. He was actively engaged in the initial IPO of Gigacloud and continues to maintain meaningful relationships with investors and shareholders while assuring the organic, incremental growth of the company. Gigacloud’s mission is to help businesses transform operations and unlock new growth opportunities through intelligent automation and data-driven insights. Schrock is well-equipped to spearhead this mission and has a degree in leadership and organizational psychology. He has taken advanced courses in disruptive strategy and organizational leadership at Harvard Business School. As an educator and university professor he has taught courses in business and economics. As a young executive, Schrock exhibits the characteristics of a philanthropic leader and participates in various community outreach programs including corporate giving pledges. He also supports the City of Hope and its cancer research, treatment and prevention programs. He has been a past recipient of the Southern California Leadership Impact Award.

JOSH WASSER, 39
President,
Wassers Exclusive Furniture

As president of Wasser’s Exclusive Furniture, Josh Wasser has maintained continued success since he was last featured in these pages (Class of 2016) running Wasser’s 3rd generation family business. The company mantra he developed, “exceptional service before, during and after the sale,” has proven to be a winner for growth and profitability year-over-year. But perhaps one of the most significant of his achievements during his tenure, is the fact that he spearheaded a dialogue with the Mayer of the City of Hallandale Beach, FL., to execute plans with the city’s redevelopment board that would revitalize the stagnant Schmatta Row area into a vibrant new destination. As a result, the city block where Wasser’s store is located has now become the newly re-designated “District 8” with Wasser’s being the first property to take on the massive project of redesigning and uplifting the building with a new, elegant store front, stunning new signage and a classy 200’ hand painted ocean themed mural. Thanks to Wasser, this accomplishment has made Wasser’s a destination shopping experience, drawing a younger, more upscale clientele to the area.

MORRIS YEH, 34
Director of eCommerce,
Coaster Company of America

Morris Yeh is the director of eCommerce at the Coaster Company of America. He is responsible for managing the digital platform that integrates product content, imagery and optimization of product positioning. His continued energy and enthusiasm related to innovation in the field of product development and the growth of eCommerce retailing is contagious. He began his career at Coaster as a director of product development for all major categories. The knowledge he gained provided a foundation for creating a vibrant strategy for developing strong relationships with a large network of eCommerce retailers such as Wayfair, Amazon, Overstock and Walmart. Yeh has executed innovative product developments in several categories including motion, home office and home accents. He has also developed tools and resources to help ensure the success of consumer engagement through vibrant technological integration. Yeh is a supporter of the City of Hope Home Furnishings Industry Fundraiser, the Home Furnishings Hall of Fame and the Home Furnishings Association.

Editors Note: 10 years later Forty Under 40 is Still Going Strong

As we reflect upon this milestone, it fills my heart with immense pride to acknowledge the incredible success we have achieved together. Since its inception, the Forty Under 40 has celebrated the very best in our industry, highlighting the dedication, innovation and unwavering commitment of the honorees to deliver unparalleled service to their customers and communities. I am thrilled to share that throughout the last ten years, we have honored an astounding 400 individuals who have left their mark on our industry. These honorees have consistently set the bar higher, redefining what it means to excel in the home furnishings realm. From visionary designers and creative artisans to enterprising retailers and innovative manufacturers, each recipient has played an important role in shaping the landscape of our industry. We have also taken a “look back” at nearly two dozen repeat honorees who were nominated after initially landing on the list in a previous year indicating that the industry continues to recognize their contributions as their career trajectory progresses.

But it is not just the honorees who deserve recognition; it is the collective support and engagement from the industry that has made this program thrive. To our readers, industry professionals, partners and advertisers, I express my deepest gratitude. Your enthusiastic participation, insightful nominations and invaluable support have been the driving force behind this program’s longevity and prestige.

As we celebrate this remarkable milestone, I am filled with anticipation and excitement for the future. Together, let us continue to champion the exceptional individuals, business and innovations that shape our industry, and create a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

With heartfelt appreciation,

What Sells: Bedroom Barometer

Style Driven
These lifestyle developments are changing the look of bedrooms as much as their functionality. While matched suites of furniture and formal finishes have been gone for years, design directions continue to favor curated collections of furnishings that feel related and complementary. Style categories such as traditional, glam, cottage, coastal, and modern are being mixed and melded to create bespoke environments that feel personal and reflect the owners’ individuality.

Style continues to be a driver for bedroom furniture sales, according to major furniture manufacturers. “Our popular Meadowbrook collection combines timeless design elements of cottage-style bedroom with an updated finish story,” says Rusty Morris, vice president of sales and marketing for American Woodcrafters. “While cottage has been synonymous with white finishes, Meadowbrook stands out with its sandy-caramel colored finish, as it retains the relaxed casual warmth of cottage decor.”

Porter Designs is finding success with a bedroom group that combines traditional elements of quality with a fresh design direction. “The modern styling combined with the heirloom-quality solid-wood and tremendous value are the key ingredients to the success of our Fall River bedroom collection,” explains Jeff Schwall, national sales manager for Porter Designs. From bed linens to flooring and furnishings, sustainability is a desirable feature for homeowners furnishing or updating a bedroom. Troy Lerew, vice president of sales for sustainable supplier Greenington, says its modern, elegant Ventura collection is a best-seller. “Ventura is a proven winner for our dealers and a top seller overall for Greenington,” he explains. Consumers support the earthfriendly brand and its bamboo construction with environmentally safe finishes.

The design of bedroom furnishings has far-reaching impact, according to David Koehler, president of Aico. “Our La Rachelle collection is more than a bedroom set, it’s a lifestyle. Its sleek design, glowing neutrals, and top-tier craftsmanship make it special. People aren’t just seeking furniture—they want magic in their home and this beautiful collection helps them achieve that desire.”

Growth Outlook
As a category, sales in bedroom furnishings are tracking slightly upward. According to the FurnitureCore Industry Model developed by Impact Consulting Services, parent company to Home Furnishings Business, research shows the category finished last year with $27.96 billion in sales (furniture and bedding), up 7.7% over 2021’s $25.95 in annual sales. This year is starting off favorably with $6.77 billion in sales for Q1 compared to $6.5 billion for the same period in 2022. Bedroom (including bedding) comprises 14.5% of total industry sales in 2023 Q1 sales, up over the same period last year where bedroom/bedding’s share was 13.9%.

Statistically Speaking: Pandemic-Fueled Increases in Industry Prices and Wages Begin to Cool

This article comes on the heels of last month’s installment of Statistically Speaking entitled, “Furniture and Home Furnishings Stores Face Marketing Challenges” and addresses employment and wages in retail brick and mortar distribution channels that serve the furniture industry.

Where Have the Workers Gone?
Retail companies add employees when demand dictates. An interesting statistic, and perhaps a key one for brick-and-mortar furniture distribution channels, is that since 2017, most retail store types decreased in number of employees, especially retailers whose main product line is furniture and home furnishings (Figure 1). In other words, the highest year of employment was back in 2017. eCommerce growth is no doubt a significant part of the reason. Furniture store employment, however, fell only 3.1% during this period, the best performance of the “2017 highest employment” groups featured in Figure 1.

The stores that did add employees throughout the pandemic and beyond were home centers and other building material dealers, up 4.2% in workers 2017 to 2023 Q1, with employment peaking in 2021. Other retail outlets gaining employees were warehouse clubs and superstores, up 9.7% and still growing through 2022, and lawn and garden equipment retailers, increasing 13.0%. These retailers that are still growing reflect the cultural attitude prevalent during the pandemic as consumers began to place greater importance on their homes and purchased accordingly.

One key shift that has occurred among the workforce is that the ratio of workers in the total workforce that are in supervisory or non-production roles has grown over the last four-plus years compared to the decline in the percent of production workers and NONsupervisory employees (Tables C-1 and C-2). The ratio for the total retail trade has remained stable at 14.9% in both categories, but in most all furniture distribution categories the percent of the workforce that is now in supervisory or non-production jobs has grown. For furniture retailers, in 2019 Q1 17.2% of employees were considered supervisory or non-production, compared to 19.3% in 2023 Q1.

Tables D-1 and D-2, show that the decline in employees is caused by a decrease in production and non-supervisory workers, while supervisory and non-production workers increased for most retail store types. The production/non-supervisory category declined 5.7% for furniture retailers and 15.6% for home furnishings stores.

Table D-2 shows that among the other retail store types, home centers, paint, wallpaper and other building material dealers showed a more stable employee mix between the two categories, with production/non-supervisory employees declining 1.0% in number, and supervisory/non-production workers falling 1.6%. This retail outlet had the lowest total employees decline of 1.1%.

Wage Increases
Among the various furniture and home furnishings retail distribution outlets, floor covering retailers have the highest hourly wages at an average of $32.69 (2023 Q1) followed by electronics and appliances at $27.38 (Figure 2). Furniture stores and home furnishings stores are next at $26.36 per hour and $26.33 per hour. General merchandise retailers, which broadly includes warehouse clubs, superstores, department stores, and other general merchandise retailers, averaged $21.03 per hour. Home centers average $22.04 and hardware retailers, $21.69. The combined average hourly wage for all employees in the U.S. retail trade in all product areas in 2023 Q1 was $23.72. Figure 2 also highlights the vast difference in the growth of wages since 2019 and throughout the pandemic and inflationary period. The highest hourly wage growth was among floor covering retailers of 27.28% 2019 Q1 to 2023 Q1, far outpacing inflation, followed by home furnishings stores at 22.38% and furniture stores at 18.19%. The lowest hourly wage growth 2019 Q1 to 2023 Q1 was among electronics and appliances stores at 3.76%.

Of note is that hourly wages of furniture retailer employees declined 3.6% in 2023 Q1 over the prior 2022 Q4, the highest decline of all distribution channels (Figure 2). All other distribution channels showed increases, except furniture retailers and floor covering stores.

The wage growth of these distribution channels during the two years prior to the pandemic and through 2023 Q1 shown in Tables E-1 and E-2, contrast the differences in the average hourly wages. Table E-1 shows average hourly wage for the primary brick and mortar distribution channels 2018 through 2023 Q1. Note the significantly higher wages of floor covering stores followed by furniture/home furnishings stores.

Table E-2 graphic shows the other distribution channels where furniture/ home furnishings are not the primary product categories. The higher wages for electronics and appliances retailers stand out in this graphic.

In the desperate search to hire and maintain production and non-supervisory employees for many retail store types, including furniture stores, the rate of hourly wage growth was higher for these workers than for supervisory and nonproduction employees (Figure 3). Hourly wages for production and non-supervisory employees grew 24.1% between 2019Q1 and 2023Q1 for furniture stores compared to total retail trade employee hourly wage growth 20.4%. For home centers, paint, wallpaper, and other building material dealers, hourly wages for production and nonsupervisory employees skyrocketed 44.8%.

As discussed previously, most of the salary growth among retail employees has been mitigated by inflation. So, the final question to be answered is: If hourly wages grew faster than inflation, why did weekly wages struggle to keep up with inflation. Part of the answer is that employees worked fewer hours through 2021 and 2022 as inflation soared. The lost hours are not dramatic, but they add up (Figure 4). For many retail store types, the average employee works fewer than 30 hours a week. The maximum average weekly hours for any of the retail channels discussed in this article is 35.4 in floor covering stores. With inflation ebbing, where are we now? Fewer workers, with higher wages, and working less hours than ever before.

 

Cover Story: INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE ANTICIPATING THE WORST

As can be seen from the graphic, the forward-looking statistic (compared to the previous quarter) indicates a definite slowdown while the back focused statistic (compared to the previous year) provides a more positive perspective.

But what about the balance of the year? Given no extreme external factors, FurnitureCore, LLC, sister company to Home Furnishings Business still has confidence in its 2023 forecast of 2.6%. Then why are retailers feeling so unsettled? One reason is the variance across the nation with one retailer reporting sales are up 13.4% (year-over-year) and another 17% down (year-over-year). Table C presents the range of variance.

Let’s now get down to the specific performance factors for the industry and your specific operation (for subscribers).

RETAIL METRICS

Despite inflation, supply chain disruptions, and a slowing in the frenzied demand seen in 2021, the furniture industry grew a respectable 6.47% in 2022 following 2021’s growth of 21.9% coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furniture stores, however, did not fare as well. Table A shows that furniture store sales for the total U.S. grew only 1.1% last year compared to the traditional furniture stores.(See Figure 1 for the Methodology.)

For years the furniture industry experienced slow growth coming out of the Great Recession. Sales picked up a little steam around 2015 to 2018. Then when the pandemic hit, industry sales skyrocketed before slowing in 2022. Meanwhile, furniture store sales growth continued at a crawl until 2021, then fell to very slow growth last year. Table B shows the dollar growth.

Last year, quarterly growth over the prior quarter for all U.S. furniture stores went negative for three out of the four quarters, with only the second quarter showing positive growth at 8.66%. Quarter four was down 0.56%. Notably the first quarter of this year showed no improvement with flat growth over the last quarter of 2022. Traditional retailers participating in the retail metrics for this article also experienced significant slowing in the last half of 2022 (Table C).

The financials of the traditional furniture retailers participating in the retail metrics in 2021 told a story of high gross profit driven by increased volumes from higher prices. Segue to 2022 and those sky-high profits subsided, especially in the third quarter. Table D illustrates the percent dollar growth in key indicators for gross profit, sales expense, general and administrative expense and net operating income.

Table E shows the total quarterly performance as a percent of revenues, not dollars.

Key Performance Indicators 2022


(Table F)
KPIs at their broadest levels, showed a decline in profits in 2022 compared to 2021 and an increase in expenses. (Table F) Gross profit as a percent of revenue fell to 50.13% last year compared to 51.17% in 2021. The fourth quarter showed the strongest performance at 51.67%.
Sales Expense was up over a percentage point, 23.25% in 2022 versus 22.2% the year before.
General and Administrative Expense (G&A) was up the most of the broad expense items at 16.54% of revenue compared to 14.72% in 2021.
Net Operating Income, as a result of increased expenses, fell from 14.25% of revenue in 2021 to 10.33% in 2022.
Above the Line Performance
(Table G)
Merchandise Returns in 2022 were slightly more than in 2021 at 0.59% of revenue versus the prior year of 0.35%. Merchandise Protection Sales were off slightly last year at 3.11% of revenue versus 3.42% in 2021.
Delivery Income was half a percentage point higher as a percent of revenue in 2022 (3.61%) than 2021 (3.17%) driven by additional revenue in the fourth quarter.
Cost of Goods Sold (Table H)
Of significance is that the total cost of goods sold was up over one percentage point in 2022 at 49.87% of revenue compared to 48.83% the year before. CGS eased somewhat in the fourth quarter.

Gross Profit on Sales (Table I)
Increased cost of goods sold impacted gross profit a full percentage point, down to 50.13% of revenue in 2022 compared to 51.17% in 2021.
Selling Expense (Table J)
All facets of selling expense increased as a percent of revenue in 2022, except for store sales expense. Total selling expense as a percent of revenue grew from 22.2% in 2021 to 23.25% last year. The following details the individual selling expense categories. Advertising/Public Relations took the highest jump in percent of revenue from 3.56% in 2021 to 4.36% in 2022. In 2021 consumer demand was so strong that retailers didn’t feel the need to increase advertising. However, in 2022 across the board – broadcast/air, Internet advertising, print and direct mail increased. Broadcast/ air advertising is still king among retailers at 58% of advertising expenditures in 2022. Internet advertising is still less than 1% of revenue annually.
Sales Expense for 2022 was also up slightly as a percent of revenue – 9.81% in 2022 compared to 9.61% in 2021. Increases in sales commissions and draws account for most of this increase.
Warehouse/Delivery/Services Expense as a percent of sales was mostly the same in 2022 compared to 2021, 8.0% versus 7.88%. Store Sales Expense was comparable to 2021 at 1.04%.

General & Administrative Expenses (Table K)
G & A expenses is the largest group of fixed expenses. These accounts are those that keep the doors open, the lights on and the place running. Each component of this broad category, except human resources, saw an increase in 2022 as a percent of revenue. G&A increased from 14.72% of revenue in 2021 to 16.54% in 2022. Information Systems expense was up over half a percentage point in 2022 to 1.13%. Occupancy Expense, a significant expenditure, increased to 6.27% of revenue in 2022 compared to 5.67% in 2021. Rent and lease payments represent 62% of this category and increased to 3.9%. Utilities, building maintenance and taxes also grew. Administration Expense, is the largest segment of G&A growing to 8.7% of revenue in 2022 compared to 7.97% in 2021, with growth in salaries as a percent of revenue being the main contributor.
Human Resources expenditures remained at less than half a percent of revenue. Net Credit Expense (Table L)
Net credit expense at 2.63% of revenue in 2022 was similar to 2021. Net Income (Table M)
While net income before interest and taxes in 2022 at 7.92% could not compare to the high 2021 number of 13.72% in 2021, it was still higher than the industry has seen in many years before 2021.

Key Performance Indicators
(Table 0)
Gross profit as a percent of revenue in 2022 was a full percentage point lower than 2021; however, it was consistent last year at just over 50% across all sales volume ranges. Retailers $25M to $75M in sales posted significantly lower sales expenses, which in turn impacted the higher 11.57% net operating income compared to smaller retailers at 8.63% and large retailers at 9.71%.
Above the Line (% of Revenue)
(Table P)
Merchandise returns were highest among the $25 to $75 million retailers at 1.86% of revenue. Merchandise protection sales and delivery income were highest among larger retailers $75M and over in sales.
Cost of Goods Sold (Table Q)
Cost of goods sold was consistently just below 50% of revenue for all sales ranges. Gross Profit on Sales (Table R)
Gross profit was consistent across all sales ranges at just under 50%, a full percentage point higher than 2021. However, that increased performance was more than offset by higher fixed and variable expenses.
Selling Expenses (Table S)
Selling expenses were highest for small retailers (25.9% of revenue) and larger ones (24.3%), but somewhat lower for mid-sized retailers $25M to $75M at 21.23%. Smaller retailers spent more as a percent of revenue on advertising and sales expense than the medium and larger counterparts.

General & Administrative Expenses (% of Revenue)
(Table T)
G&A expenses were highest among mid-sized retailers $25M to $75M in sales at 17.24% of revenue compared to 15.8% for smaller retailers with less than $25M in sales and 16.16% for larger $75M and over. Occupancy costs were higher for the midsize group.
Net Credit Expense
(Net of Credit Income)
(Table U)
Credit expense was much higher for larger retailers with sales over $75M at 3.07% of revenue compared to the midsized group at 2.08% and smaller retailers at 2.15%.
Net Income Before Interest and Taxes (Table V)
Lower selling expenses contributed to the mid-sized retail group $25M to $75M having significantly higher net income before interest and taxes at 10.36% compared to 6.62% for small retailers under $25M and larger retailers $75M and over at 6.42%.

Performance Groups
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