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From Home Furnishing Business

Household Name: Donald Trump

By Home Furnishings Business in Case Goods on March 2007 Billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump truly needs no introduction. Not only his his name emblazoned on a dozen skyscrapers, he€™s become a constant presence on TV as the host and executive producer of The Apprentice and as the CEO of Trump Organization and founder of Trump Entertainment, which operates casinos.

The latest expansion of what he calls the €œTrump Brand€ is a licensed collection that will be produced by Lexington Home Brands that will have its debut at the March High Point Market. The collection includes both a traditional group called Westchester and a more contemporary line called Central Park that draws inspiration from his Trump Tower apartment. His focus on furniture builds on wide-ranging business interests that include ownership of the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants, Trump Vodka, Trump Magazine, Trump Golf, and the Donald J. Trump Men€™s (apparel) Collection.

The author of nine business books, Trump recently took some time out from his hectic schedule to discuss his entry into the furniture business with Home Furnishings Business.

With all of your hotel and apartment projects over the years, how involved have you been in selecting or specifying furniture for those buildings?

I€™ve done everything from testing many styles of chairs for the ballroom at one of the Trump National Golf Clubs to selecting carpet swatches for another property. Details are key to success in business. I have an eye for little things. I have personally signed off on all the furniture designs, and wouldn€™t have it any other way, because my name is on the product.

The book €œTrump Strategies for Real Estate€ talks about your belief that having the right, high-end furniture in a building€™s lobby can play a very beneficial role in marketing an upscale apartment project. What does furniture say about one€™s home? What is the message that the Trump Home collections will send?

The right furniture, floor coverings, lighting all have a huge part to play in setting the stage for a property, and for a person€™s home. In the home, it€™s about making a statement about who you are and what you enjoy. Trump Home collection, which is just fantastic, will provide the look of a luxurious home and will make it available for a wider audience. Trump Home represents affordable luxury. It will be tremendously successful because of the stunning look you can create in your home for a great price.

How did you decide to join with Lexington Home Brands to aim the Trump collections at the middle tier of the market rather than the upper end?

Again, Trump Home is about affordable luxury. Lexington Home Brands is truly one of the best furniture companies out there. They understand the industry, they understand brands, and they understand what will sell. This collection of furniture is just the finest by far in its price range. We didn€™t skimp on the look or the materials. It€™s a gorgeous group of furniture.

Do you have a favorite chair or sofa at home? What is it like, and why is it your favorite?

I have a favorite chair where I do a lot of reading. It is beautifully made and very comfortable. It has served as an inspiration for my furniture line.

Back to €œTrump Strategies For Real Estate€: The book relates the story of how you were able to sell antique furniture from Mar-A-Lago for more than you€™d paid for the estate itself. How were you able to recognize the value of that furniture when the sellers obviously had no idea?

As with some of my real estate developments, I often see what others overlook, the underlying potential. That€™s part of my success in business and in life.

As you can imagine, a lot of furniture retailers will be asking themselves, €˜How can a New York City billionaire who lives in a penthouse help a furniture store in middle America sell bedrooms and sofas?€™

Everybody has a dream. Through diligent pursuit, hard work, focus and taking risks, I€™m living mine. I€™m living the American dream. I understand that need for everyone to have a dream. I€™ve proven over and over that I know what people want and need. People want to feel that they have achieved their own success. The Trump Home lifestyle represents affordable luxury and that look of success and status. This collection is absolute proof that you can live richly without spending a fortune.

You€™ve already been involved in the design of a signature line of suits, watches and neckties... What have you learned through those endeavors that you€™ve applied to the furniture line?

You absolutely have to understand what the consumer wants and how to deliver it. You€™ve got to provide the best product with the best materials. And you have to partner with successful companies that will deliver what they promise. With the outstanding designs in Trump Home, and a terrific partnership with Lexington Home Brands, we€™re going to be hugely successful.

My perception is that, as a brand, Trump is very male-focused, but furniture retailers are typically seeking to appeal to the female shoppers who are said to make most of the decisions regarding furniture purchases. How are you seeking to make the Trump furniture line appealing to women?

The Trump Home line isn€™t overly masculine or feminine. It€™s top-quality, high-design furniture that will make a statement in any home. I think women are going to be romanced by the stunning looks we have designed, particularly since we have two style directions that will find a wide audience. There€™s already a huge buzz building about the Trump Home furniture collection, and both the female shoppers and the retailers are going to be very happy with the results when they see this beautiful furniture. It is true that women have great influence in purchases, but that does not require a feminine product to attract her attention. Women have a keen eye for style and they like to create a home that represents their preferred lifestyle for their families It is not a self-serving decision, but one that represents her dreams for the family.

Of course, we haven€™t seen the collections yet, some people will be surprised to hear one would be somewhat traditional and the other will be contemporary. Was the traditional furniture inspired by Mar-A-Lago, which was built in the €˜20s?

The inspiration for both groups came from the various Trump properties including Seven Springs Bedford Estate, Westchester County, Mar-a-Lago, and the New York City properties. The more traditional collection of Trump Home was inspired by estate living and it offers a large-scale luxury manor look. The more contemporary group is elegant and rich and was inspired by the penthouses in Trump Tower and my other properties.

How does Donald Trump go about studying the furniture market and determining what consumer needs he can answer? Do you visit people€™s homes, go to furniture stores, study the home magazines?

I€™ve been involved in interior design and furnishings as I€™ve developed properties all over the world. From the huge success of those projects, I€™ve definitely proven that I can offer looks that appeal to people. I also have visited the most beautiful and luxurious homes in this country and internationally, and I€™ve seen the best and most exclusive furniture designs. Terry Lundgren, CEO of Federated Department Stores, is also a great friend of mine. Working with him on the exclusive line of Donald J. Trump men€™s clothing has given me keen insights into what the consumer wants and what retailers need.

Who is the customer who will buy a Trump bedroom or a Trump dining room?

A smart consumer who wants to surround herself or himself with the very best furniture. The Trump Home will give the customer luxurious pieces at affordable pricing, to create a fantastic home.

With all of your high-profile endeavors, do you foresee opportunities to promote the Trump furniture collections by featuring them on €œThe Apprentice€ or in one of your resort projects?

I€™ve spoken with the great team at Lexington Home Brands about future projects we could collaborate on to create even more success.

Up until recently, when the real estate market was very strong, furniture sales didn€™t get the lift many executives in our industry had hoped for. Do you think there€™s a strong correlation between home sales and furniture sales? Where do you see home sales headed over the next couple of years.

I think there might be a tie between home sales and furniture sales, and we all know the real estate market changes every day. Industries also have cyclical years with business going up and down. But I also believe that people are invested in their homes and in their lifestyles. Although furniture sales have typically been relative to the real estate market, we have been seeing a trend where people are trading up. People are not always purchasing for a lifetime, they want to be surrounded by the lifestyle they aspire to. Trump Home will be that inspiration for many, many people.

You€™ve gained a reputation for being pretty darned competitive. How will you measure the success of your furniture collections against celebrities who have gotten a head start such as Kathy Ireland, John Elway or Martha Stewart?

Each of those people represents a particular lifestyle. Trump Home represents the best in luxurious furniture at a price that is affordable. That€™s what the Trump brand is about, the very best products for a person who wants to live the very best life. HFB

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