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F/T to honor leaders

HIGH POINT - Furniture/Today has announced that Indianapolis-based Kittle's Furniture and Hickory Springs Mfg. have been selected as this year's Retailer of the Year and Supplier of the Year.
     Both companies will be honored at the Furniture/Today Leadership Conference, set for Nov.28-30 at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples, Fla.
     This year's theme - All in ... Plugged in? - reflects the need, particularly in this challenging post-recession marketplace, for companies to not only be fully committed to every aspect of their business, but to also to seek every opportunity to plug in to new opportunities for growth.
     "As a result of constantly evaluating and improving their respective operations, both Kittle's and Hickory Springs have moved forward during some of the toughest times our industry has faced," said Furniture/Today Editorin-Chief Ray Allegrezza.
     Kittle's, Allegrezza said, is a perfect example of how hard work and sharp business acumen can allow a family business started in the midst of the Great Depression to not merely survive, but to thrive to the point of posting same-store gains in 2010 of a staggering 15.1%.
     In 2009, amid a severe recession, Jim Kittle, who had been involved in the business for more than 40 years, passed the baton to industry veteran Eric Easter, who has kept the company on the fast track since rejoining Kittle's.
Even a severe storm in 2009 - which ripped the roof off the retailer's flagship store, then flooded it - could not stymie Kittle's.
     With the flagship's facelift and grand reopening came a major marketing and merchandising makeover and a new tagline, "Kittle's - For Everyone, For Less" - which underscored the retailer's strategy to expand its presence in promotional and midpriced goods while maintaining its foothold in the high end.
     "Last year, Kittle's had sales of $78 million, was number 68 on our Top 100 list and saw same-store sales spike by almost 7%," Allegrezza said.
     Hickory, N.C.-based Hickory Springs, founded some 68 years ago, has long played a critical role in both bedding and upholstery, two of the most important categories in home furnishings.
     Launched in 1944 as a producer of coiled furniture springs, Hickory Springs, through innovation and reinvention, has grown into one of the nation's largest integrated components manufacturers and suppliers for the furniture and bedding industries with more than 60 operating facilities in the United States and around the world.
     In 2010, the company celebrated a milestone as it marked its 50th anniversary as a manufacturer of flexible polyurethane foam.
     The furniture industry is the largest segment of Hickory Springs' customer base. With more than 160 flexible polyurethane foam formulations, the company is one of the largest U.S. producers of foam. It pioneered such innovations as Code* Red II combustion-inhibitive foam and EnduroFoam premium performance foam.
     In 2006, it also introduced Preserve, the first polyurethane foam made with a soybean-based chemical compound designed to reduce the use of petroleum based chemicals.
     The company has also extended its traditional product lines even further, producing sleeper mattresses, polyester fiber cushioning and batting materials for the furniture home comforter and bedding industries.
     "Clearly, both Kittle's and Hickory Springs have long and proven track records for innovation, excellence in marketing, merchandising, product development and much more, which made this year's search very easy," Allegrezza said.
     For particulars regarding the Leadership Conference, call Conference & Events Manager Heather Grant at (336) 605-1061 or email her at hgrant@sandowmedia.com..
     To register online, go to www.furnituretoday.com\ leadershipcon.

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