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Clint Engel

Kaplan retires from Levitz

WOODBURY, N.Y. -- Stuart Kaplan has retired as senior vice president of Levitz stores at Levitz Home Furnishings Inc. to devote more attention to his own high-end store in Florida and other business ventures in the state.

Kaplan, 60, a 36-year industry veteran, came out of retirement in late 2001 to join Levitz, heading the store business and temporarily handling the same duties for LHFI's Seaman's chain.

He said he had predicted it would take about three years to "take an operationally driven company back to its sales roots … getting sales-driven, sales-focused management into the stores and putting in all the metrics to measure the performance of everything. Now we've got people who know their numbers, who know what they have to do. Now we're totally focused on sales."

A replacement for Kaplan has yet to be named. For now, Levitz regional managers will report to Jay Carothers, chairman of the 129-store LHFI. On the Seaman's side, Colin James is overseeing store operations as regional vice president of stores, reporting to Carothers.

Carothers said Kaplan "has been instrumental in developing a sales culture, a strong management team and establishing the evaluation of the sales associates' performance. We wish him the best."

Kaplan's furniture store, Inside Out Furniture & Design in Perdido Key, Fla., in the panhandle, suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Ivan but was the only surviving furniture store in the immediate market, Kaplan said.

He intends to double the size of the store to about 14,000 square feet in the next four to six months. Kaplan also has a blossoming contract furniture division targeting the hospitality industry, and soon will form an investment group dealing in rental resort-oriented commercial real estate in the area.

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