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Retailers waiting, wondering about Furniture Brands

Clint Engel, Carole Sloan -- Furniture Today, August 22, 2013

HIGH POINT — As the industry waits for word on the fate of Furniture Brands International, some dealers say they're hoping for a speedy resolution in order to keep customers happy and merchandise flowing.

No one contacted by Furniture/Today this week has reported any major blips in service recently from Thomasville, Drexel Heritage, Lane or the other brands owned by the troubled furniture conglomerate, and most say these names have a value that will carry on with or without the parent.

But that's not to suggest there isn't a sense of concern and anxiety thanks to the uncertainty surrounding Furniture Brands and the influx of media reports and analysts' comments suggesting an inevitable bankruptcy filing.

"As far as we're concerned, we're confident in the brand. It will have life after Furniture Brands - at least that's what we're hopeful for," said Edward Massood, president of the five-store Thomasville Home Furnishings of New Jersey.

Massood said his Fairfield, N.J.-based company hasn't experienced any product delays from its supplier other than typical ones and that it is "business as usual."

"We're taking orders and filling orders in a timely fashion," he said.

But Massood added that, like many other dealers, he has seen all the press about an imminent bankruptcy and he hopes if this talk plays out - or another financial scenario takes place - that it happens sooner rather than later.

"Time is of the essence for the Thomasville stores," he said. Right now, product is flowing, but, "if they don't restructure debt or get (debtor-in-possession financing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection), then it will start to impact our business because they will not be able to fill customer orders."

At its Sarasota, Fla., store, Bacon's Furniture & Design just installed a new Drexel Heritage selling concept, featuring 50 finishes on seven collections. President Bill Bacon said he couldn't be happier about the way it has turned out and the supplier's response.

"We're not sure what's going to happen corporately, but (Drexel) has supported us 100% on this concept at this point," Bacon said. The Port Charlotte, Fla.-based retailer wanted everything installed and ready by the first week of August and "they came through on everything we asked," he said.

"We're real excited they came through because of all this other craziness that's been going on," he said. He added that he spoke with his Drexel representative Wednesday and was assured the company can deliver.

Bacon said he carries other Furniture Brands names, too, including Lane Venture, Lane and Broyhill, and hasn't seen any interruptions in service, although the retailer has reduced its commitments with these other lines until the parent's problems are sorted out.

"We still carry (the lines). We're just not expanding until we get some answers, and when we get some answers, we'll rethink those brands in a bigger way," he said.

All the brands have been fulfilling orders and keeping their commitment to the point Bacon's felt comfortable creating the new Drexel program.

"I've been at it 35 years and have seen the ups and downs," Bacon said. "But these are still good brands, and I can't imagine them just disappearing. They may go through an adjustment period, but who doesn't go through an adjustment period in this world?"

American Furniture Warehouse CEO Jake Jabs, however, had a different take. He said manufacturer and supplier brand names are less important today than they've ever been.

"People under 40 years old never heard of Drexel Heritage, Thomasville, Broyhill, Lane," said the leader of the Englewood, Colo.-based Top 100 company, one of Lane's biggest customers.
"With the smorgasbord out there of Costcos, Walmarts, Pier 1s and everyone selling furniture that doesn't have a brand name," young consumers just don't know brands any more he said.

"If they like the sofa, the bedroom set, the mattress, they'll buy no matter where it's made or who makes it."

That said, Jabs noted that Lane is a good source for his stores and is AFW's only special order house. He estimated that his stores do about 600 special orders a month with the supplier.

"They do a good job filling the orders. They seem to have the fabrics in stock," Jabs said.

He added as one of Lane's largest customers, which pays its bills on time with no chargebacks attached, "hopefully we are at the top of the lists when it comes to being taken care of."

As Furniture Brands marches to what many have called impending bankruptcy protection, Jabs said he hopes Lane gets spun off as a standalone company.

 

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