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Larry Thomas
I'm Larry Thomas, business editor of Furniture/Today. In my 24 years here, I\'ve written stories about everything from box springs to wicker chairs. For 12 years, I wrote the weekly "Bedding Today" column, which is now in the capable hands of executive editor David Perry. Since being named business editor in 2001, most of my stories have dealt with home entertainment furniture, recliners, financial news and furniture markets. I look forward to discussing key industry issues in this forum, and I welcome your thoughts and opinions.
  • High Point Market economic impact mostly from furniture sales

    The recently completed economic impact study of the High Point Market already has received considerable attention - notably the headline-grabbing estimate of $5.39 billion in economic activity generated annually by the market.But the largest component of that estimate - furniture sales made within 90 days of market - has generated little discussion, even though selling furniture is the primary reason some 75,000 people make the twice yearly pilgrimage to High Point. The study, completed by Duke University's Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness, attempted to quantify furniture sales from market for the first time, and the results were fascinating ... Read More
  • Furniture Brands puts brakes on payments

    In the latest issue of Fortune, columnist Becky Quick takes snack food producer Mondelez International to the woodshed for recently notifying suppliers they are now on 120-day payment terms. Quick describes the company's action as "corporate bullying" because suppliers had no choice but to accept the new policy if they wanted to continue doing business with Mondelez. Mondelez, whose stable of brands include Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Trident gum, is not in any sort of financial trouble. But it told the columnist that "extending our payment terms allows us to better align with industry and make sure we ... Read More
  • Industry still lobbying for more High Point Market funding

    Even though North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has backed away from a budget proposal that would have slashed state funding for the High Point Market Authority, leaders of the group haven't dialed down their lobbying efforts. (See earlier article on McCory's change of mind.) They say continued state funding is critical to their efforts to attract new buyers and exhibitors and keep existing ones coming back, and they believe it will take more than the current state appropriation of $1.65 million to do that job effectively in future years. "We can't get complacent," said Market Authority ... Read More
  • Conn's finds success with furniture, bedding

    Tired of driving their business with price-sensitive, low-margin electronics and appliances, executives of Beaumont, Texas-based retailer Conn's last year decided to focus on two product categories they believed would improve the bottom line and keep the retailer from following the path of Circuit City. The company decided to get serious about furniture and bedding.And how's it working out so far? The numbers from publicly traded Conn's speak for themselves.Furniture and bedding sales soared 50% in the quarter ended July 31 - 57.5% on a same-store basis - and was the key ingredient that grew the company ... Read More
  • Smith nixes Black Friday insanity

    If there was a Heisman Trophy for CEOs, my vote would go to Alex Smith, who has led retailer Pier 1 Imports since February 2007.But my support is not because Pier 1 has recorded nine straight quarters of same-store sales gains, and it's not because merchandise margins hit a stratospheric 60.5% in the fiscal third quarter that ended Nov. 26.I'm a Smith fan because he is refusing to allow Pier 1 to follow this insane trend of opening stores in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday - or in some cases, late on ... Read More
  • AOM owners follow woeful Spring Air playbook

    There's a right way and a wrong way close a factory, and nowhere is that more evident than Henry County, Va., which has been hammered by the recent closing of the American of Martinsville plant and the impending shutdown of Stanley Furniture's flagship Stanleytown factory. Stanley, whose action will eliminate about 530 jobs, gave its workers several months advance notice and is trying to assist them with everything from applying for unemployment benefits to receiving money from a federal program that helps people whose jobs have been lost to offshore competition.By contrast, American of Martinsville closed its ... Read More
  • Golfer's win (and timely photo) thrills Human Touch

    Andrew Cohen, president of massage chair resource Human Touch, was enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon at home when a friend excitedly called to inform him that PGA golfer Tim Clark, who has an endorsement deal with the company, was poised to win The Players Championship, the richest event on the PGA tour. Cohen quickly found the tournament telecast and watched Clark fend off two challengers on the final three holes to record a one-shot victory. It was the 34-year-old Clark’s first PGA tour win, and was worth a cool $1.71 million. “I’m very happy for him,” Cohen ... Read More
  • No hiding from leather price increases

    Ken Kochekian had an unenviable task at last month’s High Point Market — and he lived to tell about it. Kochekian, president of leather supplier Universal Leather, had to explain to his customers why leather prices were going up just as many in the furniture industry were reporting a slight uptick in business. It certainly wasn’t what manufacturers wanted to hear. But Kochekian and his staff, armed with data on historic trends in leather pricing, believe they were able to help them better understand what is happening in the sometimes mysterious, faraway world of hides and tanneries. “We wanted ... Read More
  • Man Wah takes a (reclining) seat with the big boys

    Chinese leather upholstery resource Man Wah Holdings, which makes the Cheers brand of recliners, motion sofas and motion sectionals, won’t be able to fly under the proverbial radar any longer, thanks to a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that documents its meteoric rise in the U.S. market. The regulatory filing, made in conjunction with an initial public offering, paints a picture of a company that has been kicking posteriors and taking names almost from the moment it began soliciting business from U.S. retailers a half-dozen years ago. And what’s even more remarkable is that ... Read More
  • Mini massage chair gets maximum exposure

    Although 2010 is less than three months old, it already has been a good year for Cliff Levin and the folks at Inada USA, a distributor of massage chairs. Orders in January and February tripled the orders received in the same two months of 2009, and that was before two major publicity “hits” that are sure to boost spring orders. “We are having trouble catching up with demand,” Levin told me enthusiastically a few days ago. Most of the buzz has been about the Cube, a 48-pound mini-massage chair that folds into — you guessed it — a cube when not in ... Read More
  • La-Z-Boy stores need more sales, not more snow

    La-Z-Boy’s company-owned stores are starting to show signs of life after more than a year’s worth of operational changes and cost-cutting initiatives, but La-Z-Boy CEO Kurt Darrow acknowledged this week that the cost-cutting has gone about as far as it can go. It’s going to take a bump on the top line to completely reverse the retail group’s operating losses, he told securities analysts on a recent conference call. “Our team is being relentless in trying to find ways to both increase their sales and control their costs … but I don’t want there to be ... Read More
  • McIngvale's dream race won't be in Houston

    The dream horse race that Gallery Furniture owner Jim McIngvale has sought for months looks like it will take place – but it won’t be in Gallery Furniture’s hometown of Houston. Unfortunately for McIngvale, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., offered a $5 million purse for a race involving superfillys Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta on April 9. That’s $3 million more than McIngvale and Sam Houston Race Park offered for a race at the local track. McIngvale, a thoroughbred owner himself, told the Houston Chronicle he was excited the race will take place because it will be good ... Read More