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Law and the Business of Furniture

Jerry Cohen Law and the Business of Furniture blog.
Jerry Cohen Hello. I'm Jerry Cohen and with this blog I'll be providing insight and solutions regarding legal matters affecting the furniture industry, including operational issues, trends, and current and proposed legislation. I’ve worked on the business and legal side of the furniture industry which gives me an unusual perspective on the complexities we face. My firm and I currently counsel furniture manufacturers and national, regional and local retailers with their corporate, commercial and intellectual property transactions, as well as day to day matters. In the course of our work we deal on a regular basis with federal, state and local authorities, attorneys general, financial institutions (such as banks, asset based lenders, hedge funds and private equity); licensors and licensees; the media; sale promoters; creditors and debtors, landlords, and others. Have a comment? Add it to this blog or write to
  • Social Media: Your Best Friend or Biggest Headache

    You don’t need me to tell you that social media has changed the world for consumer products companies like ours. Less obvious are some legal and business issues that are critical in a company’s social media planning, and below I share a few thoughts about those key decisions. Social media and the furniture industry: a good match Before considering what you should or should not do, it is helpful to step back and look at why social media adds value to the furniture industry at all. Broadly speaking, social media – whether blogs, Twitter, Facebook, or other forms of ... Read More
  • Prop 65 Casual Living Conference Recap

    At the recent Casual Living conference, I moderated a panel on California Proposition 65, a law requiring warning labels to consumers who buy products containing certain chemicals determined to pose health risks. While the law is nearly thirty years old, it has become big news recently in our industry because of a new requirement starting in October 2012. A chemical called TDCPP, also known as Tris, is a common flame retardant used by furniture manufacturers, and that chemical was added by the state of California to the list of chemical carcinogens requiring a Proposition 65 warning. (A short version of ... Read More
  • Despite Promise, Licensing Deals Come with Both Risks and Rewards

    I've attended High Point Market for twenty years, and at the most recent conference, there was one noticeable thing in particular: the amount of floor space dedicated to licensed products. I don't think this is just a coincidence. During a time of change in our industry, licensing deals are providing furniture designers and manufacturers with new approaches to building their business.But with new opportunity comes new risks as well. By selling your products under someone else's name, you're making yourself vulnerable to someone else's reputation. Consider what might happen if the person whose name ... Read More
  • In the Wake of Furniture Brands Sale, A New Era with Key Questions

    I'll be attending the Furniture Today Leadership Conference this week, and look forward to talking to people about what the change of Furniture Brands to Heritage Home will mean for them. The change in name is not just cosmetic. A new management team and a new strategy will be in place to navigate the uncertain market and pressing questions I've mentioned before.It's too early to know all the details, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about what to watch for as Heritage Home charts its course:First is the selection of Ira Glazer as ... Read More
  • Navigating Change, With a Passion For Giving: Up Close with Leah Feizy of Feizy Rugs

    In my last several posts, I've discussed the changes that the furniture and home furnishings industries have seen over the last decade. Many of you have told me your views about what is driving these changes: globalization, management decisions, licensing and business deals, and other factors people have mentioned.Everyone's perspective is different. That's why I'm thrilled to introduce you to someone in particular who has been through it all. Leah Feizy has been with her family-owned Feizy Rugs business for well over a decade, and held many positions within the business to help Feizy navigate ... Read More
  • Market Recap: New Business Approaches for an Upbeat but Uncertain Climate

    Now that I've had time to digest what I saw at Market, I wanted to share some thoughts about the state of the industry and the outlook people have. I've been going to Market for 20 years, but I went into this one with greater anticipation because of the Furniture Brands International bankruptcy filing just six weeks ago. Here are the main things I saw:A tale of two cities. I saw some businesses doing extremely well and growing large, while others were treading water. Many industries have this, but in our industry it is pronounced. Part of ... Read More
  • Big Questions I'm Eager to Discuss with Business Leaders at Market

    One of my favorite things about attending High Point Market every year is the opportunity to hear from businesspeople across the furniture industry about their outlook and challenges. This year, I'm especially eager to learn what they are thinking. It has been an eventful time, with the bankruptcy filing of Furniture Brands International on September 9 leaving questions in people's minds about the future of the industry.Here are a few of the questions I look forward to discussing with businesspeople like you at Market this year:1) What are the lessons of the FBI bankruptcy? In response ... Read More
  • What "Be Your Own Decorator" Shows About Challenges to Furniture Businesses

    Recently, someone at my firm visited the store West Elm. "Be your own decorator," a sign said. It invited customers to mix and match colors themselves, and build the look of their dreams.Judging by my conversations with clients and friends in the furniture business, you probably read that with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's great that everyday shoppers are so interested in decorating their homes. But on the other, mass-appeal décor and furniture has made it harder for many businesses to compete.The rules have changed. Artistic designs can now be replicated easily and produced overseas ... Read More
  • A Roadmap for Suppliers, Retailers, Licensees and Employees As the Furniture Brands Bankruptcy Proceeds

    Furniture Brands International filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on September 9. In the time leading up to this filing and since, I've received questions from readers and clients about what this means for business in the coming months. Now that the filing has occurred and more information is available, we can begin to analyze its effect on FBI's suppliers, retailers, licensees and employees. As I mentioned in my last post, the bankruptcy process takes time. Two of many upcoming milestones are the sale of Lane and the auction and bankruptcy court approval, scheduled for January 2014, of the ... Read More
  • What a Furniture Brands Bankruptcy Could Mean for Vendors, Retailers and Licensees

    The threat of bankruptcy for Furniture Brands International is an unsettling development for a storied industry. The furniture business has a generations-old tradition of craftsmanship, design, and pride. Having worked with the founders and executives of furniture businesses and others that supply and buy from them, I appreciate this tradition. I also understand why the uncertain future of Furniture Brands makes everyone in the industry anxious. A better understanding of what could happen will help you navigate the uncertainties and protect your business.Risks and precautions for vendors. When a business enters bankruptcy, there are adjustments to its contractual obligations ... Read More
  • What Your Business Should Know About the Affordable Care Act

    The bulk of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) kicks in next year, and employers are bracing for the impact that providing the required health care insurance to employees will have on their business. Here are some facts to help you plan ahead.Required Coverage. Businesses with more than 50 "full-time equivalent" employees must offer coverage or be subject to a penalty. Both full time and part time employees are counted to determine the 50-employee threshold, as follows:Full-Time (employees that work at least 30 hours per week in any month) - Counted as one full-time employee.Part-Time - Calculated by taking the ... Read More

    In an earlier post I provided several tips to help Licensors avoid many common pitfalls. To even the playing field, this post will discuss tips for Licensees. 1. Why Are You Licensing: Know why you're licensing a brand. "Everyone else is doing it" is not a good enough reason because of financial risks and resources required. Are you looking for brand recognition, a new or fresh look to differentiate yourself from the competition, tapping a new customer base, or is your goal to maximize your manufacturing or sales force capabilities? Knowing what your goal is will put all your ... Read More