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Talking Business

Jay McIntosh
Jay McIntosh News Editor Hi! I’m Jay McIntosh, news editor at Furniture/Today, and it’s my job to keep track of the issues and events of the day. I’ll use this space to offer comments or insights that I hope will bring something new to the table. I welcome your responses and suggestions.
  • FBI's brands still have good shot at survival

    As OJ Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran might have said, the CEO may go, but the brand will stand.That's what I'm hoping if I'm a retailer, rep, designer, trucker or anyone else whose livelihood depends on the products under the Furniture Brands International umbrella. FBI is in the process of selling off Broyhill, Lane, Thomasville and its other brands, some of which have been around for decades. (see earlier report on bankruptcy filing.)And it's a reasonable expectation the brands will survive. Unless they have problems that aren't apparent, why kill them?In this case ... Read More
  • Sorry, Cramer! Furniture Brands is still interesting, though

    This is an update of the blog I posted yesterday, in which I was skeptical of Jim Cramer's suggestion that Furniture Brands International could be a takeover target, maybe by Masco.Turns out that's not what Cramer said. I finally was able to watch the video, and he's clearly talking about Fortune Brands, a different company. The summary of the video on the CNBC site, however, said Furniture Brands International (and it still did a few minutes ago), which meant that it showed up on the sweep of the companies I follow. And on the sweeps of ... Read More
  • Old San Francisco Mart area getting a facelift

    Remember the old San Francisco Mart? I miss the strolls through the Tenderloin from our hotel to the market buildings (dodging the occasional drunk and panhandler), the morning runs up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower and its spectacular view of the Bay, and eating at that great dim sum restaurant in the financial district.Now it sounds like the landscape is changing for the old Mart district. My friend and former Furniture/Today colleague Ivan Cutler sent a copy of an article on SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle's website, by John King. He describes two big projects that ... Read More
  • Where is Furniture Brands headed?

    Furniture Brands International executives Ralph Scozzafava and Steve Rolls assured securities analysts in a conference call Thursday morning that the company would have positive free cash flow next year. This proved to be not very assuring at all to many investors, who sold off the stock in droves that day and sent its share price down more than 25%. Furniture Brands, the largest U.S. publicly held residential furniture manufacturer and importer, has seen its stock price fall by about two-thirds since midsummer.Raymond James securities analyst Budd Bugatch downgraded the stock to "underperform" (code for "sell") after the company ... Read More
  • On dog food and party goods

    I just read about a couple of brand extensions that surprised me a little but make sense when you think about them.Biltmore, the Asheville, N.C.-based company that manages the Biltmore Estate and has licensed lines of home furnishings and other products based on the huge and lavish home, is getting into the party business with Biltmore Inspirations. As its press release says, "Biltmore Inspirations offers consultants the opportunity to build their own business by selling an exclusive collection of tableware, home decor, wine accessories and chef-selected foods, all influenced by the unique beauty of Biltmore, the 250-room ... Read More
  • China currency issue takes a back seat

    It looks like those furniture importers were on to something when they said they didn’t expect anything dramatic to happen to the value of China’s currency anytime soon. This past Saturday, the U.S. government said it was delaying a report that could have spurred more debate, if not action, on the issue. People watching the situation were anxious to see if the Treasury report was going to label China a “currency manipulator.” That apparently is strong language that can lead to other steps. Some U.S. critics think China keeps its currency valued artificially low, which enables ... Read More
  • "Furniture Wars" a good summer read

    I just finished Mike Dugan’s book “Furniture Wars: How America Lost a Fifty Billion Dollar Industry” and I highly recommend it. Not to find out why Asia makes most of our wood furniture these days. That’s a two-word answer: Lower costs. No, what’s really interesting about “Furniture Wars” is its blow-by-blow account of the decades of infighting in the executive suites of many of the industry’s largest manufacturers. Dugan’s thesis is that the infighting was a distraction that kept the industry from improving its plants and its practices, which might have helped it repel the ... Read More
  • Confidence rubs off on furniture stocks

    Most furniture stocks are enjoying price gains today, probably thanks to this morning’s report of higher consumer confidence. Retailers Pier 1 Imports, Cost Plus World Market and Havertys were all up more than 10% as of about 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. Manufacturer and retailer Select Comfort also was up close to 16% after a private equity fund said it would buy just over half the shares of the airbed manufacturer and retailer. On the manufacturing side, Ethan Allen shares had gained nearly 10% and Furniture Brands, Hooker and La-Z-Boy were up in the 7% to 8% range ... Read More
  • Pier 1 Imports rises from the doormat

    Pier 1 Imports’ stock has gone from doormat to darling in two days. It rose 275% Monday and is still climbing today. All this after an evidently successful move to shore up its balance sheet by selling some debt to an overseas subsidiary, and a report by industry analyst Budd Bugatch of Raymond James that, in his opinion, the Fort Worth, Texas-based retailer now looks strong enough to survive the downturn. Obviously, the price had been driven down by short-sellers anticipating a bankruptcy filing. They evidently expected the company to follow the path of its onetime cross-town rival in Fort ... Read More
  • Who might buy furniture companies?

    Furniture/Today columnist Jerry Epperson wrote a piece a few weeks ago lamenting the fact that he could either supersize his fast-food meal or for the same money, buy shares of stock in several furniture manufacturers or retailers. His point: Many of the stocks of our industry’s publicly held companies are way undervalued. This raises an interesting question. Even in this era of tight credit, I wonder if some investors might pony up the money to acquire some of our industry’s storied names at bargain-basement prices. Who could afford to do so? Well, some folks in China. Or ... Read More
  • Like us, president's new man has China ties

    President Obama’s latest, and hopefully last, choice for Commerce secretary has something in common with the furniture industry — close ties to China. Former two-term Washington Gov. Gary Locke is the son of Chinese immigrants and is the only Chinese American ever to become a governor. In the four years since he left office, he has led the China practice of a Seattle law firm, according to a New York Times profile. He probably has Chinese President Hu Jintao on speed dial. Will this help industries like ours that have become so intertwined with China? Couldn’t hurt. The Department ... Read More
  • Here’s why our industry won’t ever get a bailout

    Here’s a message I think we’ll hear on our voicemail sometime in the next six months: Greetings from the Federal Bailout Administration. We have taken the U.S. furniture industry’s request for a bailout under advisement. In case you are unfamiliar with Washington-speak, that means we are sitting on it, buddy. Your chance of getting a bailout is about as good as the chance that your government will actually pay off the national debt someday. Why don’t you qualify for a bailout, even though your industry consists of companies that have served the American manufacturing and ... Read More