CA Governor Signs New Furniture Labeling Law

September 30, 2014 —

SACRAMENTO, CA – California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new furniture labeling law today requiring manufacturers to identify upholstered products that contain added flame retardant chemicals.

After weeks of negotiations with California officials, the American Home Furnishings Alliance succeeded in having the law amended to include a definition of “flame retardant chemical” to give manufacturers more clarity in complying with the measure.

Without a definition, AHFA maintained the bill was not enforceable and provided no meaningful guidance for California consumers.

California Senator Mark Leno introduced Senate Bill 1019 in March in an effort to provide consumers in his state with easily accessible information on whether upholstered furniture contains flame retardant chemicals or not.

The proposal followed the release of the state’s new flammability standard, Technical Bulletin 117-2013, which replaces an open flame test for upholstered furniture with a smolder test. Upholstery products can pass the new test without using flame retardant chemicals, which were added to upholstery foam in the 1970s in order to meet the previous open flame test in California. Although the new standard can be met without the use of flame retardant chemicals, the law does not prohibit their use.

Leno wants California shoppers to be able to distinguish furniture that contains added flame retardants from furniture that does not contain these chemicals. His bill requires manufacturers to modify the TB 117-2013 compliance label, which is currently required on all upholstered furniture offered for sale in California.

In the new section of the label, manufacturers must specify whether the product “contains added flame retardant chemicals” or “contains NO added flame retardant chemicals.” This is done by checking a box on the label next to the appropriate statement.

AHFA is developing a prototype label for its member companies to consult when ordering labels for merchandise shipping into California beginning January 1, 2015.

However, there is no effective date written into the Leno legislation. AHFA has requested clarification from state officials on the exact implementation timeline for the new labeling requirement.

“At this time, we are advising our members to plan for compliance beginning January 1, 2015 – concurrent with the implementation of TB 117-2013,” explains Bill Perdue, AHFA’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

AHFA worked with a coalition of furniture associations to draft several amendments that were successfully added to the Leno bill. In addition to the definition for FR chemical, these included:

  • Removing a provision that would have required point-of-sale signs for any covered product shipped to California. The signs, like the label, would have had to include the “does contain/does not contain” statement.
  • Removing a provision that would have allowed the state to charge manufacturers with perjury if they checked the “does not contain” box on the label and their product was later found to contain an FR chemical.

Other members of the home furnishings coalition that worked on the amendments included: the North American Home Furnishings Association, the Polyurethane Foam Association, the Upholstered Furniture Action Council and the California Furniture Manufacturers Association.


The American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C., represents more than 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, plus over 150 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide. AHFA is the industry’s representative on Capitol Hill and elsewhere throughout the United States on legislative and regulatory matters that impact the import and manufacture of residential furnishings.

For more information, contact:
Jackie Hirschhaut

Surya van pool to knock estimated 100,000 miles off the road by end of October

CALHOUN, Ga. — Sep. 12, 2014 — Surya is pleased to announce that it has saved its employees hundreds of dollars in fuel and maintenance costs and thousands of miles on the road since the launch of a company-sponsored van pool at the beginning of June. To date, 14 employees living in the Atlanta area and surrounding suburbs are actively participating in the van share program, which is partially subsidized by Surya as a benefit to employees with high mileage commutes to the company’s Calhoun, Ga., headquarters.

Surya has contracted with vRide, a shared ride platform, to provide the van, which is regularly serviced and maintained by vRide to help ensure safety and reliability. As of Aug. 31, the van pool has logged approximately 8,500 miles, significantly fewer miles than the 60,000+ miles that would have been driven by van share members individually during the same period.

“In addition to reducing fuel costs and carbon pollution, ridesharing allows employees to relax on their way to work rather than face the stresses of traffic congestion,” said Satya Tiwari, president, Surya. “We realize the commute from Atlanta to Calhoun can be challenging and are excited that so many of our employees are taking advantage of the program. Surya is a great place to work and the convenience of a shared ride will make us an even more attractive employer for talent residing in Atlanta and surrounding areas.”

Surya van pool participants in front of the van used for the daily commute between Atlanta and Surya headquarters in Calhoun, Ga.

Surya van pool participants in front of the van used for the daily commute between Atlanta and Surya headquarters in Calhoun, Ga.

Surya is planning to add more van pools once it relocates to its new corporate headquarters in Cartersville, Ga., currently slated for late 2015. The additional vans will run from the Chattanooga, Tenn., area as well as nearby locations such as Rome and Dalton, Ga., where a number of Surya employees reside.

To learn about Surya’s commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility, visit

About Surya
Surya is the premier one-stop source for coordinating home accessories for a broad range of lifestyles and budgets. An expert at translating the latest apparel and interior design trends, Surya artfully combines color, pattern and texture to offer more than 30,000 fashion-forward products, including rugs, pillows, throws, wall decor, accent furniture, lighting, decorative accents and bedding. The brand also provides innovative display, merchandising and training solutions to support retailers in successfully promoting and selling home accessories. Surya currently exhibits in Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, High Point, Las Vegas, New Delhi, New York, Toronto and Tupelo. To learn more, visit

Media Contact:
Kathleen Bowley
706.625.4823 ext. 213

Twin-Star’s Celebrity Status Soars

Delray Beach, Florida, Sept 12, 2014 - Twin-Star International, an award-winning home furnishings manufacturer of quality furniture, bath vanities, thermoelectric wine coolers and electric heaters, is quickly gaining celebrity status with a host of nationally televised product placements featured in several top home and remodeling TV programs.

HGTV’s hit Love It or List It recently featured the “Raines” high-gloss white vanity from Twin-Star’s Luxe Bath Works line of bathroom furniture on the episode entitled “Blended Families”. The 30” two-door and two-drawer vanity offering additional storage space is highlighted in the renovation of a 1,000 square foot house. The segment will air again on September 15. On Love It or List It, the home owning family has to decide between keeping their newly renovated current home (“Love It”) or buy a new home and sell their current one (“List It”). This is done with the help of hosts Hilary Farr, designer, and David Visentin, Realtor. Hilary handles design and renovation on the current home, and David finds the couple potential new homes.

Twin-Star’s ClassicFlame Pro “Builder Box” fireplace aired last spring in two episodes of The Vanilla Ice Project! on the DIY network. Clips from the show can be viewed on the Twin-Star Facebook page. A Builder Box is a kit that can be installed into a wall, which can then house an electric fireplace insert. Robert Van Winkle, better known as rapper Vanilla Ice, loved the ClassicFlame electric “Florida fireplace” that can be used with or without heat to cozy up the family room. In The Vanilla Ice Project, Vanilla Ice demonstrates his expertise in real estate and home renovation by renovating houses along with a team of handymen.

Earlier this year, a pair of “Raines” bath vanities from LUXE Bath Works appeared on the show Flipping Boston in an episode dedicated to helping the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. The homeowner was thrilled with the Raines vanities and said that his new bathroom now looked like a “hotel bathroom.” The clip from this show can also be viewed on the Twin-Star Facebook page.

What does the future hold? According to Twin-Star’s Director of Marketing, Brian Brigham, “the Twin-Star Tresanti thermoelectric Cabernet Wine Cabinet will be appearing in the upcoming comedy “Wedding Ringer” starring Kevin Hart and Kaley Cuoco set for release in 2015. And our ClassicFlame “Elysium” Wall Fireplace was recently requested for the October 3rd episode of the new Raycom syndicated show “Fix It & Finish It” where host Antonio Sabato Jr. travels the country helping people renovate and update their homes. Stay tuned, more Twin-Star stars are coming!”

Connect with Twin-Star:
YouTube at

# # #
About Twin-Star
Founded in 1996, Twin-Star International, Inc. of Delray Beach, Fl., is changing the way people entertain. Twin-Star, an award-winning home furnishings manufacturer of quality furniture, combines the latest trends with function and style to create unique pieces that enhance the lives of their customers. They use the finest hardwoods, wood veneers and finishes available, chosen specifically to match the character and need of each individual piece. A member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, Twin-Star is known for their ClassicFlame® Fireplaces, the finest furniture in the electric fireplace industry, and their line-up also includes Duraflame®, Chimney-free® and Pro Electric Fireplaces, Tresanti® Media Consoles; Tresanti® Refrigerated Wine Cabinets; Tresanti® Kitchen Islands and Beverage Curios; Black & Decker and Luxe™ Bathroom furniture. Find out more at

For more information, contact:
Cathy Lloyd
The Media Matters, Inc.

Northwest Furniture Express Announces Expedited Service Options

Morganton, NC – August 28, 2014 - Northwest Furniture Express (NWFX) a specialized furniture carrier serving the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada, announced today the addition of two levels of expedited services which began September 1.

The NWFXpedite is a 5 business day delivery business to business for shipments originating in North Carolina and Southern Virginia to our service area in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.

Other options, such as NWXtreme are also available. The Extreme Expedite is 3-5 day service into most of the major business centers within the region. Time definite services are also available. “We are very excited about the new service offerings”, says Eric Clarke, NWFXpress CEO. “This further enhances our service commitment to the Northwest Region and gives our customers additional options when they need product in a hurry or have fast approaching delivery deadlines they are trying to meet.”

NWFXpress is the Dealers Choice for Transportation Service among the leading retailers in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.


For more information:
Eric Clarke, NWFXpress 828-439-4190

Surya to Unveil Extensive New Outdoor Offering at Casual Market

Brand to showcase more than 700 new outdoor products in an array of styles, colors, sizes and price points

CALHOUN, Ga. — Sep. 8, 2014 — Home accessories brand Surya is set to introduce a significantly expanded outdoor product offering at the 2014 International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, to be held Sept. 16-19 at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Featuring a range of coordinating accessories across multiple categories along with high-performance materials, the new offering will make it easy for end consumers to achieve a complete and cohesive look for their outdoor living spaces.

In addition to debuting several hundred products within its existing outdoor categories (rugs, pillows and poufs), Surya is launching a number of new categories, including outdoor lighting, mirrors, ceramic planters, garden stools, hurricane lamps and candle holders in a variety of rich textures and finishes. Styles range from global-inspired designs and overscaled tropical motifs to solids, stripes and geometric patterns – all available in vibrantly-hued warm and cool color palettes for convenient mixing and matching.

New introductions from Surya Outdoor include global- and tropical-inspired designs, along with coordinating solids, stripes and geometric patterns, in a variety of rich textures and color palettes.New introductions from Surya Outdoor include global- and tropical-inspired designs, along with coordinating solids, stripes and geometric patterns, in a variety of rich textures and color palettes.

The brand’s new pillow and pouf collections are constructed of premium fabrics, including Sunbrella, to bring style and comfort to outdoor spaces while providing superb weather resistance and durability. Several innovative rug constructions, such as a crocheted look typically seen only in indoor rugs, will be on display, as will a new outdoor collection from HGTV design personality Candice Olson.

“As consumers spend more time outside, they are looking for accessories that will enable them to create inspired outdoor living spaces that complement their indoor spaces,” said Satya Tiwari, president, Surya. “As with our indoor offerings, our goal in expanding our outdoor line is to simplify the shopping experience by providing a single resource for coordinating outdoor accessories. In addition to offering a broad range of fashion-forward products, we will provide sales and merchandising tools to help retailers grow their outdoor business. We look forward to extending our reach in this important segment.”

Surya has created a dedicated team to promote and sell its expanded outdoor line, including casual furnishings industry veteran Jim Levine, who was recently brought onboard to head the outdoor initiative, and a group of regional sales representatives who will target specialty outdoor retailers throughout the United States.

Market visitors are invited to explore the colorful new outdoor line at Surya Outdoor Booth 7-4123 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 16 through Thursday, Sept. 18 and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19.

Click here for a preview of Surya’s new outdoor introductions.

About Surya
Surya is the premier one-stop source for coordinating home accessories for a broad range of lifestyles and budgets. An expert at translating the latest apparel and interior design trends, Surya artfully combines color, pattern and texture to offer more than 30,000 fashion-forward products, including rugs, pillows, throws, wall decor, accent furniture, lighting, decorative accents and bedding. The brand also provides innovative display, merchandising and training solutions to support retailers in successfully promoting and selling home accessories. Surya currently exhibits in Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, High Point, Las Vegas, New Delhi, New York, Toronto and Tupelo. To learn more, visit

For more information—
Media Contact:
Kathleen Bowley
706.625.4823 ext. 213

Art Van Furniture Announces Emergency Flood Damage Relief Program for Michigan

Art Van FurnitureWARREN, Mich. (August 12, 2014) — Yesterday’s torrential rains and widespread flooding have impacted homeowners across Southeastern Michigan, destroying and damaging furnishings, flooring and other contents in their homes. Beginning today, Art Van Furniture is offering to help families with the “Art Van Furniture, Mattress and Flooring Flood Damage Relief Program” for Michigan.

Art Van Furniture will extend its best pricing, the Employee Family Purchase program pricing, to flood victims. Guests simply bring photos of damaged furniture, mattresses and flooring or an insurance check into any Art Van Furniture store inMichigan. It’s good for a one time purchase and will need to be approved by a store manager or sales manager.

In addition, the Art Van Clean Team is offering aid as well. Those homeowners who need help can call the Art Van Clean Team which will waive the deductible for insurance claims and offer a 30% discount for other cleaning needs.

“It is important for everyone in the community to come together during these types of emergencies that cause such huge unexpected hardships for so many of families,” said Art Van Elslander, founder and chairman of Art Van Furniture. “Art Van Furniture plans to do whatever we can to help alleviate the financial burden on families, and give back to our neighbors who have supported us for 55 years.”

While the metro Detroit area was hardest hit by the storms, the program is valid statewide, offering assistance to all Michigan homeowners who were impacted by this season’s severe weather conditions. The “Art Van Furniture, Mattress and Flooring Flood Damage Relief Program” for Michigan expires in six months.

About Art Van Furniture
Art Van Furniture is the Midwest’s largest furniture retailer and America’s largest independent furniture retailer. The company operates 37 stores throughout Michigan, six stores in Chicagoland, one store in Toledo, Ohio, one store in Fort Wayne, a full service e-commerce website, plus 45 freestanding Art Van PureSleep bedding stores in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Founded in 1959, the company is family-owned and headquartered in Warren, Michigan. Visit for more information. 


For more information, contact:
Diane Charles
Director of Corporate Communications
Art Van Furniture
(586) 983-3022 – office
(586) 850-7332 – cell

Mac Hoak of Mecox to Receive ARTS Awards Academy of Achievement Honor

Mac HoakDALLAS – August 13, 2014 – Dallas Market Center today announced that Mac Hoak, founder and owner of Mecox, will receive the prestigious Academy of Achievement honor at the 26th annual International ARTS Awards.

“Under the guidance and vision of Mac, Mecox energized the home industry with its style and quality,” said Bill Winsor, president and CEO, Dallas Market Center. “Mecox has been instrumental in setting precedent for retail excellence for the past 18 years, and we look forward to honoring Mac.”

The ARTS Awards, presented each January during the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, recognizes top manufacturers, retailers, product designers, interior designers and sales representatives from across the world in 25 different categories. The winners will be revealed during a gala event on Friday, January 16, 2015 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. The Academy of Achievement honor is awarded each year to recognize companies and/or individuals that have made significant contributions to the industry.

Mecox boasts a unique selection of home and garden furnishings unmatched in quality, texture and form, and is dedicated to providing the tools necessary to achieving an overall balance between the indoor and outdoor living environment.

Hoak and his team of buyers make multiple trips each year to venues around the world from which they source many of their antiques, home furnishings, art and other products. In addition to these one-of-a-kind items, Mecox has its own private label of furniture known for its usage of indoor-outdoor materials such as stone, zinc, concrete and teak. Mecox partners with local craftsman to allow customers to create their own designs or redesign any Mecox product. Items from the store are continually featured in industry publications such as Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, Veranda, and House Beautiful.

Hoak received an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of North Carolina and an MBA from the University of Virginia. In 1984, Hoak moved to New York City and worked in finance for 10 years. In 1995, he moved to Southampton to follow his passion for antiques, design and furniture and in 1996, the flagship Mecox Gardens opened in Southampton, New York.

Mecox Gardens grew a loyal following of home owners, collectors and designers quickly. At the request of many, Hoak began expansion to additional locations. Hoak opened his second store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and his third store in West Palm Beach, FL. Today, Mecox can be found in eight locations: Chicago, Dallas, East Hampton, Houston, Los Angeles New York City, Palm Beach and Southampton. For more information, visit 

The 26th annual ARTS Awards are sponsored by enLIGHTenment, FANDECKGifts & Decorative Accessories, Giftware News, HFN, Home Accents Today, Home Fashion Forecast, Residential Lighting and the Sustainable Furnishings Council. Follow along with the ARTS Awards process using the #ARTSawards hashtag.

About Dallas Market Center
Founded in 1957, Dallas Market Center is the world’s most complete wholesale marketplace. Within its marketplace of more than five million square feet, retailers from around the globe source products ranging from home furnishings, gifts, decorative accessories and lighting to textiles, fashion accessories and men’s, western, women’s and children’s apparel. With more than 50 markets each year attended by more than 200,000 retail buyers from all 50 states and 85 countries, Dallas Market Center offers hundreds of events and seminars geared toward helping retailers expand business and increase profits. The Dallas Market Center website is available at

About ART
ART is the creative home furnishings network representing manufacturers, retailers, representatives and other individuals and companies interested in promoting and enhancing the market position of the home furnishings industry. Each year ART sponsors programs such as the ART conference, regional educational seminars, the ART card and the ARTS Awards. The ART website is available at

About the ARTS Awards
The ARTS Awards is the premier awards program dedicated to the home industry. Up to 25 categories exist under the headings Manufacturer, Retailer, Product Designer, Interior Designer, Sales Representative, Rising Star, Green and Academy of Achievement. Anyone in the industry can nominate including manufacturers, retailers, sales representatives, designers, suppliers, consultants and other industry officials. Academy of Achievement, Rising Star and Visionary honorees are selected by an ARTS Awards committee each year. Companies that have won an ARTS Award five times are inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame members are: BJ’s Home Accents, C.S. Wo & Sons, Distinctive Designs International Inc., Feizy Rugs, Fine Art Lamps, Global Views, Montaage, Natural Decorations Inc., Palecek, Paragon, Robb & Stucky and Schonbek Worldwide Lighting. Visit for more information.

Groovystuff Announces Led Zeppelin Prize Pack Winner

August 13, 2014—

DALLAS – Groovystuff teamed up with Warner Music Group (WMG) to promote the launch of the re-mastered first three Led Zeppelin albums by awarding a Zeppelin Prize Pack to a lucky participating Groovystuff buyer at the Summer Las Vegas World Market, July 27-31, 2014.  Congratulations to Andy Jarski from Mountain Comfort Furnishings in Frisco, Colorado for submitting the winning entry.

The 2014 Las Vegas World Market hosts more than 1,500 world-class manufacturers showing the latest industry trends at one state-of-the-art campus.

Mr. Jarski will receive a musical prize package from a band that was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  His WMG Prize Pack includes:

  • Led Zeppelin Lithographs of each Album Cover
  • Led Zeppelin Poster & Hanging Mobile
  • Led Zeppelin Button & Coaster Set
  • Led Zeppelin Turntable Mat
  • Led Zeppelin Tote Bag & T-Shirt

When Mr. Jarski was informed of his winning ticket status he replied saying, “I’m beyond thrilled to win such a groovy prize!  What an iconic combination, rock on Groovystuff!!”

In 1968 Led Zeppelin came together as a group, and over the next decade, the band would become one of the most influential, innovative and successful groups in modern music.  Chris Bruning, Groovystuff company founder and co-sponsor of the promotion added, “Groovystuff specializes in furniture, lighting, and home décor designed to meet the demographic of customers in the Led Zeppelin audience so it’s really cool to have a sponsorship with WMG that gives us the opportunity to share some legacy music with the Las Vegas Market Buyers.”

August 19, 2014: The original press release identified the winner Andy Jarski was with Mountain Timber Furniture. An update provided by Groovystuff announced this is incorrect. Andy Jarski is with Mountain Comfort Furnishings in Frisco, Colorado. The post has been corrected to reflect this.


About the company:  Founded in 1998 by Chris Bruning, based in Dallas, Texas, Groovystuff designs, produces, and distributes unique, eco-friendly, reclaimed teakwood home furnishings at upper-medium and high-end price points.

Groovystuff is also a founding sponsor of “The University Hall of Innovation & Job Creation,” an industry co-operative founded by Chris Bruning that bridges the gap between education and the residential home furnishings industry. The University Hall of Innovation & Job Creation provides an invaluable opportunity for students and professors to network with retailers, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, journalists, and industry professionals at the residential home furnishings trade events here in the US.

Duraflame™ by Twin-Star International™ Receives Women’s Choice Award®

Delray Beach, Florida, Aug. 7, 2014 — Twin-Star International, an award-winning home furnishings manufacturer of quality furniture, thermoelectric wine coolers and electric heaters and the manufacturer of Duraflame heaters which has been named a recipient of the 2014 Women’s Choice Award. Women across America have identified the company’s Duraflame brand of indoor fireplace heaters as one most recommended to other female consumers.

This designation is based on surveys of tens of thousands of women sent to WomenCertified Inc., the leading advocate for female consumers, assisting women when leveraging their buying power as they make decisions choosing a brand or service to purchase for herself or her family.
Duraflame Powerheat indoor fireplace heaters, available in a variety of styles and finishes, utilize up to six quartz InfraRed heating elements that provide efficient heat distribution and can quickly warm rooms up to 1,000 square feet. With a lifetime operation of over 20,000 hours, they produce a healthier heat by retaining higher levels of oxygen and moisture in the air over standard heating elements. The heating elements stay cool to the touch so they are safe to use around children and pets.

Twin-Star International has manufactured Duraflame products since 2009. The complete range of electrical heating products include more than 30 styles of ceramic desktop heaters, ceramic oscillating tower heaters, dual quartz tower heaters, milk house heaters, oil filled heaters, parabolic heaters, micathermic heaters, electric stoves, in-fireplace inserts and infra-quartz radiant heaters. They are available for purchase at home furnishings and electronics retailers across the country.

Robert Cohen, president and chief executive officer of Twin-Star International stated, “We are proud to accept the 2014 Women’s Choice Award for our Indoor Fireplaces. We appreciate the confidence of women trusting our Duraflame products and recommending them to others. We continue to strive to enrich and enhance lives by providing products that are safe, efficient, and durable.”

Connect with Twin-Star via social media by visiting their website at; Facebook page; Twitter page at; Flickr; YouTube; Pinterest; Blogspot

# # #

About Twin-Star
Founded in 1996, Twin-Star International, Inc. of Delray Beach, Fl., is changing the way people entertain. Twin-Star, an award-winning home furnishings manufacturer of quality furniture, combines the latest trends with function and style to create unique pieces that enhance the lives of their customers. They use the finest hardwoods, wood veneers and finishes available, chosen specifically to match the character and need of each individual piece. Known for their ClassicFlame® Fireplaces, the finest furniture in the electric fireplace industry, their line-up also includes Duraflame®, Chimney-free® and Pro Electric Fireplaces, Tresanti® Media Consoles; Tresanti® Refrigerated Wine Cabinets; Tresanti® Kitchen Islands and Beverage Curios; Black & Decker and Luxe™ Bathroom furniture. Find out more at

About Women’s Choice Award®
The Women’s Choice Award sets the standard for helping women make smarter purchasing choices. The Award identifies the brands, products and services that are most recommended and trusted by women. Awards are based on surveys of thousands of women, as well as research conducted in partnership with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Visit to share the brands you recommend the most.

Women In The Industry (and the secrets to their success)

August 7, 2014–

Bring three female home furnishings executives together and you don’t know what they’ll say. Sarah Lyke, Dorian Stacy Sims and Caroline Hipple, on the industry, Jane Fonda and the B-word.

From left: Sarah Lyke, Dorian Stacy Sims, Caroline Hipple

From left:
Sarah Lyke is the executive director of WithIt, a nonprofit group whose mission is to help women grow in the home furnishings industry.

Dorian Stacy Sims is president of Stacy Furniture & Design in Grapevine, Texas.

Caroline Hipple is the CEO of HB2 Resources, a management consulting firm whose clients are primarily in the home furnishings industry.

RetailerNOW: How has the industry changed since you first started?

Caroline: Imagine an hourglass. Big at the top, narrow in the waist and big at the bottom.  When I started in 1977, the population was big at the top and skinny at the waist of the hour glass. The furniture companies rode the wave of Baby Boomers—what was it 78 million?—all through their life stages and we sold a lot of furniture. I remember looking at the numbers more than 20 years ago and saying we need to be out of this business by 2008. There were only 42 million of the next generation going through their life cycle and we had built an industry and supply chain for 30 million more. But you know what? We weathered that period of ‘08 to ‘15 where demographics were so tough. It was hard, but I think the people who survived, that stayed relevant to their customers, they’re the ones who are going to benefit moving forward.

Dorian: But even if you weathered through this you still need to be constantly reinventing yourself because this generation is so different from the last in terms of what they want and how they want it.

Caroline: Exactly. It requires being there and listening to your customers, growing and changing along with them. My grandfather, who was an entrepreneur, once told me, “Honey, if you can develop one characteristic, you need to be adaptable.” I was 13 when he told me that. Who knows what that means at 13, but he was so right. For retailers today it’s all about adaptability and staying relevant, figuring out how your customers buy and who your customers are listening to and getting their information from.

Sara: I completely agree. It’s not easy—never has been—but isn’t it exciting?

Caroline: Oh, absolutely.  It’s not easy, but the best way to adapt and stay relevant is to keep asking questions of ourselves, our customers—anyone we do business with. I was watching a show …. where the American Film Institute was honoring Jane Fonda. She was talking to a packed house of actors and actresses and she said something that really stayed with me. “My last message to you is to always be asking questions.” She talked about how, in the whole room of actors and actresses, only one of them who worked with her ever asked how she did things or how she could improve or be a better actor and that person was Meryl Streep. Is it any wonder (Streep) is the best actress in our time?

RetailerNOW: What are some of the problems you’ve encountered as a woman in the home furnishings industry?

Dorian: It’s very difficult to be an outspoken and intelligent woman and not be perceived as a bitch. I’ve been surrounded by salesmen my whole life. My dad’s a salesman, my uncles are salesmen, too. When I first started as a buyer my dad said, “That person across the table is trying to make a living to feed and support his family. You always be courteous and respectful no matter what. Let him show you his stuff.” Well, OK, you do that. But at the same time I’d rather just let that salesman know that this is something that doesn’t need to be spelled out for me. But if you do—and I have—then you get to be known as the B-word. I truly believe the biggest advantage women can add to this industry is we can handle conversations in a respectful, professional win-win manner. If the manufacturers, the retailers and the reps could understand that women are working for the greater good of the industry and greater good for everyone’s business we’d be a stronger industry. Most women see that it’s not all about competition. It’s about the relationships along the way. If we communicated our needs and came off as professional, intelligent women, our industry, if they would listen, could grow by leaps and bounds.

RetailerNOW: Challenges—what have you faced along the way and how has it changed?

Dorian: I go back to the when I was a buyer. It was almost as though there was a light bulb that went on eight or 10 years ago with the industry that women are the end consumer.

Sara: But yet they still struggle to figure out what that end consumer, a women, wants for a home most of the time.

Dorian: Exactly! As a buyer I would be invited to a design meeting and I’d ask, “Well, why do you do tuck the sheets in like this?” Or, “That doesn’t work here because you can’t reach your alarm clock.” And when I’d say things like that from a woman’s perspective, the people in the room—mostly men—would look at me like the dog who just heard a weird siren. They’re finally starting to listen. It’s great to see that they are listening now, but it’s taken an evolutionary process to have them realize that we’re the end consumer.

Caroline: I was working for an investment banking firm during the day and I needed some Christmas money so I got a second job. That was 1977. When I became a (This End Up) store manager at 21, my father almost hung up on me when I told him about my job. I still remember him: saying, “I paid for you to have an expensive education and you’re going to sell shipping crates?” I was like so many other young women who had gone to girls schools in (This End Up’s) senior management ranks. We were taught by our parents and our schools that we could do anything we wanted and we believed this until we went into the working world.  But when I got out into the world, that’s when I realized there was no chance for me to be a broker. The industry just wouldn’t allow it. So I went looking for mentors and companies that were merit based and not gender based. I was really lucky.  At 23, I was managing nine stores but I still remember one man saying to me “Honey, does your husband run this company?” What I think I learned is to take a job get results and then take another job and get more results. I was always working and building my portfolio of skills. Yes, there was always blatant discrimination and there always will be, but if I focused on that I wouldn’t have been able to do my job well.

Sara: The biggest challenge I see for women is getting them to stay in the industry. What I see a lot of is they get to a certain point and they can’t go any further, but their skill sets are so great so they go to other industries and other industries are benefiting from it. If you’re creative—and women in our industry are extremely creative—every industry can use you. Just in my time with WithIt I’ve seen some of our most talented people leave and it hurts. As an industry we need to better leverage the skills women have.

RetailerNOW: What advice would you give women in the industry now?

Sara: When we go to the universities I’m always telling women to take business courses because when I sit on the advisory board at High Point University I’m hearing  that their graduates just don’t understand business. When women get out into the workforce they need the leaders of their company to take the time to teach them. But even then they can’t rely on others. They should already be somewhat intuitive on how to read the books [accounting] and what needs to be done and how to move forward. They need the business knowledge on top of their degrees.

Caroline: You still see a lot of women in the design field as buyers and we should be celebrating women who have taken on core skills sets like design and merchandising and buying because that is a talent that comes natural for many women. But they need to take jobs that help them manage P/L and operations and some of the other functional areas.

Dorian: That’s the best advice I’d give new people or young people coming into the industry. You may be excited by the design or the textiles side, but you would have such an advantage over others coming in if you at least concentrated on business and the financial  aspects.

RetailerNOW: Men aren’t asked to know the design side. Is more expected from women than men?

Sara: It isn’t a matter of them expecting you to know it. I can honestly tell you the way I promoted it in the software industry was I knew accounting and economics so it let me know how to look at your company and how to visualize it and what it needed next.

RetailerNOW: Mistakes—what have you learned from them?

Sara: I think back to my days in the software industry. What I learned when I decided to leave the industry was I had no network whatsoever.  I learned that one the hard way. I think relationships are so important now. Every job that I see people get in this industry is based on a relationships.  Building those relationships and having a network is extremely important.

Dorian: Even in the worst of storms if you treat those around you—whether it’s your employees or your manufacturing reps—as you want to be treated it makes life better.That sounds simple, but it’s not always practiced. You need to treat everyone like  “Hey, we’re all weathering the storm right now, but we’re weathering it together. I’ve got this end of the rope and I’m not going to let anything happen to you just like I’m not going to let anything happen to me.” That sense of working together has been the driving force of what’s gotten me through whatever storms we’ve faced. Those relationships from the owner of the company to the credit rep are very valuable to me and I don’t take them lightly.

Caroline: And isn’t that why we love this industry? Because it is so relationship driven?

RetailerNOW: What are some of the toughest decisions you have had to make?

Dorian: When you are working in a family business, even though some people are not family by blood or marriage they become part of the family. There are times when I sit down with good friends, friends who are almost like family me, and have to tell them its not working for them and it’s not working for me. Those kinds of conversations—whether it’s a longtime worker or family member—they just absolutely suck the life out of you. At the end of the day, my family is the most important thing to me and the people that work for me are encompassed in that family. I can handle leases going away and dealing with building damage from hail storms. It’s the people part that hurts your soul.

Sara: The decisions of business—that’s all very easy for me. But I think relationships are the main thing I struggled with. When I came into this business I worked with men. Men aren’t collaborative like women. They enter a room, they figure out their stuff, make a decision, get up and leave. I was very much that way. I’ve learned to appreciate the other side of this. Women are collaborative and they get together and discuss ideas back and forth. I always found the customers who complained the most were always the ones I learned from the most. Even in WithIt where the women may have the same goals and objectives they have many different opinions and I’ve learned to sit back and listen.