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The 'just Martha' tour opens in Miami

With her image as America's gatekeeper of good taste rapidly being replaced by her reputation as a slick trader, Martha Stewart is a woman on a mission to win back her customers, readers and devotees in the same way any good homemaker does when the family is tearing apart — by personally reconnecting with them.

Less than one week after her first quarter report showed revenue declines in all facets of her business, Stewart embarked on a national tour, which kicked off here on May 3, to promote the launch of the furniture and floor covering products of her better-end Signature collection. The furniture, by Lenoir, NC-based Bernhardt, recently hit 252 furniture and independent specialty stores, and the area rug program, produced by Shaw Rugs and launched in fall 2002, has reached 350 independent flooring dealers and furniture stores.

"We are very excited about her and the tour. We're hoping, now that the handmades have rolled out and the furniture is in stores, that our list of furniture dealers will go up," said Kimberly Barta, brand manager, Shaw Rugs.

Indeed. When Shaw originally signed the licensing partnership with Stewart last summer, the company projected to have its products in 600 doors by early September 2002, Jeff Meadows, division vp, told Home Textiles Today at the time. Then with the controversy of her dealings with ImClone, Stewart's Signature line roll out was pushed back as the bad press took over.

At the event here, which took place at the flagship store of 11-unit Carl's Furniture, Stewart portrayed herself in a relaxed and approachable manner in the presentation for her new products.

She began her presentation with a segment not yet aired on her television program, in which she celebrates her mother's 89th birthday.

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