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Strouds vets form Private Quarters

The Tupperware party concept has come to the home textiles industry. Two former Strouds executives have launched Private Quarters, a venture that will use independent sales consultants to sell person-to-person or through in-home parties.

Wayne Selness, chairman and CEO, was CEO of Strouds before joining La Brea Bakery. Jeff Stroud, president and chief operating officer, was most recently senior vice president of store operations at Strouds. The son of late Strouds founder Bill Stroud, he also launched iHome, an Internet retailer.

The $29 billion direct-sales industry has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, Selness said.

"Two things work in its favor. The personal relationships issue is important, in the sense that (the selling environment) is friends getting together for a party," Selness said. "The other thing is some of the changes occurring in the economy with downsizing and outsourcing. There are a lot of people looking for supplemental income."

Private Quarters will sell self-branded, high-quality bed and bath textiles as well as some home accessories. Selness and Stroud declined to speak in more detail about types of merchandise, quality levels or price parameters.

The company's majority investor is BEV Capital, a venture fund with more than $200 million under management. Its other investment in that sector is Big Enough Inc., a direct seller of children's clothing.

The venture is expected to launch this fall, probably in the southern California area. Some former Strouds employees are likely to be among the venture's first wave of independent sales agents. Those agents earn commissions on their sales, but also earn when they recruit additional sales agents to the concept — the same pyramid recruitment that built the Mary Kay empire.

"It's very gratifying for the two of us to be working together again," Stroud said of the venture with Selness. "We felt like we were destined to carry forward everything we stood for at Strouds."

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