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Retail Top Guns Chart '05 Course Home Helps Ethan Allen

Home furnishings business should be stronger this year than in 2004 for three major retailers, but for different reasons.

The trio — Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen; Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Federated; and Marvin Girouard, chairman and CEO of Pier 1 Imports — discussed their businesses at a reception during the National Retail Federation's conference here last week.

In Kathwari's view, “Consumers are investing in their homes at a rapid rate and our business is there to help with solutions. We are offering style and service, not commodity products. Those caught in the middle of the price and style spectrum will be squeezed out.”

Helping Ethan Allen's business outlook is its relatively new home textiles business. “We've strengthened the product line, and it now is very important,” he said.

For Lundgren, “Our new home approach is very exciting, and the program is not done yet.”

Discussing the new Macy's Home Store group, he said, “We attracted a great team for the central organization. I am pleased with the results so far, but the best results are still to come.”

Critical to the success of the home store, Lundgren explained, is centralizing the advertising program. Another key to the program is adding much more fashion, newness and exclusive product. Beginning next month, the home furnishings circular will have 60 percent exclusive product compared with 5 percent previously. The stores will have 20 percent compared with 5 percent in the past.

Lundgren added, “We are gradually trading up the business. There is a gigantic opportunity coming in above other department stores and below Bloomingdale's.” He specifically pointed to Lester Gribetz, senior vice president, fashion, as being a significant player in achieving this objective.

For Girouard at Pier1, this year will mark a change in direction for the company. In the last year or so Pier 1 shifted its emphasis to gifts from furniture and big ticket items, and found that Christmas was a struggle as transaction dollars slipped.

“Were back to a furniture and big ticket strategy and plan to get the transaction dollars up,” Girouard said.

Pier 1 also is changing the names of all Cargokids! to Pier 1 Kids by April 15. “The ones we changed already have been an immediate success and are doing great,” he said.

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