Sunday, November 23, 2003

Martha Stewart moving furniture

By Abigail Klingbeil
Gannett News Service

Some customers snicker when they walk into the Huffman-Koos furniture store in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and see Martha Stewart's name in bold but tasteful white letters on a wall beside her high-end furniture collection.

But they still buy her stately sleigh beds and solid armoires, says Joe Belmont, the store's manager. The Mount Kisco store has dedicated about one-fourth of its 12,000-square-foot showroom to the collection.

"We're happy to have the product," Belmont says. "I think it's probably one of the best product lines we've introduced in years."

Martha Stewart's legal woes have been blamed for declining revenues at her magazine, television show and Web site - the bread and butter of her Manhattan-based company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

But her furniture line, Martha Stewart Signature Furniture with Bernhardt, seems to have been spared the fallout caused by her June obstruction-of-justice indictment.

Last month, Bernhardt Furniture Co. and Stewart introduced "Turkey Hill," the third line of her furniture collection. Each is named for one of Stewart's houses. "Skylands" refers to her home off the Maine coastline, "Lily Pond" is named after her Long Island getaway and "Turkey Hill" after her Westport, Conn., farmhouse.

Neither Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia nor Bernhardt, a private furniture company based in Lenoir, N.C., have released sales figures for the furniture collection. But several retailers and analysts say the collection has been extremely successful.

"If it hadn't done very well, they wouldn't have introduced the Turkey Hill collection," says Jerry Epperson, a furniture industry analyst with Mann, Armistead and Epperson in Richmond, Va. Furniture stores began selling the "Skylands" and "Lily Pond" lines in May.

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