Why Hooker changed its name

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The announcement earlier this fall that Hooker Furniture had changed its name to Hooker Furnishings may have seemed little more than semantics at the time, at least on the surface. Certainly the company’s activity the past few years has significantly broadened its reach in retail channels, product segments and price points, a trend that seems certain to continue given the course, not only of Hooker’s evolution, but also that of the industry.

However, the difference between “furniture” and “furnishings” is far more than semantics and in Hooker’s case reflects a strategy that will take the company into myriad new areas and help it expand far beyond its venerable roots. It is also the most visible outward manifestation of an internal realignment that’s been taking place throughout 2021.

Since taking the reins in January, Hooker CEO Jeremy Hoff — the first non-family member to fill the role — has executed a multi-pronged strategy to streamline the company’s management structure, better coordinate its 12 brands and lay a foundation to support growth both organically and through acquisition.

“Hooker Furniture remains really central to the company, but the Hooker Furnishings brand acknowledges that we are much broader than furniture and today encompass 12 businesses under the Hooker Furnishings umbrella,” Hoff told Furniture Today in a recent sit-down interview.

For those keeping score at home, those brands include: Hooker Furniture, Hooker Upholstery, Bradington-Young, Sam Moore Furniture, Shenandoah Furniture, H Contract, Accentrics Home, Pulaski Furniture, Samuel Lawrence Furniture, Prime Resource International, Samuel Lawrence Hospitality and HMIdea.

However, the name change is about much more than creating an umbrella for the company’s existing brands. It’s about defining what the company will be for the next decade and beyond.

“Hooker Furnishings establishes a great platform for acquisitions, and acquiring complementary businesses is definitely part of that strategy,” Hoff said. “We want to grow organically, and that remains an important part of our plan, but this also gives us the ability to look at other segments where it might make sense.”

Like any public company CEO, Hoff declined to discuss specific acquisition targets or segments that might be on the company’s radar. However, he did provide insight into what Hooker might look for in a potential partner or acquisition target.

“Our No. 1 goal would be finding a good cultural fit, one that reflects the value of servant leadership that we try to embody here,” he explained. “It would be a situation where the management wants to stay and where it is a company led by servant leaders who are looking to build and grow the people around them.”

He explained that potential acquisitions are not limited to product categories adjacent to the company’s current offerings but also could encompass businesses that provide a level of vertical integration or “help us become a stronger and better partner to our customers.”

Outside the context of the acquisition discussion, Hoff may have offered a glimpse into the type of vertical acquisition that might be appealing while outlining where he hopes to see the company three years from now. “I want to be the best logistics company,” he said. “By that I mean I want to be a great logistics company that delivers great product.”

Supplementing logistic capabilities through acquisition would not be unusual in the furniture industry. In 2015, Bassett acquired the remaining 51% of Zenith Global Logistics, completing an investment that dated back to 1999.

Certainly the situations are not identical, and it should be noted that Hoff did not suggest such an acquisition was planned or even considered, simply that such capability was an area in which he would like to see Hooker excel.

In addition to creating a platform for potential acquisitions, Hoff has spent a good portion of 2021 laying the groundwork for organic growth as well. Shortly after taking the reins as CEO, he promoted Anne Smith to president of domestic upholstery and Mike Harris to president, Hooker case goods and upholstery, overseeing the company’s wood product and imported upholstery segments.

It is noteworthy that Smith retained her previous role as chief administrative officer, overseeing all corporate human resources and customer care for Hooker Legacy divisions as well as the H Contract division. And as president, domestic upholstery, she also is responsible for the Sam Moore, Bradington-Young and Shenandoah Furniture brands.

Less than a week later, the company announced two additional moves that further streamlined Hooker’s management, centralized decision making and created two new positions. Johne Albanese, Hooker’s vice president of marketing, was promoted to the new post of chief marketing officer with responsibility for marketing across all 12 of the company’s brands.

At the same time the company created a senior vice president of operations post, appointing Tod Phelps to the role in addition to his responsibilities as chief information officer and giving him oversight of all international and domestic operations.

In September, Hoff named company veteran Stephanie Penn as vice president of supply chain operations, another new position for the company and one that was specifically created to develop standardization and best practices for planning and purchasing across the company’s divisions.

“We put our marketing teams together as one. We’ve put our operations teams together as one, but all our customer-facing things have remained separate,” Hoff said. “We are not looking to combine the personalities of our 12 businesses. Operationally however, we are one company, one team.”

Hoff acknowledged that the name change has been adjustment for some, but he remains committed to the values of the company and its founders. “Our team is a powerful thing and our most valuable asset. I believe it all starts with people,” he said. “One of the greatest ways we can honor our past is to grow this company.”

Why Hooker changed its name