WithIt issues wake-up call on women’s growing power

Everyone in the home furnishings industry knows the importance of the female consumer for their knowledge of style, color and fashion. In addition, women’s income is growing faster than men’s, and 60% of college degrees go to women. Their influence and spending power will be more powerful in years ahead.

Everyone also knows that almost all home furnishings companies’ executives are men. Most of us have been to countless seminars on how to reach today’s female consumer, so there is no lack of recognition of the need.

Even so, sometimes we need a wake-up call to make us see the real truth.

In late August, I attended the WithIt annual conference in Raleigh, NC. They had been kind enough to nominate me for an award, but award or not, I am glad I attended.

Compared to the hundreds of conferences I have attended, it was dramatically different. First, it was not designed around a golf outing and the necessary golf awards. Can you imagine? Second, the theme of the conference was self improvement and growth. Bob Maricich gave a great speech on leadership, which he once gave at the Naval Academy. Third, the awards dinner started with four WithIt members belting a toe-tapping, almost gospel-like tune that got everyone smiling and set the tone for the evening. Fourth, we gentlemen in the crowd at the awards dinner wore our mandatory dark suits with the only touch of color being the tie or, for slaves to fashion like me, a pocket square. In dramatic contrast, the women at the awards dinner were the show. The fashion, the colors and the accessories were such a dramatic contrast to the men, it could not be missed.

The flair, fashion and confidence of this event reminded me vividly why we must have more women in the decision-making positions.

The ladies that won the awards were all well deserving, including Penny Burns (mentoring), Tammy Nagem (future leader), Lauren West (education) and Kassie Smith (president’s award). Congratulations to all. Aminy Audi, CEO of L. & J.G. Stickley, won the Legacy Award for her many contributions to the industry. She and her late husband, Alfred, changed the high end by saving several historic brands.

Furniture/Today’s Connie Lineberry won the inaugural Leadership Award. Connie is one of this industry’s most loved and respected individuals — male or female. I think each of us could use a lot more Connie Lineberrys in our lives.


Jerry Eperson

September 5, 2011