Stanley Furniture’s newest furniture line incorporates the art of Saturday Evening Post artist Norman Rockwell. The collection has been introduced with special timing, on the 70th anniversary of the firm and the 100th anniversary of Rockwell’s birth. The 100-piece collection ranges in price from $250 to $30 per piece. The collection took much coordination between Curtis Publishing, Stanley Furniture and other firms that provided such items as rugs, clocks and household accessories to match the collection.
Norman Rockwell’s finest Saturday Evening Post covers were anecdotal in nature: To the reader, each illustration revealed volumes about the characters and their roles; every picture told a story.
Stanley Furniture’s most recent collection
Based on the artist and his covers for the magazine, is like that, too. In this case, the pieces that make up The Saturday Evening Post Norman Rockwell collection, have a marketing story to tell.
Introduced with great fanfare at the International Home Furnishings Market at High Point, N.C., in October, the collection sold briskly in Stanley’s showroom. It didn’t hurt, of course, that there was much to celebrate: This year marks Stanley’s 70th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of Norman Rockwell’s birth.
The marketing opportunities were so ripe that even the U.S. Postal Service got a piece of the action: In July, it issued five commemorative stamps in Rockwell’s honor.
There was also an event in September that kicked off the collection in Stockbridge, Mass., home of the Norman Rockwell Museum. There, representatives from department and furniture stores, as well as members of the press, toasted what would become one of the biggest hits at High Point–and certainly one of Stanley’s finest efforts.
Though the Stanleytown, Va.-based company has produced collections in the past, the Rockwell group is by far its most ambitious. Stanley’s senior vice president of sales and marketing Bill Cubberley explains, “We do a collection every market, but nothing with this kind of presentation.”
Nothing with this level of coordination among licensees
Besides Stanley’s 85 SKUs of wood furniture (all solid cherry and cherry veneers) and 40 individual upholstered pieces (its first foray into this category), the collection also includes licensees for accessories, clocks, rugs, lamps and window coverings. The unifying theme is Norman Rockwell’s body of work during his tenure with The Saturday Evening Post. Between 1916 and 1963 the artist illustrated 321 Post covers, many of which are transferred onto furniture in the collection.
But why all the sudden attention to the Rockwell name and his work? Alan Palecek, president of Richmond, Cal.-based Palecek, which supplied accessories for the collection, says. “Rockwell didn’t illustrate crime or violence, but rather wonderful scenes of home,” he says. “And unlike other themes, which tend to be very contrived, Rockwell has a very genuine image. People are hungry for that.”
The company that owned the rights to the Rockwell and Saturday Evening Post names, Curtis Publishing of Indianapolis, understood this mood more than anyone. Sheri McKain, vice president and director of licensing, notes “There’s a real nostalgia or back-to-values movement in the country right now. And Norman Rockwell is America’s artist. His paintings are timeless and people relate to them.”
The Rockwell name was certainly a strong draw for the collection’s licensees. Kea Capel, creative services manager for Troy, N.C.-based Capel Rugs, notes, “More than 150 million customers recognize the Norman Rockwell name, and it’s rare to have that kind of brand recognition in any license, let alone a rug license.”
The tale behind the Rockwell collection began about 18 months ago, when Curtis was looking for a few good furniture manufacturers. “Curtis did their research, and they felt that Rockwell would be best sold at a price point that was consistent with Stanley’s,” says Cubberley. Stanley considers itself to be in the uppermiddle price niche.
There was one problem with Curtis’ plan
“They didn’t have the foggiest idea of how furniture companies worked,” Cubberley says. “They didn’t know how to put together a package, what the package should include.”
Curtis eventually relied on Stanley to find other partners. Stanley started with Palecek, then enlisted Capel Rugs, Ridgeway Clocks (a division of Pulaski Furniture), Sedgefield by Adams for lamps and, later, Carole Fabrics.
Says Cubberley, “The reason we picked those manufacturers was because they were already vendors of ours. Also, we saw that most of them had had previous experience with other collections,” he adds.
Palecek provided accessories, from wicker boxes and wastebaskets to wooden miniature boats and bicycles, for the collection.
Well over 100 pieces range in price from $30 to $250. And that was just the small stuff. “We’re also providing from 12 to 15 styles of wicker furniture: chairs, ottomans, sofas, etageres and small wicker chairs with upholstered cushions,” says Alan Palecek. Prices range from $1,500 to $1,600 for a sofa with cushions.
“This collection will make people think twice about accessories,” he says.
For Sedgefield by Adams, the collection couldn’t have been more appropriate: The 28-year-old decorative lamp maker in High Point, N.C., is a third-generation familyowned business–as traditional as the folks portrayed in Rockwell’s illustrations.