The furniture business has taken a sudden interest in aging supermodels, judging by their advertising. La-Z-Boy (JCP), Raymour & Flanigan and JC Penney (JCP) are currently running TV campaigns featuring Brooke Shields, Kathy Ireland and Cindy Crawford, respectively. Judging by the companies' income statements this is less about a retirement plan for former catwalkers than it is about trying to draw some attention to a sagging category.
The ads all utilize their beauties d'une certain age in the same way. Where once they modeled swimsuits and clothes, they now have unusually brand-specific points of view about sofas and chairs. Here is Shields (who will of course advertise anything) claiming that nothing comes between her and her recliner (non-embeddable video, sorry):
And Crawford dispenses the zen-like notion that "every place in your home should feel like home":
But why are they all turning to high-price talent now? The answers can be found in their financial statements. At La-Z-Boy, sales declined from $305 million to $292 million in the last reported quarter. At JCP, revenue was flat at $17.5 billion but home furnishing sales fell from 19 to 18 percent of total revenues in 2010. R&F is privately traded but I doubt its numbers bucked the trend evident in its rivals' revenues.
While the U.S. economy is recovering, it seems that high unemployment and marginal pay gains for workers have led Americans to postpone spending on big-ticket items. So as long as you're getting one more year out of that old sofa, you can expect to see more of Shields, Ireland and Crawford on the TV in front of you.
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