RMP Partners reviving Lillian August, Stanley brands
RMP Partners, a Houston-based advisory firm and liquidation specialist, is making a play in the branded home furnishings segment, having purchased the names and intellectual properties of Lillian August and — most recently — Stanley Furniture.
The company acquired the IP of Lillian August about a year and a half ago as part of its involvement in the liquidation of various Lillian August assets after Lillian August stores in Connecticut began closing during the early stages of the pandemic.
“The company had amazing taste and they had great retail locations, but between COVID and other factors, and super expensive rents, it had become difficult, so the stores started closing one by one,” Amir Mireskandari, RMP Partners chief executive officer, told Home News Now. “It probably made the lenders a little bit uncomfortable. And as it does usually, this lends itself to the first lien position stepping in and asking for some sort of promotional events to recover as much as they could.”
As part of the liquidation process, RMP ended up purchasing the Lillian August IP and name, which it spun off into a Newco called Lillian August IP. This entity now does business as Lillian August Brands, which includes a range of product categories, such as furniture, bedding, art, wallpaper and rugs.
About four months ago, the company also acquired the name and intellectual property of Stanley Furniture from Endurance Capital Vietnam, a key lender to Stanley Furniture. In May 2021, Endurance Capital had acquired various assets of Stanley Furniture for $2 million as part of a foreclosure proceeding.
At the April High Point Market, Home News now sat down with Mireskandari to discuss what the purchase might mean for the brands in the short and long term.
Licensing agreements still in place
First and foremost, the purchase of the Lillian August assets does not impact the brand’s existing license agreements, he said, including with Sherrill Furniture, whose Lillian August line includes indoor and outdoor residential furniture.
“They have an amazingly good operation,” he said of Sherrill Furniture. “They are one of the only companies even today that have attractive delivery times on their upholstery, which is all made here. They have a shorter turnaround period for beautiful high-end product that is probably at least half the time frame for most other manufacturers. Plus, they have kept the quality and the production right at the level it has always been.”
He said that RMP has no major changes in store for brand partners such as Sherrill.
“The only change we hope for is more awareness, more depth of product and better distribution for any of our lines,” he said. “All that will come over time as we expand the awareness of the lines and the brand identities.”
“It is a collaborative effort,” he added. “We will work together to build the brand, and we all work together to get it more distribution. And hopefully we will work on improving designs to be more innovative.”
RMP also owns LillianAugust.com, which it is relaunching on June 30, as a boutique e-tailer platform offering luxury product across different product categories.
The Stanley purchase adds to what the company looks to ultimately establish as a growing yet, focused portfolio of home furnishings brands.
Stanley also has had challenging times during the pandemic, particularly due to logistical challenges and COVID-related shutdowns in Vietnam, where the line has been made since being purchased by Walter Blocker in early 2018.
In late March of 2021, the company suspended its High Point operations which led to a furlough of administrative and executive level employees in that office. This ultimately led to the departure of key personnel, leaving the company without any major support staff in the U.S., its main market for residential furniture.
Mireskandari believes his organization, in partnership with a manufacturing partner to produce the line, and retailers — brick and mortar or online — to sell the finished product, can help revive the brands, including both Stanley and Young America.
Mireskandari said what most attracted him to Stanley was the history and heritage of the brand dating back to 1924.
“The pedigree of the (Stanley) brand going back a century hasn’t changed,” he said of the brand, which will celebrate its 100-year anniversary in 2024. “We believe that kind of history has a lot of value. There is a story to the brand and it is important to preserve the legacy of the brand and the history of the brand because it resonates with people.”
He believes this is particularly true as today’s consumers, young and old alike, often research brands online before making a purchase.
E-commerce part of the strategy
In fact, e-commerce likely will be part of the company’s marketing and selling strategy moving forward with both Lillian August and Stanley. For example, the e-commerce site for Lillian August currently allows customers to browse and purchase items online ranging from dining tables and beds to rugs and wall coverings.
“In order to have traction, we are selling online,” Mireskandari said, adding that larger upper-end websites from Saks.com to Wayfair’s Perigold.com are showing higher-end branded goods, “which just opens up that market. And in that space, your nonbranded commodity goods will never survive because people are going to want to shop branded goods, anywhere from a Tommy Hilfiger, or a Thomasville or a Lillian August or a Stanley. That legacy gives customers a certain level of confidence in the quality and the design. That is where we believe the industry needs to go.”
Today, Mireskandari said he is starting to have conversations with potential importers or manufacturers that RMP can partner with to further develop both the Stanley and the Young America brands. A partner, he said, also can include a direct-to-retail program with a specific a retailer that helps sell the line in their stores, similar to the way Home Depot sells the Thomasville cabinet line.
The key, he noted, is to communicate the brand message to consumers in a way that creates interest and sales. “I guess it’s called awareness,” he said of the importance of promoting the line. “And it has to be backed up by somebody who produces product at the same level or better because it’s an uphill battle when you want to revive a brand. So all of that is important in the process of what we think we are going to do with it.”