Todd Wanek, Ashley Furniture Industries

todd_wanek_ashleyThe August 19 edition of HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® revealed the 14th annual “People To Watch” in housewares during the next 12 months.

Selected by HomeWorld Business editors, “People To Watch” represents a cross section of a diverse housewares business— from established to newly installed company leaders; from large to small operations, from big-box to specialty retailers; from trade show managers to celebrity endorsers.

The HomeWorld “People To Watch” are in the spotlight not only for how they might impact their respective organizations in the coming months, but also for how they might impact the overall housewares business.

Todd Wanek, Ashley Furniture Industries, President & CEO

CREDENTIALS: Todd Wanek began his career at Ashley Furniture Industries shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technologies. He became general manager of Ashley Furniture Industries Taiwan then established and ran Ashley Furniture Industries business development in China, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia. Wanek returned to the United States in 1994 and worked on the purchase of an upholstered furniture manufacturing operation in Ecru, MS, assuming responsibility for Ashley Furniture Industries upholstery production at the same time, as well as the company’s growing international operations. Wanek became Ashley Furniture Industries president and chief operations officer two years later. In just another few years, in 2002, he succeeded his father to become Ashley Furniture Industries CEO.

WHAT TO WATCH: Ashley is preparing a major push into the ready-to-assemble furniture business. It is a sector in which the company has been quietly participating for some time, but now it intends to develop a broad, aggressive RTA initiative that will bring the resources of the world’s biggest furniture manufacturer, as Ashley has asserted its position in the market, further into the value sector. The company intends to manufacture furniture in the United States and Asia and will put an initial emphasis on bedroom, pushing on through casual dining and home office where it already quietly sells RTA. The launch beyond those categories should be evident soon and will challenge other RTA producer at a time when the strength of online sales makes the ready-to-assemble sector of the market attractive.

PERSPECTIVE: Ashley furniture has been an alternative to RTA. With the business focused on value case goods up to this point, how it moves RTA into the mix bears watching. At the same time, Ashley’s vast portfolio of stores includes licensees, and their reaction to the RTA initiative, and the company’s response, could change the direction of the organization, at least potentially.

2020 HomeWorld Business People To Watch (click on name for profile):

Rich Krause, Capital Brands

Jill Soltau, J.C. Penney

Marcelo Borges, Tramontina USA

Ross Patterson, Robinson Home

Dave Albert, Spectrum Brands

Christopher Banning, Meyer Corp. U.S.

Kris Malkoski, Arc Americas

Bryan Welsh, SodaStream U.S.

Todd Wanek, Ashley Furniture

Mike Otterman, Lodge

Mike Bauer, Libbey

Corie Barry, Best Buy

Lee Bird, At Home

Ryan Ross, Williams Sonoma

Mark Eichhorn, The Oneida Group

Ravi Saligram, Newell Brands

Derek Miller, International Housewares Association

Arthur Zambelli, Bradshaw Home

Mads Ryder, Lenox Corp.

Jay Jordan, Home Meridian