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Norwalk Hires New Director of Retail Merchandising

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At the International Home Furnishings Market last April, in High Point, North Carolina, the Norwalk Furniture showroom was abuzz with the news of Deb McKirahan’s potential return after an unusual “sabbatical.” An integral part of the corporate merchandising team for many years, McKirahan has just returned from a two year adventure in Singapore to become director of retail merchandising, a new position encompassing the development of new merchandising product programs for the growing franchise group. “With her heightened level of energy and experience, Deb has a keen eye for home fashion and great insight into customer buying habits – including what’s hot, right now,” says Jim Gerken, president and CEO of Norwalk. “We are thrilled that she is back and will be an important player in our retail growth under the direction of Joan Ferman, new president of retail.” The McKirahan/Ferman team will be key to expanding the company’s fashion image. In her role, McKirahan will set the merchandising program for Norwalk’s franchise stores – nearly 80 in the U.S. and Canada, focusing on expanding product assortment with additional categories. New categories range from lighting, wall art and decorative accessories to soft goods. She will also be in charge of sourcing these categories domestically and internationally and continue to assist with the fabric buying process. McKirahan’s reintroduction to Norwalk came while living in Singapore; Gerken contacted her to look into international sourcing opportunities for the company – the part-time consulting work equipped McKirahan with much-needed sourcing knowledge, but also an in-depth look at buying behavior cross-culture and category. “It’s very interesting to see how people in different parts of the world shop,” she says. Prior to the part-time post with Norwalk in Singapore, McKirahan focused on expanding her ‘design’ experience…“anywhere I could,” she says as she refers to her family’s multiple address changes in the U.S. and abroad. She and her husband, Rick, moved from their home towns in Central Illinois to St. Louis, Atlanta, New Jersey, California, and to Singapore at the request of her husband’s former employer, UPS. While living in St. Louis, McKirahan worked as a designer for David Marshall, a local mirror manufacturer, and as a knitwear designer and merchandiser. “It was in St. Louis in the early nineties that I initially connected with Norwalk,” says McKirahan, and ultimately became corporate merchandiser for the company. A few years ago a request came from UPS that she and her husband relocate to Singapore. McKirahan reluctantly resigned and moved, but turned her international experience and passion for design into professional development by studying product design at Raffles Design Institute. A few months ago, she and her husband were both approached by Gerken to return for new positions – an opportunity in a unique family environment few couples have available to them. For more information on Norwalk Furniture, the leader in custom upholstered seating, go to www.norwalkfurniture.com.

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