After 45 years in the furniture business, Universal Furniture CEO and President Jeff Scheffer has announced that he will step down at the end of the year. Current Senior Vice President Sean O’Connor will succeed Scheffer as president on January 1, 2023.
Since 2008, Scheffer has led Universal Furniture, a division of Samson Holding, taking it from a commodity casegoods manufacturer to a whole home resource, offering fashion forward looks across multiple styles in the upper middle market segment. He has driven the company’s modernization and expansion including a new showroom, a new domestic upholstery program, successful licenses with brands including Coastal Living and Miranda Kerr Home, and the introduction of a to-the-trade program for interior designers.
“Jeff’s leadership at Universal has been exemplary,” said Samuel Kuo, chairman of Samson Holdings. “Both his vision to revitalize the company and his ability to successfully navigate the business through unprecented challenges, including a recession and a pandemic, are laudable.”
Scheffer’s career comprises successful executive tenures at Universal Furniture, (vice president national sales 1992–1996), American Drew (president 1996-2001), Stanley Furniture (president and CEO 2001–2008) and Universal Furniture (president and CEO 2008-2022). His industry leadership positions have included chairman of the High Point Market Authority (2017-2018) and board member of the American Home Furnishings Alliance (2018-2022). Scheffer began his career as an assistant buyer in furniture for Burdine’s Department Store in 1978.
“It’s been an honor to work with Samuel and Grace at Samson. Their trust and support allowed us to change the company’s course and attract a new level of retailer, while expanding into the interior design trade,” Scheffer said. “I’d like to thank our employees, the people that I’ve worked for and learned from, and my industry colleagues, all of whom have made this such a wonderful ride.”
On January 1, 2023, Sean O’Connor will assume the presidency of Universal Furniture. O’Connor, who joined the company in 2011 as vice president of sales, was promoted to senior vice president of sales in 2017. He has been instrumental in the development of Universal’s upholstery program, both domestic and imported, and he is a life-long student of the home furnishings industry, having spent 14 years at Rowe before moving to Universal.
He began as marketing representative for Tennessee and Arkansas and ended his tenure at Rowe as National Sales Director.
“Leading a company like Universal has been a long-term goal,” O’Connor said. “Jeff is a great mentor with a widely-held reputation for personal integrity, and it has been an honor to work with him for the last 11 years.”
“This leadership change is a planned succession,” said Scheffer. “Sean and I have spent the last couple of years working closely together in the day-to-day operation of the company. He is well prepared for this next chapter in his career.”
O’Connor is focused on a singular goal for Universal — continuing to prioritize the development of furnishings that resonate with retailers and interior designers.
“More than anything, we want Universal Furniture to continue to be known as the easiest company to do business with,” O’Connor said. “We look forward to continued success in the future as we build on the relationships, craftsmanship and design expertise that has brought us this far.”
“We look forward to Sean’s tenure as president,” said Kuo. “We’ve watched Sean grow and succeed under Jeff’s mentorship and we are confident he will help the Universal brand continue to evolve to support customer needs.”