Universal promotes longtime veteran to key merchandising role

HIGH POINT – Universal Furniture promoted has promoted Janine Wagers to vice president of visual merchandising, effective May 1. During her more than 20 years with the company as director of visual merchandising and creative director, Universal says she’s created the face of its brand as it’s presented to customers at High Point Market.

“Janine is an industry veteran and an expert in her craft,” said President Sean O’Connor. “That’s evident to everyone who steps through the showroom doors. Her ability to create a visual story and make the collections come to life inspires our customers.”

“I never work in a silo,” said Wagers. “It takes everyone in the organization to make Universal look and feel like Universal: to have the showroom design tell a story and create an immersive experience for guests.”

Wagers oversees a team of four, directing strategy and the visual representation of the Universal brand. She works closely with product development, sales and supply chain partners, using data and trend research to determine what’s most important in each room of the 115,000-square-foot showroom.

She finds inspiration in nature, international trade shows, antiques shows and even restaurants.

“Design inspiration comes from facing challenges, but that’s what makes it exciting,” said Wagers. “Designing a space that has that wow factor while also fitting into the parameters of budget, timeline, and other logistical considerations is a challenge. But when it all comes together beautifully and seamlessly, leaving people talking about the space afterward, that’s what makes it all worth it.”

Wagers graduated from the University of Georgia in 1985, where she received a BFA in interior design with a minor in furniture design from the Lamar Dodd School of Art. After graduating, she began working with Bassett Furniture, designing furniture and then retail spaces for its gallery program, and later moved on to designing showrooms and running her own interior design business. In 1989, she started her career at Universal as a showroom designer, working her way up to become the company’s first creative director, and now its first female vice president.

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