When most companies use sports analogies to describe expectations, rarely do they actually utilize the help of a well-known player. Bassett Furniture (NASDAQ:BSET), a company I used to cover when I was a New York Wall Streeter, has enlisted the help of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway to "drive" sales.

Old No. 7 used to have a cannon for a right arm, but can he inspire people to buy cushy recliners and entertainment centers? The Elway Home Collection will provide football fans with the Sunday lounging furniture needed to enjoy the games and completely alienate themselves from the outside world. Bassett has also partnered with sports-themed ESPN Zone to place 10 Elway recliners in each restaurant's screening room.

Not only has Bassett introduced the Elway collection, but also it appears to be shifting its strategy from purely a manufacturer to a marketer. As a result of widespread attrition with furniture outlets, including an $8.7 million shipment decrease with J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) and a $4.1 million decline at smaller independent furniture stores this year, the company has focused its resources on boosting its Bassett Furniture Direct (BFD) concept. This retail model should amply take on industry competitors such as Williams-Sonoma's (NYSE:WSM) Pottery Barn and West Elm, Ethan Allen Interiors (NYSE:ETH), Bombay (NYSE:BBA), and Pier 1 Imports (NYSE:PIR).

The company has 109 BFD stores and hopes to add 20 to 25 stores per year over the next five years, with an eventual target of 300 stores. Bassett's third-quarter results might have been disappointing -- sales were down 1% from last year (and were 4.7% below expectations), and earnings of $0.17 per share were a cent beneath the consensus estimate but were $0.04 per share better than last year's earnings -- but the company appears to be taking significant steps to adjust to the changing furniture industry.

Sales to Bassett Furniture Direct stores made up 58% of total wholesale shipments in the first nine months of 2004, which compares favorably with the 52% of shipments last year. Year-to-date shipments into the BFD channel were up $14.6 million, or 13%, over 2003. The success of the company's stores falls squarely on Bassett's strategy to produce affordable custom-built furniture that is delivered within 30 days; the company also has more than 1,000 upholstery fabrics to choose from and offers free in-home design visits.

To say that Bassett's future rests on the broad shoulders of its BFD stores and Elway would be as obvious as saying that Donald Trump could use a decent haircut. Shares, which are trading at 18 times the 2005 earnings estimate of $1.05 per share, appear to be attractive relative to Bassett's nearly 20% future growth rate and robust 4.21% dividend yield.

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Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and enjoys Sunday football lounging. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.