Lower prices help sell leather upholstery
Larry Thomas -- Furniture Today, November 2, 2012
HIGH POINT - Hoping to recapture market share from products using bonded leather or faux leather covers, many leather upholstery resources focused on sofas with all leather covers at market as they touted the benefits of top grain leather.
Executives said many tanneries - particularly those in China - have been aggressively reducing prices in recent months, and that has helped narrow the cost gap between sofas with genuine leather and leather-like covers.
All-leather sofas with retail price points of $1,099 and $1,699 - rarities as recently as a year ago - were widely available at market, and a few broke the $1,000 barrier.
With bonded leather and faux leather sofas typically hitting $799 to $999, executives of many leather upholstery resources believe the perceived value of leather will convince consumers to step up to the genuine article.
"It's exciting that we now have the opportunity to offer the dealer better values in better leathers," said Lee Fautsch, vice president of residential furniture sales at Flexsteel. "This is true in both motion and stationary."
Flexsteel, Klaussner and Era Nouveau were among the vendors that did well at market with leather sofas at $1,699 and $1,899, while companies such as Leather Italia and Premier Leather Klaussner reported success at price points of $1,199 to $1,399.
"We feel like the consumer who will spend money on top grain leather will spend a little more to get what they want," said Nathan Munton, chief sales officer at Era Nouveau.
In many cases, producers were able to hit the lower price points by using less expensive split-grain leather on the back and sides, but executives said they believe such all-leather products still represent a better value than lower-priced models with matching bonded leather or vinyl in those areas.
Plus, they said the renewed interest in all-leather should help retailers boost sales per square foot and give consumers a better product - the same benefits that have long been touted by resources that specialize in higher-end goods that have always used all leather covers.
"For us, it's about fashion and design," said J.T. O'Rourke, national sales manager at upper-end producer W. Schillig. "We're finding that, as the economy begins to improve slightly, retailers are more apt to look at a new frame and take a chance on one they wouldn't have considered a couple of years ago. That's encouraging."
O'Rourke and others said that lighter and brighter leather colors also sparked interest among retailers at market. Various shades of gray and blue were among the most popular, but brighter hues such as white and tangerine also grabbed some attention.
"Of course, brown is still what drives the business, but colors like teal, blue and gray are very strong," said Mike Delgatti, president of Hooker Upholstery, which includes upper-end leather upholstery resource Bradington-Young.
Delgatti said Bradington-Young had success with a new lineup of swivel chairs and tub chairs, while another upperend resource, Chateau D'Ax, reported positive response to a pair of new power motion groups.
"The market was a good one," added Brad Cates, senior vice president of Natuzzi's high-end Natuzzi Italy line. "Our dealers weren't looking for just a price point. It's a program that conveys a lifestyle message."
Other market winners included a new sectional for the Urban Loft collection of smaller-scaled furniture at Elite Leather; a revamp of the popular Comfort Sleeper program at American Leather that includes a new proprietary mechanism; and the new City Living collection at Simon Li, which features smaller-scaled sofas that are 75 to 83 inches long.
The all-leather Roswell sofa from Leather Italia can hit retail price points of $1,199 to $1,499.
Premiere Leather’s newest all-leather stationary sofa, which comes with a matching chair and correlating accent chair, retails for $1,099 to $1,799 depending on the grade of leather.
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