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Larry Thomas

Market exhibitors upbeat

HIGH POINT - Despite sluggish showroom traffic, most exhibitors left High Point in a positive frame of mind after receiving a solid round of product commitments and orders during this month's market.
     Exhibitors said Top 100 retailers and other large chains shopped the market hard, as usual, but there appeared to be fewer buyers from small and mid-sized dealers - especially those based in western states.
     A few showrooms said traffic was as much as 30% to 40% below the October 2011 market, but most said the attendance declines were in the 3% to 5% range.
     "Attendance was down, but those (exhibitors) who really put forth the effort had a good show," said Heinz Kattenfeld, chief operating officer of the 220 Elm showroom building.
     Len Burke, vice president of marketing at Klaussner, agreed, noting that buyers from virtually all the company's key accounts visited the showroom.
     "The right people were here," said Burke. "Despite the attendance being down, we had a good market."
     Upholstery resources appeared to do especially well at market, with buyers showing considerable interest in the leather, motion and stationary upholstery categories.
     "I believe this season color, uniqueness and value were all very important factors in the retailers' choices," said Denise Alala, vice president of upholstery at Drexel Heritage. "Upholstery is a competitive arena at all different price points and we are successful when we create unique styles with distinctive textiles that are not found throughout the market place."
     Anthony Teague, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at upholstery resource Jackson Furniture, said his company had success with six new stationary upholstery groups and an equal number of new motion groups, which are sold under the Catnapper brand name.
     "Our focus was on comfort, and our dealers responded very positively to that," he said.
     The Catnapper line's biggest hit, according to Teague, was a motion sofa with gel-infused foam in the seat cushions. It can be upgraded by adding a third reclining seat and power mechanisms.
     Paul Peters, product portfolio director at Broyhill, said the company was especially pleased with response to a new contemporary collection called Atlas.
     "We also saw increased demand for sectionals, based on our Layla and Kayley placements, (but) the pleasant surprise of our market was the overall dealer interest in our new special order top-grain leather program," Peters said.
     On the case goods front, one of the biggest market winners appeared to be Lexington Home Brands' launch of the Tommy Bahama outdoor furniture line.
     Phil Haney, Lexington's CEO, said that for many dealers, the Tommy Bahama Outdoor Living line was the most comprehensive outdoor product they had seen. Styled after the company's bestselling indoor Tommy Bahama collections, it includes a 160-SKU mix of deep seating and sectionals, outdoor dining, bistro tables, bars, fire pits and occasional tables.
     Haney said the message Lexington conveyed to dealers new to the category was that this is a way to increase business for their stores in a growing and profitable segment of the industry.
     "There is a comfort level with the Lexington and Tommy Bahama brands that encouraged them to get into the category," Haney added. "The volume of orders booked in outdoor was nothing less than spectacular, so we are very happy with that."
     Sean Slack, executive vice president of merchandising at case goods resource Folio 21, said traffic was up 30% compared with the company's first market last October. He said the company also added about 20 new customers and increased its business with existing dealers, who added both new and existing groups to their assortment.
     In bedding, many exhibitors had a quiet market, but that was attributed to a relatively small number of product introductions. In recent years, bedding producers have saved most of their rollouts for the Las Vegas Market in January.
     "For this year's October market, we were thrilled with the response we received from customers about some of our most recent launches, including Optimum and the new pillow top model, as well as the new Sealy Gel Comfort Series line," said Jodi Allen, chief marketing officer at Sealy. "We are looking forward to continuing this momentum into 2013 with the launch of our flagship Posture pedic line."
     Michael Foster, president and CEO of case goods resource Calvin Klein Furniture, said traffic was flat from last April, his first market with the company. While attendance by domestic buyers was down, he said it was up 15% to 20% for international buyers, who represented countries such as China, Malaysia and Indonesia along with countries in the Middle East.

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