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Thomas Russell

Emerald revamps case goods lineup

HIGH POINT - Emerald Home Furnishings is making a big push into lifestyle oriented case goods this market as part of a growth strategy that aims to balance the wood and upholstery sides of its business.
The company is showing three new wood collections, each with 27 to more than 35 pieces of bedroom, dining room, occasional and home entertainment furniture. It also is showing two similar-sized groups first seen at the summer Las Vegas Market, but new to High Point.
The company has introduced bedroom and dining room groups in the past, some of which also had coordinating occasional. But the new groups represent what company officials believe is the largest number of lifestyle collections the company has shown at one time in its 50-year history.
In addition, there are several new occasional groups that coordinate with wood-trimmed upholstery.
"We really need to get back and embrace the wood side of our business," said company President David Beckmann, noting that before 2000 wood furniture represented as much as 70% of sales.
At that point, the company began a push into leather and fabric upholstery that has resulted in the category reaching about 60% of sales. Beckmann said he foresees the upholstery mix shifting back down to just under half of sales in order to reflect the industry's category breakdown at retail.
"Wood products are on the march," he said. "We would have done it earlier if it was ready. We are doing it now because it is ready and the timing is very good. We are seeing a turn in the housing market and in furniture sales."
The three new collections include:
u Beacon Hill, in figured cherry veneers in a warm, lightly distressed tobacco finish. Incorporating architectural details from old Brownstone dwellings, it features turned posts, decorative metal work and quarter round posts.
u Crystal Ridge, which has rustic modern architectural influences and is made with rustic white oak veneers in a chestnut brown finish.
u Sundance, with casual traditional Spanish and other Old World design influences. It is made with planked oak veneers and features carved edge moldings on cases and shaped overlays and rosettes on posts.
The two collections already seen in Las Vegas are Grand Dunes and Harmony. Grand Dunes has "desert modern" design influences, and Harmony is a clean lined collection that features bow shaped case fronts with flared legs, according to the company. These will ship in November and are expected to hit retail in January, while the new collections initially are expected to ship in about 90 days.
The lead time is expected to drop to 60 days with reorders.
Four-piece bedrooms are targeted to retail from $1,499 to $1,999 while five-piece dining sets will retail from $899 to $1,599. These middle price points represent the better portion of what is evolving into a good, better, best story at Emerald.
The new groups also represent a step up in features, compared with previous bedrooms sold in the $999 to $1,299 price points and five-piece dining rooms that retailed from $699 to $999. The new features include English dovetail drawer construction, supporting corner blocks on the drawer bottoms, full extension metal drawer guides, cedar lined drawers and charging stations for electronics.
The company also has narrowed its sourcing, focusing on three Vietnam factories where it will be able to produce a good, better, best wood story.
Before, it dealt with several different factories in Malaysia and Vietnam for its wood product. It will continue to deal with some factories in Malaysia for its casual dining, but will deal with the three Vietnam factories for its lifestyle-driven case goods.
"This represents more volume for these factories," said John Iasiello, vice president of wood products, who along with vice president of upholstery Jeff Katz joined the company earlier this year. "We said to them, ‘We will give you a lot of volume and in return, we want delivery and service.'"
Emerald's team also includes Robert Kirchmeyer, who rejoined the company in 2011 from the former Birmingham, Ala.-area retailer Stacks Furniture Outlet as a vice president, handling product development and operations.
Iasiello said that in an "outside-in" marketing approach, the company is going to retailers for feedback as it develops new product.
"We can have a much better success rate and we can increase our hit rate on new product by bringing retailers in and focusing on what their needs are," he said, noting that Emerald plans to host a retailer advisory meeting in early 2013.
"This is how I think we will win in the marketplace, by having that outside-in approach. It is a more customer-centered strategy."
Based on his sense of the improving economy, Beckmann said he believes the company is well positioned for growth.
"We are poised to evolve into the next generation of who we can be," he said.
While declining to reveal sales, he said the company grew its business in 2010 and 2011 and also expects to also grow this year.
"The message is clear," he said. "We are committed to the industry and are putting all our resources to work to improve our company and to be a better supplier.... We are here to serve."
Buyers can see the company's new wood and upholstery product at its showroom in Center Point 201.


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