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Casual dining adds extras at High Point Market

Better finishes, new options move product

Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, October 24, 2011

AT THE MARKET— Casual dining sources continue to report that having a little something extra is helping them close the deal with retailers.

At A-America, something extra has meant improving finishes and adding value. At John Thomas, it's a program with six elegant tabletop looks. At Cramco, a new Malaysian import program in various styles and prices is gaining traction.

Several casual dining companies said retailers have been visiting their showrooms early, before the market's official Saturday opening.

"Traffic started Wednesday. Friday was good. We're starting to see more big guys earlier," said Dave Shock, national sales manager for Cramco.

Cramco's introductions include 27 Malaysian wood dining groups. The offerings include contemporary designs and tables with better veneer treatments. One Malaysian factory offers good quality promotional with the ability to mix four sets on a container, he said.

"The promotional price seems to be very competitive in the marketplace. That's a good program for us," Shock said.

At A-America, finishes have become more important because they create depth and texture to help sell pieces at retail, officials said. Some of the company's pieces this market feature looks that are more common on high-end furniture. The Malobar Grove group features water specking, and the Kenosha group has a rough-sawn, wire-brushed bitter chocolate finish.

"The more women become involved in the process of what to buy, the more color becomes important," said Crystal Nguyen, A-America vice president of merchandising.

Nguyen said the company also is trying to add value within its price points. For instance, a medium-priced product may feature a better finish, lending an upper-end look but staying within its price point.

A big hit for A-America this market is the Kenosha dining program, a seven-table American oak design with mix and match chairs, she said. Also popular is Telluride, a rustic Arts & Crafts look with a chocolate finish and a sideboard with disco-fleck granite on top inset panels.

The company also is getting credit for a Parson's chair seating program that goes a step above Pirelli webbing and offers No-Sag seating with hand-tied knots, both of which help retain the shape of chairs longer, Nguyen said.

At John Thomas, American Classics is doing well with retailers. The program has six table top variations and is showing a walnut burl look this week, but crotch mahogany, birds-eye maple and crackle finishes are among other tabletop options, said Bryan Sprinkles, sales and marketing manager.

Tables sell for about $1,899 and are finished domestically. Upholstered seats also have domestic covers.
John Thomas also is doing well with its Solstice introduction, with upholstered seats and wood detailing, starting at $799 retail for a five-piece group, Sprinkles said.

At World Imports, three mix-and-match programs offering good, better and best stories are doing well, said Marc Luber, president.

Probably the best received features 10 chairs with six fabric options and three tables, plus an additional two side pieces. Retail starts at $499 on container-landed, five-piece dining groups in that program, Luber said.

Jofran is doing well with a Vietnam mixing program that allows home entertainment and occasional with dining in the same container, said Joff Roy, president. The program also is doing well because it allows minimum orders of 460 cubes, or cubic feet of space per container.

One well-received introduction is the No. 493 six-piece group, with bench, which has a mixed container retail of about $699 and comes with cable draw buttlerfly leaf storage, a chocolaty brown finish and fashion-forward fabrics, Roy said.

Bob Kelly, president of sales at Canadel, said the company's business has been good this week. Retailers are eager to find solutions to improve their business, he said.

"They want to listen and they want to try to implement things," Kelly said. He said the company is seeing success with introductions including six chairs, seven case pieces and a new steel gray color in the Champlain Collection.

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