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Case goods vendors encouraged by market

Heath E. Combs, BCST Staff -- Furniture Today, August 13, 2013

This Highland ParkThis Highland Park buffet has several of the signature design touches in Lexington Home Furnishings’ Tower Place collection, including a step front, rose gold trim and gold feet. It also features drawer storage behind the central front door.
LAS VEGAS - Case goods suppliers are hoping that the second-half of 2013 is better than the first.
     Many Las Vegas Market exhibitors reported that business conditions are OK - not great - but that economic indicators point to improvement by year's end. The market seemed to indicate a step in that direction.
     Scale and service were two of the big stories here for case goods suppliers. That doesn't necessarily mean scaled down - but scale that addresses both bigger and smaller spaces. Also, this market saw a continuing trend among indoor furniture suppliers now offering outdoor groups.
     Sunny Designs reported that among its best received pieces was a Monterrey extension table that expands to 80 by 80 inches and also has adjustable legs allowing it to move from dining to counter height. A 13-piece dining group can retail for about $2,999 depending on how it's purchased and comes in birch solids and veneers with a merlot finish.
     Also addressing scale was an extension bench - offering a solution to a problem when dining tables are extended, said West Allen, vice president of merchandising. The company has applied for a patent.
     Also getting goods looks were larger television consoles. Sunny Designs has two collections of larger consoles ranging from 75 to 95 inches in length.
     The company's outdoor offerings were also a hit, especially hand-woven synthetic wicker groups. Sunny Designs is targeting furniture stores with the groups and can mix its outdoor and indoor groups on containers.
     "We're getting good feedback and response. We're talking about growing the program in ways that will be the most beneficial, like adding accessory pieces," Allen said.
     Lexington Home Brands introduced Tower Place with 26 case goods items in a soft contemporary style. President and CEO Phil Haney said macroeconomic factors say business should be better in the second-half - but it has been hard to make any solid predictions in the last few years, he said.
     "The middle summer is having good order rates," Haney said. "I'm bullish on the fall. I think we're going to have a good finish."
     He's also bullish on outdoor, since Tommy Bahama is a brand that resonates with consumers. Lexington was one of the early entrants into the growing indoor/outdoor supplier trend. Haney said the Las Vegas Market would allow Lexington to get a good jump with retailers on the Florida selling season that starts heating up in October.
     Michael Anderson, national sales manager for Michael Ashton Designs, which debuted in High Point earlier this year, also said he was pleased with the results of the Vegas show.
     "It was lightly attended. But the guys we saw - we got a lot of new placements, we're on a lot of new floors - so all in all I'd say it was a successful western visit for us," Anderson said. "The guys that came in were serious and we got on a number of new floors, which we're thrilled with."
     The strength in its line is solid wood, four-piece bedrooms that retail from $1,999 to $2,999. The company showed 11 of its 12 total groups here.
     Anderson said the company's Mission group created a lot of interest and the company plans to enter the casual dining category at the fall High Point Market.
     At AICO scale was key, according to Chuck Reilly, senior vice president of sales and marketing. Reilly said the company targeted specific retailers who wanted smaller scaled items suited to tighter living quarters, a void in its line.
     He said the market was very strong and one of the company's better order writing shows.
     "A lot of times you do most of the writing after market but we got quite a bit done here and (have) quite a bit more to get on the road. We feel really good about the new introductions and going into High Point it'll just get even better," Reilly said.
     In the smaller items, AICO didn't sacrifice any of its signature design touches. The new groups mimic elements of successful collections such as Hollywood Swank. It also worked in new woods like ash and is targeted some casual beach looks.
     "We're not taking out any quality. Scale is important," Reilly said. "People want a major bed but they don't have the room to make everything else big."
     Emerald Home Furnishings continued to refine its bedroom program. Dealers were receptive to the consolidation of vendor factories from nine to three and the resulting good, better, best story, according to John Iasiello, vice president of wood products.
     Iasiello said Emerald is collaborating more with dealers in the category and is determined to gain multiple slots on floors. Since Iasiello joined in 2012, the company has introduced about 16 bedrooms that run the gamut of style with a focus on $1,499 to $1,999 four-piece groups.
     He said dealers responded to a consistent message focusing on better scaling and finishes, English dovetail construction, metal ball bearing guides, full-extension guides and cedar drawer bottoms. He added that the company isn't looking to offer "me too" product, but wants designs to be unique and thus have a longer lifecycle.
     Standard continued to have success with heavyweight 20-millimeter vinyl applications like faux oxidized copper and brushed stainless steel tops on dressers. Modern asymmetrical design elements are doing well, said Debbie Dilbeck, sales and merchandising executive assistant.
     Among its market hits were the domestically made, glossy white Metropolitan bedroom with a modern look and with edgy asymmetrical details and eye-catching metallic accents. Pieces feature clean square shapes paired with linear elements and off center bar pull hardware.
     The company also did well with the Avion bedroom in a transitional style with angled case corners, floating top and raised base with tapered angled legs. Drawer fronts have narrow flat strips framing surrounding decorative veneer patterns of cherry, walnut and primavera.
     Tim Ussery, executive vice president sales at Standard, said recent retail expansions bode well for suppliers. What's been exciting, he said, is the quality of retailers that are expanding.
     "In 2008 and 2009 there were holes left. We knew they would get filled and they're coming back with retailers who know how to open a store," Ussery said. "Our growth has been coinciding with retail, and we're trying to stay committed to our growth plans."


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