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Cindy Hodnett

Upholstery delivers ideas at High Point Market

Sources help stores with display, coordination

HIGH POINT - The name of the game for upholstery manufacturers here is customer service, and the oft-quoted axiom is represented with expanded product options, creative showroom displays and quick delivery.
"Our retailers come here for ideas about how they can show their products, and many times, they display it just like we show it at market," said Reyna Moore, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Norwalk Furniture. "We also provide them with fabric samples they can take with them so that when they are out at other showrooms, they can immediately coordinate the products with their fabric selections."
Ashley Furniture's nine pieces for $999 retail program provides a variety of art and accessory items to complement the furniture package.
"This is the perfect way for retailers to sell more add-on pieces," said Kerry Lebensburger, president of sales and marketing for Ashley. "The execution in the store makes or breaks the experience for the consumer."
Lebensburger and others said a number of buyers came to market early, some arriving several days before Saturday's official opening.
"We had a lot of people come in on Friday," said Laurie Phillips of AICO/Amini Innovation Corp. "It appears that the majors are coming in earlier, and the general feeling has been very positive. All the key people have been in and are placing orders."
"Traffic for us was very steady throughout the market, and our numbers now indicate that we will double our sales this market over our best written market in seven years," said Robert Luce, president of Lazar. "The response to our new showroom and products was nothing short of amazing."
One trend here is that manufacturers are increasing product options in response to consumer demand for custom choices. For many, the standard industry phase of "as shown" has become passé.
Emerald Home Furnishings has 35 new styles, including chairs, recliners, motion, sectional and family room, according to Jeff Katz, vice president of upholstery.
"Down has been one of our big stories for market," Katz said. "We can ship three or four different styles from the same factory, so buyers aren't married to one particular look."
At Thomasville Furniture, the new Concord and Saranac upholstery collections at upper middle price points will ship to dealers in early 2013, said President Ed Teplitz.
"Concord and Saranac expand our offerings in casual lifestyle and offer the retailer an opportunity to sell a variety of configurations with a single floor placement," Teplitz said.
Best Home Furnishings is introducing what it calls YOLO, a line of chairs, benches and stationary groups that target Gen Y consumers with contemporary fabrics and affordable price points. (Best doesn't mention it, but YOLO can be text-speak for "you only live once.")
"We took our collection of retro-inspired, contemporary items and paired them with new fabrics," said Eric Vollmer, advertising director. "They retail between $300 and $400, ship to dealers in five days, and they are designed to appeal to teens, college students and young adults."
The YOLO line will include a sampling of the chairs, brochures, fabric swatches and point-of-sale materials.
"Contemporary has been a hot item for us for several years," Vollmer said. He said small retailers who have focused on traditional looks "can add something like this to their showrooms and it totally changes their look."
Décor-Rest Furniture, meanwhile, is offering the new You-nique program. Designed to provide customization options through finish, fabric and silhouette, the program incorporates 350 fabrics, 120 frames with choices in seat density, 30 ottomans and nine headboards.
"This gives retailers a savvy concept that renders the competitive edge they need," said Angelo Marzilla Jr., vice president.
Flexsteel is offering more than 1,800 fabric choices here, including a new line from Robert Allen created exclusively for the company. Flexsteel has added a modular component to its sectional line, offering retailers expanded display options.
"You can come up with any configuration and get smaller sectionals on the floor," said Justin Mills, director of advertising and public relations. That way, he said, retailers "don't need monster-sized vignettes to show the product."
Dellarobbia's president, David Soonlan, said that activity in his showroom points to a renewed sense of optimism.
"Every dealer that shows up is purchasing," Soonlan said. "And they are buying color. I think the recession is over and everyone is ready to get their mind out of a recession mentality."
Renee Loper, vice president of independent retail business development and marketing for Bassett, said the company's HGTV Home Collection is focusing on helping retailers market the line by assisting with space planning and providing point-of-purchase signage that complements the brand.
"It's all about providing extra service to the retailers," Loper said. "We learn their business and their store traffic patterns, and that allows us to help them become more strategic. It's a good foundation for a long-term partnership."

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