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Casual dining offers smaller scales, bigger options

Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, July 31, 2013

Southern EnterprisesSouthern Enterprises Inc.’s KA1029 pub table with wine storage retails for $249, fits small spaces and has storage for wine and bar accessories adjoining the side.
LAS VEGAS - There's quite a bit going on in casual dining for a summer market.
     This week will see complete overhauls of casual dining programs from some established players. Smaller-scale dining is a big trend for many companies. Suppliers are also promoting one-person extension tables and custom options here.
     This week's efforts follow those from the spring High Point Market where suppliers - many of which are here this week - including Magnussen rolled out contemporary looks and Steve Silver made a big splash with protective tabletop applications.
     Somerton Dwelling has the largest introduction of dining in its history, according to Rita Ho-Bezzola, president. Somerton recently announced a rebranding and new merchandising strategy.
     The dining line includes seven collections. Five-piece groups range from $1,199 to $1,399. Pieces feature treatments like cerused oak in a midnight black finish with a white hang-up; walnut veneers; mindi wood with a pale finish and white hang-up; walnut and cherry inlay and gray ash and walnut finishes.
     The line was designed to have a lifestyle feel, Ho-Bezzola said, adding that updated finishes are a big contrast to the company's overly brown past finish offerings in dining. The company is also using ball bearing glides for leaves in an effort to make tables easy for one person to use, she said.
     Amisco is introducing three sets in a new extension table program with storage for leaves in the table and ballbearing glide mechanisms, according to Laura-Émilie Coté, marketing manager.
     Tables, when fully extended, reach 90 inches long. Bases are made of steel while tops are in walnut or birch veneer applied to one-inch-thick, ultra-stable particle board. The program also offers customization options like 13 metal finishes and five wood colors.
     Coté said the groups are for consumers wanting for a contemporary look and who need something that's easy to open or close. Custom options also make the groups highly adaptable to decors, she said. Tables alone can retail for about $898 or with four chairs at about $1,499. Amisco is also adding six stools as it refreshes that category's assortment.
     In response to increased demand from consumers for compact footprint and multifunctional furniture solutions, Standard is offering space conscious dining with function for apartments and smaller urban spaces, said Debbie Dilbeck, sales and merchandising executive assistant.
     For this market, Standard has added the Smart Bar, which has a flip-top surface for extra serving or eating space in compact living areas. The bar has a drawer and sliding door storage area and a wine rack that is accessible from both sides. Casters allow the bar to be moved where needed or tucked away when not in use. It coordinates with backless square or round Smart Stools that are swivel or stationary and in a choice of four seat colors.
     Also in the small scale vein are items like Standard's Madison Park table, a recent introduction that folds down from the center to save space, and is doing well at retail, Dilbeck said.
Standard Furniture’s BridgeportStandard Furniture’s Bridgeport dining table is Regency-inspired with a vintage two-tone finish, combining at antiqued ivory base with a dark brown cherry veneer top.

     She said Standard is also focused on a two-tone finish trend for the market here. Combinations include colors like driftwood and white, dark cherry and white, brown tone woods and linen textures, and black and white with metallic- tones such as stainless or copper.
     Also popular are the light antique taupe or ivory paint colors combined with medium brown wood tones, like the new Bridgeport dining group, she said.
     At Southern Enterprises Inc., or SEI, which mostly supplies Internet retailers, a big focus here is helping retailers understand the importance of communicating items' scale and usage to end consumers, according to Jim Schmidt, senior vice president of marketing and merchandising.
     In casual dining, a big part of that message comes is smaller scale items for rooms. Two of its casual dining tables are smaller footprint casual dining pub tables but they also feature a storage option for wine and bar accessories.
     The company is also offering several barstools ranging from $99 to $199 - but matching stools to dining isn't a major priority.
     "What we're finding is the Millennial consumer and the online shopper may have more fun putting three or four kinds of accent style barstools together as opposed to three matchy-matchy things, kind of make a statement in that regard," Schmidt said.
     Todd Bower, product manager at Home Trends and Design, said the company is doing well this year with wood and iron looks in dining. One of its big introductions this week is Organic Forge, with a raw wood top, cast iron forged base and matching bench.
     "It's part of our industrial theme. We have a lot of iron and wood combinations," Bower said, adding that the company has 15 of those combos in its line ranging in size from 72 to106 inches long. He also noted that among hot selling looks this year is a medium stained walnut finish.
     Dean Banks, senior vice president, sales, marketing and merchandising at A-America, said business is getting better, but success at retail largely is still regional. The Northeast, Midwest and states like Arizona and California are doing well - with mid-size to larger regional retailers showing impressive growth.
     Banks said pricing continues to be a big driver and value within price points is key. The company's strength continues to be offering attractive looks in solid wood within middle tier bounds of $999 to $1,799 for a five-piece group - while still offering lower end looks that would retail for $799, Banks said.
     At Canadel, a big story is the Las Vegas debut of the straight-lined, urban contemporary industrial styled Loft collection and its finishing technique, according to Howard Cohen, director of sales.
     The collection just started hitting retail floors and additions are planned for the collection later this year, including the addition of mixed media elements, he said.
     Cohen said from a trend standpoint, consumers are still showing a preference for contemporary designs and upholstered seats are growing in popularity over wood.
     "The trend is away from more country and traditional still trending towards more contemporary and transitional and we are doing a ton of upholstery," Cohen said, adding that Canadel recently added about 15 employees to its upholstery department.

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