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Better price points sit well with casual dining

Norwalk had a good responseNorwalk had a good response to its Benton Collection, which is made of wood from barns built by German immigrants more than a century ago.
HIGH POINT - Casual dining suppliers found room in their lines for better goods at the recent market here.
     Contemporary continued to grow in dining in a breadth of looks - among them architectural modern, urban and loft, Art Deco, Asian, industrial, mid-century modern, retro and postmodern.
     Nobody gave up on bread and butter promotional groups - sales of which are growing for companies like Lifestyle Enterprise - but better quality goods got more action in the $599 to $999 range at companies such as Steve Silver and Cramco.
     Dave Shock, Cramco's national sales manager, said the company started to see more movement in the $599 to $799 price range and up to $999 for some groups. That has meant putting more look into the product and creating more interesting bases.
     "We've been in the contemporary chrome business for years but now we've added a lot of design to it to give the consumer a reason to get into it," Shock said.
     Retailers liked contemporary sets with surfboard shapes, intricate steel bases and chrome accents, spring-loaded butterfly leaf storage and polyester tops that resemble lacquered looks.
     Contemporary looks also made their way into Cramco's American-made castered dining - sometimes called motion dining - with black paint and neutral color seats proving popular this market, he said.
     Steve Silver added significantly to its dining offerings in the $799 to $999 range and retailers noticed. The company had 25 new groups at market with retailers responding to rustic pine looks, pieces with planing and light distressing, chunky Mission looks, tabletops with band-saw cut accents, wire-brushed looks, and blue stone and marble wrap tops.
     "We want items that retailers can make margin on," said Steve Silver, president. "We're not moving up. We're adding price points."
     Custom dining manufacturer Canadel continued to see a move toward contemporary, said Howard Cohen, director of sales. Its curvy Euro-contemporary and mid-century-inspired looks did well, as did a new thick box leg option.
     Canadel had good response to a new weathered gray finish with some chalky hangup. Retailers were also seeking out the company as the trend toward colorful designs gains steam, Cohen said.
     Norwalk got good response to its Benton Collection, made with reclaimed wood from barns built more than a century ago by German immigrants in Holmes County, Ohio.
     Tables have thick, lightly finished planked wood tops that still have original rotary saw cuts, using oak and other woods. Retail for a table is about $1,999, according to Reyna Moore, vice president of merchandising and marketing.
     Moore said retailers liked how the set was shown with Norwalk's Moxie stool seats, which have storage options and velvet animal print fabric.
     "People are looking for pieces that you can scoot up to the dining table to use as a chair, put your feet up on or use it as a cocktail," she said.
     Stanley drew attention with an intricate wood treatment on its Rustica dining group in two finishes, according to Kevin Bowman, senior vice president of sales. The table is made with sophisticated thick-cut, white mahogany solids and veneers, with circular back-saw cuts. It has a highly developed finish with wire brushing, planking, chiseling, hatchet marks, exposed wood grains and lots of handwork.
     "It's designed to be livable dining - luxurious, livable dining. In premium goods, that consumer doesn't want to sacrifice sophistication in the dining room," Bowman said.
     At Lifestyle Enterprise, casual dining has grown significantly, according to Derrick Ng, assistant vice president, particularly in the $199 to $599 retail arena. Popular features include faux marble wraps, pieces with light wire-brushed veneers, X-bases, matching tile inlay on seat backs and table tops, slight rub-through on metal, microfiber seating and scrollwork on certain pieces.
     Gat Creek President Gat Caperton said retailers liked the company's Samuel dining table with architectural design influences and clean lines. At retail, Caperton said, light and pure browns and grays are getting more action, while browns with a reddish hue are slowing.
     Retailers visiting Intercon liked the La Rive wire-brushed, restored-look solid oak tables with rift and plain cut grains, the ability to extend to 104 inches, and 18th century French-influenced design, according to Sam Turpin, vice president of marketing and sales.
     A seven-piece group would retail for about $1,999, he said, adding that the look gives an updated feel to a wood that's known for more traditional looks.
     "I think the finish is so unique and the look is so high end and with that unique wire brushing and oak finish that this seems to have re-established itself as a possible 21st century oak," Turpin said.
     Among other Intercon groups doing well were the Arlington two-tone traditional design in black and java or white and java, and mango dining, of which the company has about eight groups. Turpin said mango's unique grain characteristics make it popular at price points in the $599 to $999 retail range for five-piece groups.
     Jonathan Charles had good response the rollout of a custom dining program, which customers will be able to sell via the Internet or in stores, said Jonathan Sowter, CEO. Retailers will be able to get prompt delivery date and pricing through the program, he said.
     "We want to help our designers offer better service to their customers," Sowter said. "If someone wants to pay for something in their house, why not get the exact dining table they want?"

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