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Market packs punch

Klaussner HomeKlaussner Home Furnishings introduced Carolina Preserves, a licensed collection with artist William Mangum that includes five sofa frames, coordinating upholstery pieces and about 35 wood pieces.
HIGH POINT - Amid signs of an improving retail business climate, exhibitors concluded the October market on an upbeat note with well-received product introductions and an optimistic corps of buyers.
     Most exhibitors said market attendance was about even with or slightly above the October 2012 event, but said they were impressed with the buying power their showroom visitors represented, as well as their frame of mind.
     "Retailers were more optimistic than they've been in a long time," said Ray Steele, co-founder of occasional furniture resource Gail's Accents. "In talking to them, they're interested in buying unique, better product so they can start making some gross profit."
     Doug Bassett, president of case goods producer Vaughan-Bassett, said that even a slight uptick is a positive sign for the market, given that the October market historically has been weaker than the April show.
     "The quality of the buyers who were here was outstanding, and if we're showing increases with a slightly shrinking pie (of retailers), that says good things about our market share," said Bassett, who also is chairman of the High Point Market Authority's board of directors.
     Exhibitors said buyers were especially eager to see the latest product introductions, and appeared more willing to take chances with products and programs they wouldn't have considered a couple of years ago.
     "As the economy starts to warm up, people are moving away from ‘safe' products," said Dwight Hardison, vice president of marketing at leather upholstery resource Simon Li.
     Major product rollouts such as Natuzzi's heavily promoted Re-vive recliner, the Carolina Preserves collection at Klaussner, Magnussen Home's debut in upholstery, and La-Z-Boy's stylish Urban Accents collection all did exceptionally well, according to exhibitors.
     "The launch of Natuzzi Revive was an overwhelming success," said Natuzzi Chairman Pasquale Natuzzi. "Our dealers quickly recognized the value of the product, the quality of the marketing and the overall potential of our newest brand."
     He said showroom attendance was up 30%, and said about one in four dealers committed to Re-vive at market while another 25% are planning to incorporate the program in the near future.
     "As the economy improves, our dealers are looking for new ways to increase their ticket, drive traffic and create excitement," Natuzzi said. "Re-vive certainly hits the mark, but all Natuzzi brands also capitalized on this trend."
     Bill Wittenberg, president and CEO of Klaussner, credited the launch of Carolina Preserves, a line inspired by North Carolina artist William Mangum, with creating a high level of "buzz" and a significant increase in showroom traffic.
     "This was an amazing market for us, during which we opened 109 new accounts," Wittenberg said. "Scores of customers came to see Carolina Preserves and bought it. We also won because even the customers who didn't buy it bought many of the other market introductions."
     Officials at case goods resource Universal Furniture, meanwhile, said it was the company's best market in about five years.
     "It takes time to reposition a company," President and CEO Jeff Scheffer said of Universal's product development initiatives. "We have had some things that have been successful, but it feels like we are finding our groove."
     He said the company was especially pleased with response to three new case goods collections, as well as bedroom and dining room additions to its Great Rooms program.
     Nathan Cressman, president of Magnussen Home, said response to the launch of his company's upholstery program exceeded his expectations.
     "The whole-home methodology worked, and year over-year, (showroom traffic) was up considerably," Cressman said. "We'll be coming back with more frames in the spring."
     Officials at bedroom and dining room resource Folio 21 said the company had one of its best markets since the importer was launched two years ago.
     "We had a large number of our introductions that we went into market already knowing that they were going to be cut or they were already in production," said Sean Slack, executive vice president of merchandising. "That gives the sales force a different level of confidence when they present a product and can say, ‘If you place orders right now, we're shipping this product in December.'"

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