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Upholstery makers have hopes up high

LaCrosse’sLaCrosse’s Wellington is available as a sofa-sleeper with a new gel mattress by Kingsdown. Retail is $699 for the sofa and $899-$1,099 for a sleeper.
LAS VEGAS - If optimism is golden, then this week's Las Vegas Market is Fort Knox for stationary upholstery makers.
     For the first time in three years, manufacturers are unbridled in their expectation of good order-writing, based on end-of-year business, the larger number of buyers expected to visit showrooms during the next few days, and stores that seem less reticent to stock up on inventory.
     "Vegas is going to be a big one for us," said Chris Podschun, president and CEO of Kansas-based LaCrosse Furniture Co. "We've been here since the first market and I think we have more appointments than the first Vegas market, which was the best market ever. I think it will be extraordinary."
     The mid-priced upholstery producer and leather importer has seen a strong pickup in orders and is introducing an abundance of new product in anticipation that dealers are feeling more confident going into a new year.
     Podschun said the company is introducing 40 new covers and seven new frames, and is expanding its 11-yearold eight-way, hand-tied imported leather program by seven groups, one of which is a sectional.
     In addition, LaCrosse is expanding into motorized motion, making "a massive introduction of bonded leather," and introducing a gel over innerspring sofasleeper mattress by Kingsdown.
     Klaussner will be expanding its imported leather program, and otherwise showing fabric and other product that premiered in High Point, said Len Burke, vice president of marketing.
     "We're anticipating a good market," he said, adding that sales continued to improve in the fourth quarter, from Veterans Day until the first or second week in December.
     "So far, what we're hearing is that people are looking for product," Burke said. "The response from our sales force is that we're going to see a lot of people out there."
     Rob Luce, president and CEO of Lazar Inds., said that Las Vegas isn't usually a new product market for the company, but this time the Los Angeles-based manufacturer is coming out with a major program with Ultrasuede covers.
     "I'm really excited about this Ultrasuede thing," said Luce, adding that the company will offer a significant discount program on the new intros for six months to generate sales.
     "Leather is selling so well for most companies, including us," he added. "Our leather business doubled last year and we think we can double it again in 2012. We felt the time was right to make everyone aware of what a great value Ultrasuede still is."
     Jamie Collins, vice president of sales and marketing for HomElegance, which has been primarily a wood resource, expects a major new upholstery collection to draw customers.
     "Retail has been pretty strong," he said. "Every major retailer I visit or talk to on the phone is telling me that business continues to pick up. I'm not sure what to expect from Vegas but I expect our traffic to be good and our order-writing to be above average because we've got some really great product, if nothing else."
     He added, "The mood should be very upbeat. I think there's pent-up demand in the marketplace and that's starting to take hold."
     Rene Cazares, CEO of upper-end upholstery maker RC Furniture, said the Los Angeles-based company is sticking to a strategy that includes using the most up-to-date fabrics available, even those from the Showtime fabric show in December.
     "Showtime is geared to the April High Point Market," he said. But despite time constraints, he added, RC is incorporating fabrics from that show as well as from other recent shows in Europe and Asia into its Las Vegas intros "because it's very important to me to roll it out before it's shown in High Point."
     RC Furniture will show around 200 new fabrics this market, along with 10 to 12 frame styles, said Cazares.
     "It seems like things are turning around and getting better," he said. "We really won't know until a few days after the show. But I've got a good feeling about this market."

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