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Premarket draws more dealers

HIGH POINT - Retailers looking to get a jump start on the April High Point Market were in town last week to see new product and, in some cases, lock in distribution.
     In what many view as a sign of the improving economy, the March 19-20 Premarket was one of the best attended in recent years, exhibitors said. Samson Marketing President and CEO Kevin O'Connor, who chairs the Premarket organizing committee, said that about 400 dealers registered.
     The event has come a long way since fall 2007, when it struggled to get 40 retailers, O'Connor said. But sponsoring exhibitors, 16 in 2007 and 24 at the latest edition, refused to see Premarket die, he said.
     Retailers got to view finished product from key resources at Premarket, about a month in advance of the April 21-26 market. Including sponsors and others, about 72 exhibitors had their showrooms open.
     Companies including Hooker, Stanley and Bernhardt showed pieces from new whole home collections.
     Bernhardt had samples from Mercer, a modern collection, and Belgian Oak, which has casual traditional design elements. CEO Alex Bernhardt Jr. said the company saw 76 accounts over the two-day event.

This bed
This bed is part of Classic Chic, one of four collections in the new HGTV Home line by Bassett. It is in walnut veneers and has a contrasting walnut and ivory finish.
Shermag’s contemporary Pierce credenza features walnut veneers and finish.
Tony RicciTony Ricci, left, Wynwood; Brad Proesch and Chris Etheredge, both of Conn’s, Beaumont, Texas.
Craig Hearn, Jr., left, Hearn Furniture Sales; Morgan Horowitz and Katie Douglas, both of Home Gallery Stores, Richmond, Va.
Craig Hearn

     "We had more customers than we have ever had at Premarket and there was more attendance across the board this time," he said.
     Stanley reported seeing 70 accounts, about 15 more than at the last Premarket. Dealers got an early look at Arrondissement, a 65-piece whole home collection with relaxed 18th and 19th century European design elements.
     Bassett Furniture had samples of virtually all of four new whole home collections covering some 300 pieces in its new HGTV Home line. HGTV and curator Jena Hall created the collections based on months of research into the tastes and lifestyles of a largely female viewer base of the HGTV network, which reaches some 99 million homes, the company.
     An HGTV Home showroom, in a separate space from Bassett's main showroom in the International Home Furnishings Center, drew plenty of interest from dealers who have been reading about the line since it was announced in September.
     At Hooker, retailers came in to see introductions including the 70-piece Rhapsody, a classic European-inspired whole home collection that incorporates grand scale scrolls and rope leaf moldings. Company officials said they were pleased with both attendance and the response to their introductions.

Shawn Cantrell, left, Prime Resources International; Kimberly Brooks and Mike Estridge, both of Badcock Home Furnishings & more, Mulberry, Fla.
RosemaryRosemary Jenrette, left, Johnette Coker and Anne Washington, all of Hucks & Washington, Conway, S.C.

Gary Ward, left, Babette’s Furniture & Home Shoppe, Leesburg, Fla.; John Matter and Stewart Matter, both of Matter Bros. Furniture, Fort Myers, Fla.; Brian Ward, Babette’s; and Tom Matter, Matter Bros.
Gary Ward,
Larry Klaben,
Larry Klaben, left, Morris Furniture, Fairborn, Ohio; Mike Hershel, Furniture Marketing Group; Joel Huseby, Becker Furniture World, Becker, Minn.; Mark Stephens, Furniture Brands International; Gary Woodham, Colfax Furniture, Greensboro, N.C.; and Robert Rubin, Bernie & Phyl’s, Norton, Mass.

     Alan Cole, president of Hooker Furniture, said that many accounts were reporting that their business has been up in recent months. He said many also appear to be spending money to expand or improve their properties.
     "Everybody seems to be willing to make new investments either in new locations or they are upfitting their stores," he said. "People seem to be taking advantage of a recovering economy."
     Stanley also saw many of its most important accounts and was able to get commitments on Arrondissement, which is already in production.
     "Any time you can get in front of buyers ... and to be able to get commitments from buyers is time well spent," said Adam Tilley, vice president of product management.
     He added that buyers also appeared to be in good spirits and appear to be willing to focusing on value instead of just price, which was "really refreshing."
     Officials at Fine Furniture Design said they, too, were pleased with the turnout.
     "It seems that January and February were good months at retail for our customers," said Ted Philpott, president and CEO. "You had good attendance here because you had good January and February business. They are figuring, ‘I better be out shopping because I don't want to get caught short.'"
     Staff Writer Heath E. Combs contributed to this report.

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