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Youth bedroom experiences growth spurt

This sleigh storageThis sleigh storage bed is part of the Classics 4.0 collection, one of four new youth bedrooms launched under Universal Furniture’s Smartstuff brand. Its Summer White finish and Louis Philippe styling made it a hit with buyers at market.
HIGH POINT - Case goods resources stepped up their efforts in youth bedroom at the High Point Market in hopes of tapping into a fast-growing category.
     Some entered the category for the first time while others added to or revamped their displays to create more interest for buyers.
     Universal Furniture launched its Smartstuff youth bedroom program with four key collections, one for boys, one for girls and two unisex.
     Featuring twin beds that retail from $499 to $699, each collection has roughly 25 to 30 SKUs, said Kevin Miller, brands manager. Features include built-in headboard lighting, iPod or alarm clock trays for the upper bunk, hidden compartments in girls' dressers and removable partitions in drawers.
     Pieces in the group also have self-closing, full-extension drawers and safety features such as lead-free finishes, tip kits to prevent pieces from falling over, and grooved ladder steps on bunk beds for better traction.
     Made in the company's dedicated factory in China, the groups can be purchased on mixed and full containers as well as one piece at a time out of its High Point warehouse.
     "We were very pleased with the launch of that category for Universal," Miller said. "It is safe to say that it exceeded our expectations. Retailers recognized the differences in our product and what is in the marketplace in the way of price point, features, function and finish."
     All groups are in production and will ship out of the factory by the end of the year, hitting retail as early as February.
New Classic Home Furnishings has been in the youth category about 10 years. At the October market it made its biggest launch in memory with 12 new youth collections, each with as many as a dozen SKUs. The company devoted about 7,000 square feet of recently acquired space in its showroom to the category, said Rob Hoffman, executive vice president of sales and marketing.
     "Like a lot of people, we have dabbled in youth, but now we are a complete youth program," he said. "I have been selling youth for 30 years. People sell youth furniture, but there are very few programs in youth. The market needed quality, mid-priced youth furniture that can grow with the child and what better time than now? The youth market is underserved."
     Featuring twin panel beds that retail from $299 to $399 and twin-over-twin bunks that retail around $499, the New Classic groups feature dovetail drawer construction, felt-lined top drawers on case pieces, and storage. The product is available on mixed containers from overseas, on truckloads or one piece at a time from the company's warehouses in Greensboro, N.C., and Fontana, Calif.
     Bedroom manufacturer Vaughan-Bassett devoted about 9,000 square feet of its 26,000-square-foot showroom to the youth category.
     The company has been producing youth furniture for about eight years, but only showed it in a piecemeal fashion in High Point. This market, it showed each of its four major youth collections as a group, including a new addition in a white finish called Hamilton.
     With twin beds retailing as low as $399 and bunk beds retailing around $699, the collections also come in multiple finishes. Two have six finish options and the other two have three finishes. In addition to twin, full and bunk bed options, the groups also include a student desk, hutch and chair as well as footboard storage options.
     "It's a growing segment in the marketplace and without a doubt, it is a growing segment for Vaughan-Bassett," said Doug Bassett, chief operating officer, noting that youth sales represented about 5% of revenues five years ago and today they are just over 15% of sales.
     He added that response from dealers at market was positive, with placements on all four groups.
     Ashley Furniture also stepped up its youth merchandising efforts this market. Its showroom featured a new display for its iKidz initiative, which offers innovative features ranging from footboard storage and the incorporation of iPod docking stations and speakers built into headboards of panel storage beds.

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