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Ray Allegrezza

Buyers Made it to Atlanta Despite Wintry Weather

Englishman’s Fine FurnishingsEnglishman’s Fine Furnishings showcased this upholstered king poster bed in alder solids with a medium cherry finish.
ATLANTA - Despite harsh winter weather that blanketed much of the Southeast, furniture suppliers received a strong reception from those who made it into town for the Jan. 12-19 Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market.
     An unknown number of furniture executives, retail buyers and designers were unable to make it to the show due to canceled flights. Still, vendors were well prepared with a mix of bestsellers and new introductions for 2011.
     Show organizers also urged vendors to stay open a couple of hours later than their usual daily closing time for buyers facing compressed travel schedules.
     While traffic at the show was slow for many during the first couple of days, vendors said buyers were upbeat. Some placed orders in an effort to replenish depleted inventories and freshen up tired looking displays on their floors.
     Officials at accent furniture specialist Furniture Classics said that traffic was light the first two days of the show. However, they said that traffic picked up over the weekend and continued strong on Monday and early Tuesday.
     "People that are coming here are upbeat and are placing orders," said Michael Ricks, president. "Everybody is talking about whatever small successes they have had and are building upon them."
This writing deskThis writing desk in yellow rosewood from South Africa is among the campaign-inspired pieces at Starbay.
     Michael Feder, president of case goods importer Trade Winds Furniture, also said that traffic picked up over the weekend.
     "Traffic was so oddly dispersed at the show because of the weather," he said, adding that the average size of written orders also was up from last January. "It just became more concentrated in fewer days.... It seems that the business we lost and the people we didn't see on the front end, we did see over the weekend."
     Mat Marsh, president of furniture and accessory specialist Coast to Coast Imports, said the company decided to return to the show after its strong showing in July.
     "Despite the inclement weather, we had lots of walkin traffic and I can tell you that the buyers who were here are looking for furniture," he said.
     Marsh and others reported that a number of customers saw an uptick in business in the fourth quarter, and many who came were hungry for new products.
     "We believe we are making strong inroads by constantly refreshing our line," Marsh said. "We have new looks and perhaps, most importantly, we can ship immediately."
     Some companies upfitted or expanded their spaces in Atlanta to better showcase their lines. Four Hands added about 1,500 square feet to show its Esquire Home Collection launched last year and its new Kelly Hoppen line of contemporary upholstery and case goods.
     Century Furniture added new flooring and a coat of paint to its showroom to better showcase a new concept called Century Studio. The concept includes entry level price points representing the good part of the company's upholstery line and imported product that represents the better part of its wood line.
Palecek appealedPalecek appealed to designers’ tastes with this accent chair available in multiple finish and fabric options.
     Included in the lineup were wood pieces designed by Pride Sasser. Among them were a 95-inch trestle dining table with a wire brush finish and a white waxy hangup, writing desks and various painted and mirrored chests.
     Furniture Classics also added new flooring, new lighting and a small administrative office to its showroom. Its lineup included a new collection of adjustable height tables and barstools made with recycled elm and wrought iron bases.
     "We test the waters (in Atlanta) before we do a full launch," said Ricks, Furniture Classics' president.
     Trade Winds showcased its River Wash collection, which features bedroom, dining room and occasional items made from sustainable mindi solids in a lightly distressed, eight-step, driftwood-like finish. Pieces also come in colors such as blue, white and green.
     New pieces this market included a headboard and bed bench, an open display shelf, a leg table and a gathering height table. Feder, the company president, said the collection has received strong response from retailers and designers.
     "It's natural looking, it has a green story and it mixes well in different settings," he said, adding that designers in particular like the finish options.
     Accessories and accent furniture specialist Palecek showcased its Soleil Havana lounge chair and sofa, both which feature a woven sea grass frame. Retailing at $2,300 and $5,100 respectively, these are just hitting retail floors.
     Palecek also showed a line of new frames in its Select and Inspirations chair programs, which allow customers to "build their own chair" through the selection of frames, fabrics and various forms of nail head trim.
Furniture ClassicsFurniture Classics’ new adjustable-height table and companion barstools are made with recycled elm and feature wrought iron frames.
     In addition to its new line of custom kitchen cabinetry, Englishman's Fine Furnishings showcased a number of new beds, including the Hampstead in alder solids in a light cherry finish and ebony trim, and an upholstered panel poster bed, also made with alder solids in a medium cherry finish. Both beds retail at $7,500.
     Starbay Furniture showcased a line of campaign-inspired tables, chests and desks made with yellow rosewood from South Africa. Customers liked the campaign influences seen in the recessed hardware and louvered details on select items.
     For Starbay, the show got off to a strong start, with traffic up 30% on the second day, making it one of the strongest in the company's history at the Atlanta show. The traffic included a mix of designers and retailers from the Carolinas, Florida and as far west as Seattle, said Ed Hysler, a rep covering much of the Southeast.
     Some retailers attending the show said they were optimistic about their prospects in 2011.
     Michael Forde and William Griffin of Four Corners Home in Asheville, N.C., said they've seen an uptick in business and believe they need to present new looks to shoppers.
     "For most of 2010, we would hear customers say, ‘I love it, but I probably don't need it,'" Forde said. But this year, more customers are saying, "I love it, I probably don't need it, but I want it and am buying it."
     "And as a result, you constantly have to have fresh new looks in the store," added Griffin, "By always having new looks in the store, it is a great way to build on the customer loyalty you've already established."

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