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Upholstery sources keep intros coming

Vegas willVegas will bring the heat and some sizzling introductions that include Marshfield’s jazzy new Tear Drop collection.
LAS VEGAS - Stationary upholstery manufacturers are expecting a typical summer market here this week, with a strong turnout from dealers in the Southwest and West.
     "The summer market is a little more regionalized. Arizona will be very good, Utah, Washington, Oregon - anything west of the Mississippi will be good," said Chris Podschun, president and CEO of LaCrosse Furniture.
     Nonetheless, the summer market "is a big deal for us," said Podschun, whose Kansas-based company will use it for an introduction of imported leather upholstery, including a sectional, two groups that include sofa, love, chair and ottoman, a motion sectional and high-leg, push-back recliners.
     After an "absolutely phenomenal" first quarter, April was the worst that Podschun has seen in his 37 years in the industry. "Then it got a little better in May and June and then in July the heat has hurt it some. But if business is good for the next couple of weeks, then it will be a good market."
     Chuck Massoud, president of upper-end upholstery maker Massoud Furniture, said he views the summer market here as a way to expose High Point introductions to a western U.S. audience.
     "If business conditions stay the same as they are now (Vegas is) not going to be any different than the small Dallas market we just attended. A lot of people said they didn't know a market was taking place," he said.
     Even when business is good, Massoud is an advocate of one market a year for major categories like case goods and upholstery - as in other large consumer durables industries. "We need to plan it in one spot, scale this thing back and concentrate on introducing the right product and not just product."
     Brian Einhorn, vice president of global sales and marketing for upholstery producer Albany Inds., expects "the same type of traffic we have gotten there. I don't expect anything more. The economy is the economy," he said.
     Still, the Mississippi-based company isn't slacking off on introductions, planning to expand its ready-to-assemble SoFab upholstery collection. "We introduced the concept in High Point (with four groups) and sparked a lot of interest so we decided to take it and run with it and have a major introduction at the Vegas market."
     In addition, he said the company is moving into a new product area by introducing a collection called Grayson with feather down seating that will hit somewhere around the $999 to $1,299 price point.
     "The summer market is typically much more heavily western-oriented," said Lee Fautsch, vice president of sales, home furnishings for Flexsteel. "We do get a few customers from the East and Midwest markets. But we know from our Southwest and Western regional customers that it's going to be very strongly attended."
     The company will be making a big statement in sectionals, he added. "More and more business is going to sectionals and we have reinvented some of our existing sectionals and will be introducing new ones," Fautsch said.
     Both retailers and manufacturers with be coming into market with mixed results for the previously months.
     "Retail is tough; there's no question about that," said Fautsch. But the home furnishings division of Flexsteel was up 16.3% for its fiscal year that just ended on June 30, and expects to beat last July's results.
     "This downturn does not necessarily preclude success for the manufacturers and the retailers who are being aggressive," he said.

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