Buyers in spending mood at Atlanta market
Thomas Russell -- Furniture Today, January 10, 2014
ATLANTA — Furniture companies showing at this week's Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market reported a steady flow of traffic Thursday from both designers and retailers seeking to freshen their assortments during what could be a turnaround year for the industry.
On the heels of a record year for the stock market and heading into an improved housing market, companies said customers appeared ready to spend money on new and inline product.
"Things are just getting better. People are feeling more comfortable and people are opening their wallets with less nervousness," said Michael Feder, president of case goods importer Trade Winds Furniture.
Feder estimated that 15% of his merchandise here is either new product or product many buyers here hadn't seen from the fall High Point Market. Among the new items are a console in the company's popular River Wash finish and some new counter stools. It also is showing a new four-piece occasional group shown in both River Wash and a two-tone gray and white painted finish.
Feder also noted that over the past two years, the company has been steadily building its inventory in its Charlotte, N.C., to be able to ship product quickly to its customers.
Mac Cooper, president and CEO of The Uttermost Company, said Thursday's traffic was much stronger than Tuesday's opening day.
"Tuesday and Wednesday traffic was on the light side," he said, of the change from a typical Wednesday to the new Tuesday opening day. "It may take a while for customers to get used to this schedule."
At the Atlanta show, the company sees a lot of furniture stores with a heavy emphasis on accessories and its showroom presentation reflects a generous mix of furniture as well as accents, lighting and accessories.
"A lot of these companies don't buy from large furniture sources," he said, adding that furniture has been one of Uttermost's better categories of late, representing about a quarter of its business. "Our intent is to offer very designer-oriented accent pieces not available in some of the main furniture lines."
Century Furniture said that its traffic was up about 5% in the first two full days of the show. Company sales representative Bob Lynch attributed that to the fact that Century changed its showroom with mostly new case goods and upholstery from both the fall and spring 2013 High Point markets instead of offering mostly inline product. He informed his customers of that change before the show.
"I told customers that we redid the space, so they came in," he said.
The newer items included some upholstery frames as well as a $6,000 retail dining table made with walnut veneers and shown in a slate gray finish. This is one of 107 finishes Lynch said are available in the line.
Don White, national sales manager at case goods and upholstery resource Gabby, said his lineup includes six new upholstery frames as well as case goods introductions from High Point.
He said traffic appeared typical for the first couple of days of a market. But like others, he was expecting a boost through the weekend.
"The big days are tomorrow (Friday) through Monday," he said.
Traffic also appeared brisk in the temporary spaces, which at past markets have opened on Friday, but opened this time on Thursday.
The temporaries are open through Jan. 13 and the permanent spaces are open through Jan. 14.
Show organizers said buyer registrations on Tuesday topped previous opening-day totals, while a new Mobile App for the show had more than 5,500 downloads on opening day and was expected to exceed 10,000 this week. The first day registrations tracked advance pre-registrations, which posted their highest gains in six years, officials said.
Market first-day registrations included retailers and designers from every U.S. state, together with international registrations that by close of market will include buyers from more than 90 countries.
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