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  • Clint Engel

Las Vegas turns up the heat

Las Vegas - The spike in dealer moods that exhibitors here were seeing back in July intensified during the just concluded winter market, with both business and traffic up for many.
     Even after adjusting for the earlier start this time, many suppliers said foot traffic was either on par or far outpaced the winter market a year ago and that dealers were responding to their merchandising twists that ranged from better pricing to new scaling and innovative technology to more custom options.
     And their votes of confidence were seconded by a number of top retailers here contacted by Furniture/Today.
    The AICO showroom at the top of World Market Center Building C, buzzed with activity most of the market, with traffic up 12% through the first three days of market, said President Martin Ploy.
     "We've had great compliments from buyers about everything we've done, especially the new Studio introduction," added AICO founder and CEO Michael Amini.
     The smaller scale Studio, he said, "is appealing to a global market, including areas we would like to expand - in Asia, specifically Japan, Korea and Singapore, Western Europe, as well as a lot of metropolitan cities in the United States and Canada."
     Among the well-received new Studio enhancements was the addition of special order availability for all 27 collections. The full scope of fabrics is now interchangeable across all collections, Amini said, with delivery to dealers within four to six weeks of the order date.
     Case goods manufacturer Sunny Designs said that it saw 480 dealers the first two days of market, compared to a typical 400-450 during the same timeframe for the January market.
     "It's tracking to be our best market," said Hokeun Lee, vice president of sales.
     Company officials also said that dealer attitudes have been mostly positive with high levels of commitments and orders on new and inline goods.
     "Nobody is coming in grumbling about how bad business is, but they do want to do more business, and they are looking for fresh looks," added West Allen, vice president of merchandising.
     Full-line resource Furniture of America saw had strong traffic on Monday and Tuesday from both existing and new customers.
     Of the two days, Monday was the strongest, with traffic up 50% from last January. It was "the single best day we've had at any show in traffic and order writing," said Mike Genrich, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
     He attributed the increase in part to stepped-up marketing efforts as well as positive word of mouth advertising in the industry, as well as visits from buying groups Brand Source and Mega Group. Genrich said upholstery was one of its strongest categories at market, followed by bedroom, including four-piece sets priced at retail from $799 to $1,099.
     "People aren't hesitating much. They are writing orders," he said.
     Some dealers said the Sunday opening day got traffic off to a slow start, putting their visits behind schedule. But they said that things picked up significantly on both Monday and Tuesday. "It put us back 100 accounts short," said Rob Woods, a vice president of business development at Leggett & Platt. "(Monday) we gained it back with well over 200 accounts." He added that the company saw 70 accounts on Tuesday before lunch. At that rate, he said, the company was expecting to be on par with last January's attendance.
     The visits included strong representation from around the country and also included visits from online retailers, Way fair.com, Overstock.com and Amazon.com to name a few.
     Traffic was up double digits for Coaster, and the change in opening dates only served to push pre-opening action up a day, said Mike Cohen, vice president of sales.
     "Some of the majors are now coming in Saturday instead of Sunday," Cohen said. "We had a lot of good activity, and retailers were more upbeat."
     Among the hits for Coaster this market was a promotional bedroom program in contemporary and transitional styles that hits retail price points of $599 to $899 for a queen bed, dresser, mirror and nightstand.
    Coaster also came out with upholstered headboards and frames with contrast stitching that can retail out of Coaster's warehouse for $299 for a twin and $349 for a queen. The new program was snapped up by eager dealers, he said.
    Las Vegas is the national bedding market, and leading bedding exhibitors were thrilled with the reaction they received to the slew of new products they introduced.
     "Fantastic" was the assessment of Earl Kluft, CEO of E.S. Kluft & Co., which brought a $60,000 sleep ensemble to market. "It was amazing. We couldn't ask for more in terms of seeing the people we wanted to see."
     Therapedic CEO Gerry Borreggine also gave the market rave reviews. "It was strong traffic and consistent traffic," he said. "We had green lights all the way. The response to our Eco Gel 2 line was off the charts. It was the hottest cool thing (the line touts a cooler sleep story) at market."
     Len Burke, vice president of marketing for Klaussner, called this market "outstanding," with attendance up more than 15% over the January market last year.
     "While it is always great to see our current retail partners, it was especially exciting to see the number of new faces and opportunities this market brought to us," he said.
     Klaussner brought its Carolina Preserves Collection to Las Vegas for the first time, and it continued to create excitement for the company and its dealers.
     "We dedicated 5,000 feet in Las Vegas to show the collection and it was worth every square foot." Burke said, noting the company wanted to duplicate what it did at the October High Point Market to ensure dealers seeing it for the first time here got the same experience.
     "And based on the orders we received at the market, they did," Burke said.
     Klaussner also launched its new PurGel Plus in its Enso Sleep System line and that, too, was well received from existing and new dealers.
     John DeFalco, senior executive vice president at case goods, upholstery and bedding source Primo International, said the company's new leather motion program, featuring beefy, comfortable sofas in top grain leather, were a big hit, giving retailers the ability to retail sofas in the program for $699 at full markup.
     Primo also introduced lower priced bedding to help dealers draw traffic to the category or promote their bedroom furniture by using, for instance, a free mattress as the draw. A new queen pillow-top innerspring can retail for $199, and a new queen memory foam mattress introduced here hits a low $249 retail price. Primo also added a camouflage patterns to several items including mattresses, futons, Klik Klak sleepers and recliners. All of it was very well received, DeFalco said.
     "Traffic has been excellent," he said. "We've had a great mattress and futon market, and it's the best motion show we've ever had - in fabric, bonded and top grain leather."
     DeFalco said the market was more robust this year and that "people are here writing orders. Buyers are not just committing," and Primo was seeing plenty of buyers even into Thursday - the last day of the market.
     That's good news considering several reports indicating that December was a tough month for many retailers, thanks in part to winter storms and below freezing temperatures across much of the nation. "But almost every retailer is coming in upbeat, excited about spring coming and placing orders," DeFalco said.
     Marty Darvin, owner of Orland Park, Ill.-based Darvin Furniture, was among those upbeat retailers here, calling this market "excellent," with a lot of new product and excitement" and upbeat vibes suggesting industry prospects are picking up.
     Among other things, Darvin said he was impressed with AICO's space, saying he likes how Michael Amini is appealing to a broader consumer base.
     "Vendors are paying more attention to the ultimate consumer and what they want," Darvin said, noting that he's been seeing more smaller scale goods to meet the demand from consumers who are scaling back to smaller spaces.
     Jake Jabs of Englewood, Colo.-based American Furniture Warehouse was having a good market, too, he said, despite the fact that few of his upholstery sources show here. Jabs said he still managed to find a great deal on containers of leather upholstery and at the preceding Lifestyle Enterprise Forbidden City show, the retailer picked up a new bedroom group and three upholstery SKUs, including a power recliner AFW will retail for $199.
     Jabs also was impressed with traffic here this time, noting opening day and Monday seemed packed with buyers.
"It's an easy show to work," Jabs said, adding that he can do it in a weekend, which keeps him from losing too much time at his business.
     Other exhibitors reporting solid results included Emerald Home Furnishings, DeLandis, Natuzzi, Standard, Magnussen Home, and Greenington.
     "Our Clayton sectional is placing very well," said Emerald Vice President of Upholstery Jeff Katz.
     "It's condo size, and we're seeing a lot of interest in smaller scale furnishings. In the last two years, our sectional business has really grown - it's a strong category."
     Laurence Crink, responsible for sales, merchandising and product development for upholstery source DeLandis, said the company had "many Top 100 retailers" in the showroom and several wrote orders.
     "After our first introduction in High Point, we determined that the real opportunity for us was in the top-grain leather power segment," he said, adding that DeLandis introduced 10 new styles here and six new leather articles.
     Natuzzi's marketing director Giacomo Ventalone, said the company's new Natuzzi Italia showroom here was "very well accepted," and noted the company wants to show its Re-vive and Natuzzi Italia here "to address buyers who haven't seen us in High Point and the Canadian and western markets."

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