WMC expands Alfresco Spaces
Ray Allegrezza -- Furniture Today, September 9, 2010
The display area, launched at the February Las Vegas Market and opened in an expanded version at this month's market, featured 15 exhibitors in the category.
Recognizing that a steadily growing number of consumers are spending more time outdoors, the market created the attractive new showcase for outdoor furnishings on the second floor of WMC Building B. Alfresco Spaces was dedicated to upscale, design- intensive furniture and furnishings that - underscoring a key category trend - can be used both inside and outside the home.
"Until recently, outdoor furnishings designs had been stagnant for some time," said Tim Branscome, a WMC vice president. "But fortunately, a revived passion for outdoor spaces is driving a design revolution in this category, complete with new materials and treatments that complement contemporary interior designs."
In addition to attracting domestic exhibitors, Alfresco Spaces also brought in a number of exhibitors from outside the United States, including Sydney, Australia-based Harbour Outdoor.
Marketgoers could get a taste for what was inside Alfresco Spaces in a display of outdoor furnishings the WMC set up in the plaza in front of Building B.
"The layout has really worked and I credit the greatlooking display outside the building for helping to entice buyers inside," said Eric Graham, senior director of case goods and leisure for Century Furniture.
He said he saw numerous designers who came in with jobs in hand, and also representatives from upscale furniture stores including Southfield, Mich.-based Gorman's and Fort Myers, Fla.- based Robb & Stucky.
"Up until the recession, the outdoor room was the fastest growing room of the home," said Graham. And even now, the category is still doing relatively well, he said.
"While sliding consumer confidence has resulted in a slowdown of discretionary spending, consumers still want an inviting place where family and friends can meet, and the outdoor room is still a major part of that," Graham said.
Bill Markowitz, president of Alfresco Spaces exhibitor the Veneman Group, also was upbeat about the concept.
"The idea was to develop a cohesive casual furniture presence and that happened. While we've shown here before, until now the World Market Center never made the push the way they did this time to group the casual exhibitors into one cohesive area," he said.
Like others, Markowitz said consumer interest in the outdoor room is growing. "Not that long ago, it seemed that the most important rooms were formal rooms such as a formal dining room and a formal living room. But now, it's all about relaxed lifestyles and entertainment and that bodes well for outdoor rooms," he said.
Warren Juliano, national sales manger for Lloyd Flanders, was also happy with his company's participation.
"This was our first time, so it is hard to measure our success, but even so, my sense is that while this is in the genesis stage, it has been a strong outing," he said. Juliano also echoed the comments of a number of exhibitors, saying there was a strong showing from designers at the market, as well as from representatives of the contract and hospitality segments.
"The Alfresco Spaces helped us set the groundwork this time and I think that as a result, we will see even more dealers, especially from traditional furniture stores, next time out," he said.
At the August show, he said the Lloyd Flanders space was visited by a number of Top 100 stores including Omaha, Neb.-based Nebraska Furniture Mart, Coon Rapids, Minn.-based HOM and highend retailer Louis Shanks of Austin, Texas.
Juliano had some advice for traditional retailers thinking about making a play in casual furniture.
"For openers, furniture stores can't treat the category like a redheaded stepchild and expect to be successful," he said. "Retailers need to commit to a program in-store and tell that story to the consumer before they even enter the store via a great display that features the incredible new generations of indoor/ outdoor fabrics that the mills have made available.
"Great retail is great theater," he added. "And with the products and fabrics currently available, retailers can dramatically set the stage."
- Jan 18, 2010