Smaller Scale, Gray Palette Popular in New Upholstery
Gary Evans , Larry Thomas -- Furniture Today, March 16, 2011
HIGH POINT - Scaled-down, colorful and value-oriented upholstery took center stage at Premarket presentations here last week as stationary producers sought to find ways to woo consumers still reluctant to spend.
Small-scale is nothing new, and if Premarket is an indication, the trend's evolution failed to produce much in the way of new looks. The real news was that manufacturers see continuing strength in the category and want to have their versions of smaller furniture in the marketplace - particularly for young urbanites in condos and lofts and old boomers downsizing or with second homes.
As a result, the April market will see no shortage in the ubiquitous two-piece chaise sectional, the 80-inch sofa and the armless chair.
The other news was that traditional is working its way back into the market's style lexicon. Transitional remains dominant, but more companies revisited traditional at Premarket - although there were fewer over-the-top flourishes and more cleaner contemporized looks.
An example is Bernhardt's Classic. Heather Eidenmiller, director of brand development, describes the look as "traditional but crisply tailored ... manly but ladylike." Textured fabrics include jacquards and nubby weaves, and pieces include a classic Chesterfield covered in a dry camel velvet that will retail for $1,799.
The key color palette this market in both fabric and leather continues to be gray. In fabric, producers are utilizing gray for base cloths and in compositions that include purple, orange, citron and other color pops.
Leather upholstery resources, meanwhile, continue to use various shades of gray in hopes of breaking up the sea of brown covers that dominate most retail floors.
"Just showing some other colors breaks up the monotony and can get the consumer interested in the product - even if they wind up buying brown," said Lane President Greg Roy.
Kristine Capra, director of upholstery merchandising for Schnadig, sees fabric covers as "warm and inviting (and) tactile" in a neutral palette that includes creams, ivories and shades of gray from silver to pewter to dusty.
"Gray seems like it's warming and going away from the cooler family," added Sandi Teague, director of upholstery merchandising for Hooker Furniture and its Sam Moore division.
Blue also will be important to Sam Moore, which will feature the color on display with Mélange, Hooker's case goods collection, and to Broyhill, which will use blues in shades of denim, ink, and mineral "and anything that complements gray," said Paul Peters, the company's product portfolio director.
Upholstery vendors also say they're doing everything they can to add value to their products while maintaining price.
Alan White, for example, offers three-pound feather pillows, a blend-down option, a split-deck spring system and what it calls one of the most comfortable sleepers in the marketplace, with an 8.5-inch mattress over its patented mechanism, retailing for $1,199 in queen.
Other notables include Kincaid's Comfortable Classics chair program, with 18 top sellers grouped with 10 new looks, in retail price points of $399, $449 and $499; Sam Moore's new chair program that can be customized in 25 finishes; Palliser's strengthening of a "basics" program it began earlier; Lazar's 20-Smthn (text speak for 20-something) graffiti-decorated fabrics; Najarian's super- sleek Euro-contemporary that mates with its lacquer case goods; and Lane's focus on smaller contemporary at the $799-$899 price points.
Motion and recliner resources also emphasized value at Premarket, previewing what appears to be a heavy round of product introductions in April.
Much of the focus is on sofa price points of $699 to $999 in fabric and $999 to $1,299 in leather, and many exhibitors were touting valueadded features such as power reclining mechanisms, coil seating systems and consoles with storage units.
"We're trying to get a head start so our dealers can make money on our products this year," said Don Hunter, senior vice president of major accounts at Catnapper.
Notable Premarket introductions included a pair of home theater groups at Peoploungers, five motion seating groups and a pair of motion sectionals at Lane, and six motion groups and five recliners at Catnapper.
In addition, new resource Era Nouveau unveiled 17 motion groups with all-leather covers and promised an additional nine new groups by the April market.