Upholstery makers see brisk summer sales
Larry Thomas -- Furniture Today, September 3, 2011
TUPELO, Miss. — A surprisingly strong summer has kept spirits high among upholstery resources here as they head into fall - traditionally the busiest selling season of the year.
Many producers said incoming orders have remained brisk throughout the summer, and said their domestic factories have been operating five days per week during much of that time. That's unusual even when the economy isn't mired in a recession, executives said, noting that three and four-day weeks are normal in the summer.
"We were running five days a week all through May and June, and have had just a few four-day weeks since then," said Roger Bland, president of Southern Motion. "We've had a strong summer."
Domestic factories didn't give up the traditional one-week shutdown surrounding the Fourth of July holiday, but for many, it was full speed once the vacation was over.
"We've been on a 40-hour production schedule all summer," said Gentry Long, vice president of HomeStretch, a company launched in early 2010. "We're growing, but we want to be disciplined about how we do it."
Part of the reason for aggressive summer production schedules is the popularity of quick-ship programs that require an order to leave the factory as little as 48 hours. However, many producers also attribute their recent success to demand for custom-order covers.
"Anything with color is really selling well," said Jerry Marlin, vice president of merchandising at Prime Designs.
Covers that combine suede and bonded leather also have been popular and sold well at market here, as did larger sectionals that have modular elements that allow for multiple configurations.
"This has been an exciting time for modular," said Don Hunter, senior vice president of major accounts at Catnapper. "It has been a great product line for us."
Also helping to drive upholstery sales is motion furniture, which was well received in virtually every upholstery showroom that offered it.
"Motion is doing especially well right now," said Ron Teeter, vice president of merchandising at Affordable Furniture. "It's not always the cheapest product around, but the value is there."
Motion furniture, and home theater seating in particular, did well at Lane. The company successfully rolled out an expanded home theater offering at the Las Vegas Market and executives said the momentum carried over to Tupelo.
"The response has been great," said Bo Morrison, director of freestanding recliners and home theater seating. "We're encouraging dealers to have some type of ‘experience room' in their store where the seating can be displayed with other entertainment furniture."