• Cindy W. Hodnett

Sectionals, swivels and keeping it simple

Lexington Home BrandsLexington Home Brands’ Kitano collection introduction includes the Emilia sofa and the Amani chair.
LAS VEGAS — Tried-and-true ingredients for a retail success recipe are front and center in upholstery showrooms at summer market, with manufacturers introducing new variations on consumer favorites.

Hoping to add “hot” to the list of adjectives retailers can use when talking about consumer traffic, upholstery sources are bringing product introductions to market that combine “new” with “known.” Sectionals continue to be a focus for several companies, along with chairs that allow movement and coordinated collections that keep the buying process simple.

Make it easy

“Our focus this market is on room packages,” said Kerry Lebensburger, president of sales for Ashley Furniture. “Historically, one of our strong points is that we can offer coordinated rooms with matching tables and wall home entertainment, and we felt that it was time to come back to one of our strengths.”

For summer market, Ashley is introducing wood-trimmed upholstery in each of the company’s four lifestyle collections — Urban Foundry, Hollywood Glitz, Pastoral Charm and Boho Haven. Lebensburger said the introductions complement the four key lifestyle areas that Ashley has been focused on for the past two years.

“We reach all kinds of consumers and have traditionally done a lot of lifestyle product development,” he said. “We incorporate fashion concepts that are also budget-friendly and that can be easily coordinated.”

Lebensburger said many consumers want it to be “easy and simple” when making a furniture purchase.

“We can provide a $999 to $1,999 retail price for a room package, which can translate into payments between $50 and $100 per month for consumers,” he said. “The lifestyle groups are important because a consumer that is budget conscious still wants fashion.”

Keeping it simple for consumers often starts with making things easier for retailers as well, according to George Jordan, president at The MT Company.

“Convenience is key,” Jordan said. “We are trying to make the product line easier to understand and sell.”

The MT Company introductions for summer include the MT Made program, described by company officials as the “best of the best” and including 60 new Sunbrella and Crypton covers. The MT Company will also debut a new swivel gallery in Las Vegas, a nod to the popularity of chairs that allow consumers to move freely.

“Bigger, deeper sectionals are a big part of our growth, along with swivels,” Jordan said, adding that business has been “quite good” so far in 2017.

“At market, we’re offering more wood trim based sofas and sectionals, along with weltless options like tight seams or saddle stitching. We’ll also have performance fabrics with great textures and styles with upholstered bases and no skirts, especially for swivels.”

Style commitment

Consumer preference for less formal interior surroundings continues to have an impact on product development, and several manufacturers are putting an emphasis on casual silhouettes for summer market. Others are highlighting introductions that offer design flexibility for interiors of all sizes large and small, whether suburban single-family homes or city lofts.

Lexington is introducing 43 indoor and 56 outdoor SKUs at market, including 12 new upholstery frames for indoor and 12 new upholstery frames for outdoor. Additionally, Lexington is debuting the Kitano collection, a group that features “linear details, clean lines, modern tufted pieces and a mix of materials,” said Phil Haney, president and CEO.

Abbyson Living summerAbbyson Living summer product introductions include contemporary, transitional and classic pieces.
“Our newest collection, Kitano by Lexington, adds to our contemporary style offerings, featuring frames that would appeal in a loft type space,” Haney said. “The upholstery is less casual and a bit cleaner with tight backs for a very organized, easy sophistication.”

Two distinct color palettes are highlighted in Kitano and paired with pattern types that include transitional with bold geometrics, embroideries, hints of metallic, textural looks, linear patterns and landscaped textures with “an overall masculine feel and minimal upkeep,” officials said.

In the outdoor category, Cypress Point Ocean Terrace for Tommy Bahama Outdoor is a collection of woven pieces mixed with weather stone tops in a gray finish. Company representatives said the group offers a “casual, understated modern look to outdoor and innovative design with a casual, comfortable feel.”

Three distinct color stories are featured — coral/orange with gray and crisp white, warm neutrals with gray and crisp white, and indigo/ink and crisp white.

“We feel transitional designs, plus casual looks with a modern aesthetic, have the most prominent influence,” Haney said. “We’re featuring globally inspired fabrics and a blending of metallic with landscaped textures and stripes; marbleized fabrics and faux grain textures.”

Lexington will also be providing printed catalogs, high-resolution imagery of all catalog lifestyle shots, silhouettes and details, plus a positioning video to buyers to complement what company officials reference as “utilitarian items such as price lists, finish samples and fabric swatches.”

Michael Amini, CEO at AICO, said that his company is continuing to design products that have global appeal while building on an aggressive, international marketing strategy. Amini added that creating the right designs for the current retail consumer landscape is an ongoing focus.

“We are repositioning our supply chain and adding additional product lines with very unique designs that will attract new market and particularly Millennials living in small to medium size spaces,” he said. “We are also expanding to new international markets, both in retail and distribution channels, and this is one of our top priorities to remain to be one of the premier international brands.”

Amini added that he sees AICO’s goals of developing the right designs and expanding its marketing efforts as complementary strategies for retailers broadening their marketing approach with consumers.

“I remain confident that the digital world will pressure the traditional brick-and-mortar stores to be transformed beyond imagination and become a multifunctional, fun and invigorating destination or they simply have to close their doors.”

Cloth & Company is bringing more than 30 new SKUs to Las Vegas, said Christiane Lemeiux, co-founder of the company along with Skyline Furniture President Meganne Wecker.

“We are also introducing a whole new range of Cloth & Company fabrics, and we are expanding on our modern monogramming.” Lemeiux said. “We want to keep pushing our ideas and use of technology forward.”

Lemeiux said Cloth & Company works with buyers to create exclusive print and pattern “that gives them market advantage.” The company recently ran a design competition for Dwell on Design and Bed Bath & Beyond and created an exclusive line in collaboration with Lauren Bencivengo, a junior designer at Delawie Architects in San Diego, Calif. The line is offered for sale on the Bed Bath & Beyond site.

“The biggest consumer influence for us is fashion,” Lemeiux said. “Runway trends are really driving print and pattern, and we are very excited about taking the floral trend from the runway to upholstery. The textiles that we created are all done by hand, and that gives dimension and texture. We are also focused on the mix, allowing color to work together to create a very finished look.”

Retail resources

Rodd Rafieha, senior vice president at Abbyson Living, said the company is introducing more than 200 new products across multiple categories in Las Vegas.

new swivel chairThe MT Company is introducing a new swivel chair gallery as well as new sectional frames at summer market.
“Our focus at Abbyson has really been on introducing bold new colors and functionality in our leather upholstery group and stylish new case goods,” Rafieha said. “The new products help complement our existing line while adding versatility and options for our retailers.”

According to Rafieha, Millennials are the “growing demographic and they are willing to take more risks in terms of color and style with home furnishing products.” He added that Millennials embrace functionality and technology, prompting Abbyson Living to incorporate those aspects into its products.

“Abbyson’s summer product introductions are mostly comprised of contemporary, transitional and classic pieces,” Rafieha said. “We offer our buyers online catalogues, POP displays, leather/ fabric swatches and dedicated account managers.”

Klaussner Home Furnishings is bringing 10 new SKUs in its imported upholstery line to Las Vegas, as well as five new SKUs in the company’s Comfort Design line. Vice President Len Burke said consumers are looking for “the experience” at retail.

“Technology and function are the biggest consumer influences driving our product development right now,” Burke said. “Our focus across the board is in showing new, innovative designs at great values with many features and benefits.

Burke added that supporting buyers is always a key focus for Klaussner. He said Klaussner invests in “top-quality photograph and video content” to provide retailers with the digital content needed for website and television media. Klaussner is also expanding its marketing materials across all of the company’s product line, including the Trisha Yearwood licensed brand.

“We need retail traffic to stay consistent, and we continue to see dips at retail between major holidays,” he said. “We continue to offer value-driven product and marketing support to help drive traffic into stores.”

At Abbyson Living, a key goal is providing sources for both retailers and designers while growing the business strategically.

“Our largest challenge would be handling the influx of demand,” Rafieha said. “We have been receiving a lot of interest from new potential retailers and customers, but we are not able to bring them all on board at this time. We are very selective with who we choose to partner with and want to ensure we establish successful, long-term partnerships.

“Our Abbyson Designer Trade Program has grown triple digits year-over-year,” he added. “We have full-service concierge, more than 2,000 products at wholesale pricing, free leather/ fabric swatches at request and an amazing program to make it so easy and convenient for our designers.”

Cindy HodnettCindy W. Hodnett | Upholstery/Style Editor

As the Upholstery/Style Editor for Furniture/Today, I spend my work hours studying the sloping curves of sofa frames, the intricacies of fabric and the nail head trim and button accents that function as jewelry on a piece of upholstery. I research the companies that bring these things together for retailers, and ultimately consumers, and interview industry leaders about their business strategies and where they think furniture is heading in the future. And when traveling, I provide a sneak peek at what I'm seeing, whether at international markets or in High Point or Las Vegas.

I look forward to sharing what I see and I hope you'll feel free to do the same. Email me at chodnett@furnituretoday.com or follow me on Twitter @CynthiaWHodnett.

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