Traditional grows as option in upholstery
Gary Evans -- Furniture Today, March 26, 2012
HIGH POINT - With a strong start to the year, retailers were in upholstery showrooms at last week's Premarket here checking out the latest in styles, fabric colors and leathers to put on their floors for upcoming promotions and the spring/summer selling season.
Manufacturers like Mayo, which in February completed the best sales quarter in its history, reported strong business in January and February, but saw it beginning to cool in March - possibly because of rising gas prices.
And there seems to be a growing concern about the rising cost of foam, which along with labor, is one of the biggest cost factors in upholstery. Pressured by stores to hold price points, several producers said they aren't passing on increases but were hesitant to lock in promises until they see where foam costs are going.
A few vendors at Premarket were trying to break through the long dominance of transitional and contemporary styling with new groups described as "comfort food traditional" with deeper, softer seating and velvety fabrics.
"Who doesn't need comfort?" asked Stephanie Lowder, as she showed visitors around the Bernhardt space. The company's classic Grand Casual collection is dressed in nubby and slightly weighty fabrics with a "historic hand-woven appearance," decorated with faux fur throws.
The company hedged its bets with the urban crowd by launching New Classic, with nicely tailored silhouettes with surprises: a granite Chesterfield with three, not four, toss pillows, one a large-scale plaid; and a camelback sofa with driftwood gray exposed wood, one of several specialty finishes available.
Todd Campbell, vice president of sales for Fairmont Designs' eastern region, said the company is taking advantage of its new North Carolina upholstery factory to offer more traditional seating for the East Coast in the $999 to $1,199 price points with deep down blend seating and domestically made exposed wood.
"It's a segment we haven't paid attention to," said Campbell, adding, "so we're trying to deviate from our California lifestyle look."
Schnadig, which is expanding its High Point showroom, has been busy in product development as well, bringing more contemporary to its upscale Caracole collection. The collection also has new materials and lighter finishes on existing designs, along with a casual reclaimed lumber look that will "be in line with today's domestic and, importantly, international trends," said Chairman and CEO Jeff Young.
But what may draw interest is the company's Lauren Ralph Lauren collection, which will add a more casual group called Saugatuck.
"It's a departure for Lauren Ralph Lauren and certainly a departure from where we started with the brand," Young said. "It will get people's attention because they've been asking for a Lauren looked with a more relaxed, contemporary feel."
Another attention-grabber will be the HGTV collection with Bassett that will feature urban, rustic, beachy/cottage and contemporary collections with some chic pieces merchandised with a 50-fabric handle.
Craftmaster is adding two kinds of welting to its customized Design Options program, deliverable in two weeks, and is launching a program of 10 bestselling groups available for two week delivery. For the first time, upholstery from the Paula Deen collection, which pairs with Universal case goods, will be shown in the Craftmaster showroom.
Leather upholstery resources, meanwhile, said their category remains strong, and several Premarket exhibitors were emphasizing upper middle price points of $1,899 to $2,499 for all-leather sofas.
"Those have been a home run for us, but it's not one particular category that is standing out," said Jackson Carpenter, president of Simon Li. "Just about everything in our line is doing well right now."
Bradington-Young, meanwhile, is emphasizing transitional styling with eight new leather sofas in its upper-end line, while Bernhardt's leather focus is on models making extensive use of nail head trim.
"We're showing some higher price points than we've had in the past, but I think we offer a better value," said Mike Delgatti, president of Hooker Upholstery, Bradington-Young's parent company.
In motion upholstery, Lane unveiled several sofas targeting retail price points of $799 to $899 in fabric, while Klaussner was focused on the $799 price point.
"We brought more product to Premarket than ever before and it's doing well," said Lane President Greg Roy. "We had good attendance."