Occasional, accent sources see positive signs for sales
Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, October 13, 2012
HIGH POINT - Occasional and accent sources like what they see on the horizon.
Companies showing product in the category at the High Point Market are hoping for the dawn of a better business cycle. They say they're seeing signs that bode well for furnishings, including improved consumer confidence, home sales and stronger financials at some home improvement retailers.
Color appears to be the big story for accents this market. Greens, blues, turquoise, orange and the weathered Americana looks that began seeping out of higher end companies are moving more into the middle tiers.
Furniture Classics President Michael Ricks said an expanded showroom this market will allow it to show more design-oriented displays, which he hopes will give retailers ideas on how to merchandise product.
The company has about 40 new items. In product trends, he said painted finishes are gaining ground while reclaimed looks and industrial - while still popular - are seeing some pullback.
"We've seen an industry wide move away from a lot of grays and neutrals and brown furniture, trying to get some color back in there," Ricks said.
Some Furniture Classics introductions feature teals mixed with weathered black and white; multistep layered red, cream and green; weathered orange and black; and a weathered Americana color palette.
Ricks added that more shapely silhouettes, like bombes and curved drawer fronts, are also getting more attention at retail these days.
Coast to Coast Imports has about 150 introductions. While those cover many style genres, CEO Andy Stein said that this market they are skewed a little more toward transitional and contemporary.
That said, traditional is still king, Stein said.
"There is a real fine line as to what is saleable," he said. "As much as people say: ‘I want contemporary,' traditional runs the show."
Debbie Dilbeck, sales and merchandising executive assistant at Standard Furniture, said 13 new occasional table groups focus on variety. Materials used include stainless steel, stamped tin, glass mosaic tiles, geometric wood lattices, aged bronze tone metals, reclaimed wood looks and smoked bent glass.
The company is covering styles like relaxed transitional, Old World Mediterranean, rustic lodge, casual contemporary and streamlined French modern. It also has some novelty tables, like the Aviator, with propeller blades as its pedestal base.
Standard also will offer industrial and industrial modern it hasn't shown previously.
Responding to requests from dealers, it will also feature an extensive gallery of value-priced three-pack tables, with four intros in this category to bring its line of three-packs to about 20. The average group retails for about $299.
"We feel very upbeat and positive with our occasional line-up as we move towards market. This has always been a good category for us, and business has been good this past year," Dilbeck said.
Jofran will introduce about 14 fully upholstered accent chairs, the company's first foray into the category. Joff Roy, president, said the category allows Jofran to make a more comprehensive offering to our dealers.
"It is a natural complement to our domestically stocked occasional program, particularly our chairside tables," Roy said. "Many of these key dealers have asked us to put our great value and service spin on underserved niche categories like this."
Riverside has 17 new occasional tables for market. Signs are looking good for market and the company has placed some cuttings based on early response, said Michael Charlton, senior vice president, product development and merchandising.
Among the best received products at Premarket were the company's pine Summerhill group, the retro-industrial Camden Town and the cottage style Placid Cove occasional groups, he said.
Charlton said lodge and cottage are hot styles now. Customers look to Riverside for those casual relaxed looks, he added.
At Hooker Furniture, the Mélange collection of accents will have 30 new pieces, said Erica Wingo, manager, merchandising and product development.
Wingo said the company has tried to focus more on color - especially the blue palette, paired with a lot of white and turquoise. Green also is getting attention, and black and white is a hot combo, she said.
Custom hardware inspired by jewelry continues to be a big focus for Mélange, and the company is introducing patterns like paisley last market and plaid this market - Wingo noted a piece based off a found tie.
Nail heads are also becoming more familiar on accents and wood furniture, she said.
"They're popping up everywhere," Wingo said. "They're just so interesting. Within the past six months they seem to be everywhere. We're using a lot more than what we've done in the past as well."
John Jokinen, president of E.J. Victor, said the company has new occasional pieces in the Allison Paladino, Randall Tysinger and Jack Fhillips lines this market, plus some occasional pieces in its house line. Some accents feature insets of alabaster and midcentury modern style influences.
The company's occasional Wrap grouping includes metal bases, gold leafing, built-up paints, natural fibers and faux shagreens and is more transitional in nature but will fit in a traditional landscape, he said.
"My way of thinking the designers and the salespeople need fresh new product, they're tired of seeing things that everybody's had and it's time to not be so conservative," Jokinen said. "(Retailers) haven't freshened up their floors in so long I think they are going to have to do that this upcoming market, get goods for 2013."
Gail's Accents will have about 82 new items in its showroom, said Ray Steele, co-founder of Gail's Accents.
Among its big introductions are the 10-piece Brittney English collection. English is from Jackson, Miss., and her family owns retailer Ross Furniture there. She takes case pieces that aren't retailing and applies changes to color, finish and hardware, Steele said.
Gail's took a sampling of pieces she designed to its factory in Asia to build copies of English's redesigned pieces.
Also new at Gail's is a finish effect on several pieces that looks like draped fabric.
As for business, Steele said buyers appear to be shopping more companies at market - an indicator business may be getting better.
"It doesn't mean they're not going to buy from their regular resources but they're definitely looking at other resources," he said.
Coast to Coast's Stein said that there is life at retail, and incoming summer orders have been good. He also noted recent positive financials from retailers like Home Depot, and indicators that housing is doing better and that consumers are showing a willingness to improve their homes in lieu of buying.
"There's just a good feel out there. We have a vibe all over the country. I don't have a bad vibe anywhere," Stein said.
E.J. Victor's Jokinen said the company is very aggressive with introductions at this market, which he considers an important one. With business slowing after the April market, the company has noticed an uptick recently, which he said he expects to continue after the presidential election.
"At some point in 2013," he said, "furniture is going to kick in because people are going to need furniture to put in the new housing that they're going to either expand or move into."
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