Options, snazzy displays impress upholstery buyers
Cindy W. Hodnett -- Furniture Today, October 29, 2012
HIGH POINT - The name of the game for upholstery manufacturers is customer service, and the axiom was represented at the High Point Market with expanded product options, creative showroom displays and quick delivery.
"Our retailers come to us for ideas about how they can show their products, and many times, they display it just like we show it at market," said Reyna Moore, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Norwalk Furniture. "We also provide them with fabric samples they can take with them so that when they are out at other showrooms, they can immediately coordinate the products with their fabric selections."
Ashley Furniture's nine pieces for $999 retail program provides a variety of art and accessory items to complement the furniture package. According to Kerry Lebensburger, president of sales and marketing for Ashley, the all-in-one package makes it easier for stores to increase sales.
"This is the perfect way for retailers to sell more add-on pieces," he said "And the execution in the store makes or breaks the experience for the consumer."
Rowe Fine Furniture introduced 72 upholstery SKUs at the market and offers more than 1,000 fabrics and leathers. To showcase the possible options, Rowe featured a chair gallery at its new High Point showroom where different chair styles are displayed side-by-side and covered in the same neutral fabric.
Davis Direct introduced 25 new upholstery groups. Lee Scott, vice president of sales, said showroom traffic and sales were positively affected by the company's flexible upholstery program.
"We'll put any fabric on any frame," Scott said. "We decided that it isn't very smart to give any customer a reason to say no."
Lazar Inds. also reported a strong market. "Traffic for us was very steady throughout the market, and our numbers now indicate that we will double our sales this market over our best written market in seven years," said Robert Luce, president of Lazar. "The response to our new showroom and products was nothing short of amazing."
Mike Delgatti, executive vice president of corporate sales for Hooker Furniture, said attendance and orders were up over last year for upholstery divisions Sam Moore and Bradington-Young.
"Dealers seemed to respond best to fresh styling and to fresh colors in both fabric and leather," Delgatti said. "Big hits for Sam Moore were recliners and the expanded sofa program. Big hits for Bradington-Young were the new swivel glider recliner program and the new transitional/contemporary designs in stationary."
At Thomasville Furniture, the new Concord and Saranac upholstery collections at upper middle price points offer flexibility, said President Ed Te plitz.
"Concord and Saranac expand our offerings in casual lifestyle and offer the retailer an opportunity to sell a variety of configurations with a single floor placement," he said.
One prevalent trend in upholstery showrooms was the increasing number of product options offered by manufacturers in response to consumer demand for custom choices. For many, the standard industry phase of "as shown" has become passé.
Emerald Home Furnishings introduced 35 upholstery styles at market, including chairs, recliners, motion, sectional and family room, according to Jeff Katz, vice president of upholstery.
"We are very grateful to have had many very positive responses at the market to our new upholstery offerings," Katz said. "Fashion, style and value were among the most frequent words that both new and existing customers used to describe the line, and we are pleased and thankful that our customers continue to look to us for great product."
Best Home Furnishings' new YOLO (You Only Live Once) line of chairs, benches and stationary groups targeted Gen Y consumers with contemporary fabrics and affordable price points.
"We took our collection of retro-inspired, contemporary items and paired them with new fabrics," said Eric Vollmer, advertising director. "They retail between $300 and $400, ship to dealers in five days, and they are designed to appeal to teens, college students and young adults."
Decor-Rest Furniture offered the new You-nique program. Designed to provide options in finish, fabric and silhouette, it incorporates 350 fabrics, 120 frames with choices in seat density, 30 ottomans and nine headboards.
"This gives retailers a savvy concept that renders the competitive edge they need," said Angelo Marzilli Jr., vice president.
Flexsteel offered more than 1,800 fabric choices here, including a new line from Robert Allen created exclusively for the company. Flexsteel also added a modular component to its sectional line, offering retailers expanded display options.
"You can come up with any configuration and get smaller sectionals on the floor," said Justin Mills, director of advertising and public relations. That way, he said, retailers "don't need monster-sized vignettes to show the product."
Dellarobbia's president, David Soonlan, said that activity in his showroom pointed to a renewed sense of optimism.
"Every dealer that showed up was purchasing," Soonlan said. "And they are buying color. I think the recession is over and everyone is ready to get their mind out of a recession mentality."
At Southern Seating, partner Virgil Henry said that the "Made in America" decal on his showroom window attracted attention.
"More than 90% of the buyers we saw placed orders," he said, adding, "I think the market needs more product made in America. Even the international customers coming in are asking for it."
Massoud Furniture's CEO, Chuck Massoud, said the company's traffic increased substantially for this year's fall market. He added that he hopes manufacturers will redefine their business strategies to address changes in the industry.
"We have had more than a decade of deflation and price point obsession amongst the majority of our industry while continuing to lose consumers' disposable income to other industries," Massoud said.
"At some point, we need to understand price is not our issue at the low, middle and high end and return our focus to product so the consumer will stop saying all of the stores that they visit look alike and are boring. Our No. 1 goal at Massoud is to continue to help our customers achieve a fashionable look that differentiates them from their competition without sacrificing quality."