Lighter hues attract attention in leather suppliers' booths
Larry Thomas -- Furniture Today, December 10, 2012
HIGH POINT - Taking cues from the apparel and handbag businesses, suppliers of leather showed off an array of new, lighter colors suitable for residential furniture at Showtime last week.
Suppliers stressed the newer colors will not supplant brown as the dominant furniture color, but said various shades of white, gray, teal, orange, purple and even yellow drew considerable attention from furniture manufacturers who visited their booths.
"Color has always been a big part of our story, and we had a lot of interest in a lot of different colors," said Sackett Wood, president of Moore & Giles. "It was a very good show for us."
Officials at Carroll Leather expressed much the same sentiment, and said their company had very positive response to a new group of colors that mimic the most popular interior house paint colors.
The new colors have a softer tone with less sheen than many leather articles, said Kym Bauguess, vice president of hospitality sales and marketing.
"We tried to peek into the future and see what colors people will be using six to 12 months from now," Bauguess said.
Bo Stadler, U.S. sales manager for German supplier Heller-Leder, said lighter colors were among his most popular items at the show, including one called parchment that had shades of white and a very light brown.
"We tend to sell colors that are difficult for others to make," Stadler said. "We think that's what sets us apart."
Since virtually all of the leather used for furniture in the U.S. originates from tanneries outside the country, Stadler and other executives said it is critical to have a large inventory of finished hides in a domestic warehouse.
Both Carroll Leather and Moore & Giles, for example, are increasing the size of their warehouses to strengthen their in-stock positions, while Universal Leather has completed its transition to Mexican tanneries and now gets all of its hides from Mexico.
That allows the company to be more responsive to customer demand and has significantly reduced the time it takes to move goods to its U.S. warehouse, said Universal President Ken Kochekian.
"I think we made the right move," Kochekian said. "Everybody seems to be moving out of China because (Chinese tannery) prices are getting too high."
Kurt Schweitzer, president of Wipelli USA, said his company also is boosting its domestic inventory, and already has stocked a line of pure aniline buffalo hides that was unveiled at the show.
"We try to keep everything in our line in stock, because people don't want to wait weeks for delivery," he said.
Schweitzer and others said the desire for quick delivery applies to goods at all price points, but is especially important for higherend leathers.
"More people are looking for better goods, and fortunately for me, that's what we're all about," said Rick Colford, president of Hulshof Leather USA, which market highend leather from a Dutch tannery. "Business has been pretty good."
Added Steven Judd, president of Leather Trends, "Now that more (furniture companies) are manufacturing in the U.S., they want better goods. We are very pleased with the flow of product here."