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  • Cinde Ingram

Casual furnishings niche steps up at High Point Market

Casual furniture manufacturers reported they were getting good placements from many of the full-line furniture stores, designers and catalog buyers who visited them at the High Point Market. The number of buyers may have been less than past markets, but the quality of buyers was premium.
Although most specialty casual furniture retailers had seen the introductions in Chicago just three weeks earlier, a few more patio shop buyers were shopping in High Point.
Whitecraft's first two licensed Biltmore collections, which weren't available in September, were among the new products shown exclusively in High Point. Braxton Culler added two new collections and slipcovers for full outdoor use plus plenty of additions to its indoor and covered porch lines. All of Domus Ventures' introductions gained attention, especially its reclining dining chairs and its triangular nine-seat dining table. Motion functions, in
general, continued to appear in many outdoor collections.
A few companies were making their High Point debuts while other casual manufacturers returned after several years of absence. Some vendors with a long history of exhibiting at the century-old furniture market had relocated or updated their showroom spaces to provide a fresh face.
"It's the best thing we've ever done," Gary McCray, president of Lane Venture, said of his showroom's move to the high-profile first floor of the International Home Furnishing Center's Main wing.
Brown Jordan's nearby showroom sported larger windows, higher ceilings and more open spaces. Gene Moriarty, president and CEO, said the airy, simple backdrop is the same look Brown Jordan will be installing in its Los Angeles design center and in all of its showrooms.
Near the front of Brown Jordan's space were three collections built for relaxing - Drift, Still and Cloud 9 - from its new collaboration with designer Richard Frinier. A palette of soft, fresh seaside colors and twill sailcloth was featured among its new fabrics. "It's not just fabrics for spring/summer; it's all year-round," Frinier said. "The performance fabrics you get with Sunbrella are unbelievable, especially if you have children or pets."
Feast, Dine, Gather, Flirt and Gossip were other relaxed collections developed by Bevara Design House for Cisco Brothers. Each group addresses homeowners' desire to slow down and reconnect with family and friends. Many
of Cisco's offerings are recycled and modular; nearly all have an eco-friendly story attached.
Lloyd/Flanders's screened porch display, featuring one of its four Coastal Living collections, also encouraged dealers and designers to slow their pace by providing a place for gathering inside or out. Response started early this year with ads in the consumer magazine and continues to be strong, company spokesmen said.
Furniture Classics Limited switched displays of Two Palms Casual introductions to the front rather than the back of its showroom in Showplace. Its woven resin Del Mar and Italian chairs ranked among its Top 10 of 75 best-sellers during the market. "We brought the newest group that we took to Chicago and had so much success with from casual furniture retailers," said Alex Boyer, vice president of sales and marketing. "It's interesting to see our regular indoor dealers are snapping it up, too."
Also in Showplace, NorthCape International and Woodbury were among the companies showing for the first time in High Point.
Tami Newton, sales and marketing manager of Palm Springs Rattan & Garden Classics, said she would like to see all the casual furniture companies in the Showplace building. "It makes perfect sense," she said. "The ceilings are
high here and we have good, natural light."
Legacy Fine Casual Furniture was another company making its debut in High Point. Eight collections of high-end wrought aluminum as well as two Sunterra Casual wrought iron groups and seven fire pits were displayed indoors and out. Gary Parrott, vice president of sales and marketing, said he likes showing at the 200 Steele Building because it stays open to designers year-round. "They've captured the customer that we're looking to manufacture for," he said.
At Napa Home & Garden, Merchandising and Marketing Director Martyn Fernambucq described its sales as record-breaking every day. "We doubled our numbers from last October," he said.
Other manufacturers agreed this market had outperformed the fall 2009 show, but some said it was not as good for them as last April's market.

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