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Cinde W. Ingram

High expectations heading into 2007

Responses from more than 150 retailers, manufacturers and sales reps to Casual Living's online market survey showed they have good feelings about the 2006 season and even higher expectations for 2007.

In addition to traditional industry concerns, retailers were worried about import/sourcing issues, lack of product innovation, and especially price increases. "We think some manufacturers have forgotten about perceived value," a Southern retailer commented.

Manufacturers, who faced soaring costs of supplies and freight/deliveries this year, shared retailers' concerns. Sales reps were most concerned about the health of specialty retailers and the high cost of gas.

As for what products retailers will shop this month at the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, the message was clear. Nearly all, 98%, said they travel to Chicago to shop for furniture and 85% said they shop for accessories with 80% specifically seeking outdoor lamps/lighting products. About 30% said they shop this market for grills.

Will they buy during the Sept. 13–16 market? More than half, 54%, said they only shop during market and place orders after they return to the store. Just over a third of respondents, 36%, place some orders at market and finish ordering after they return to their stores. Only 7% of respondents said they made major purchases during the July Casual Furniture premarket.

Some retailers said the premarket helps them lock in their major lines earlier, decide how to manage remaining inventory, prepare for the September show and spend more time purchasing at the market. "It's becoming more important than Market in September," one Northeastern retailer said.

At the other extreme were criticisms on the premarket's timing and having to attend premarket, which some described as unorganized. "Vendors were not prepared with final samples at premarket," a Midwestern retailer said. "If the vendors were better prepared, we could get by with just one market in Chicago."

Many respondents called for a single market, but were split about when the best timing would be. "The need/use for the September market has long since past; the premarket has now taken precedence," one respondent said. "Once premarket has come, most retailers have allotted money and floor space with none to spare."

A Midwestern sales rep noted that region was in season during July and many retailers found it impossible to attend the premarket. "Most Midwest retailers will come to the September show because it is a much larger show."

Concerns for the upcoming season
1 = not concerned; 5 = very concerned

RETAILERS VENDORS SALES REPS
Competition from direct-to-consumer channels (e.g. catalogs, TV shopping, Internet) 3.5 2.2 3.2
Consumer confidence 3.6 3.4 3.6
Housing market 3.5 3.0 3.3
Increasing competition from big boxes 3.5 3.2 3.6
Price increases 4.3 3.6 3.5
Rising gas and home heating costs 3.7 3.5 3.9
Knock-off designs 3.8 3.2


Percent projecting sales increases over prior year

2006 2007
Net percentage derived by subtracting percentage saying sales are/will be down from percentage saying sales are/will be up.
Retailers 19% 59%
Vendors 66% 85%
Sales reps 36% 67%


of retailers attended premarket of vendors showed at premarket
Why retailers attended premarket Why vendors showed at premarket
It locks in major lines earlier 41% It locks in big orders earlier 19%
It helps identify colors and styles earlier 39% It makes my company prepare introductions earlier 19%
I get product earlier 5% Allows us to test product prior to market 44%
Other 15% Other 19%


Products retailers will be shopping for at the Casual market

Furniture 98%
Accessories 85%
Outdoor lamps/lighting 80%
Grills 30%
Other product 8%


Retailers' Market shopping and order practices

I only shop, placing orders when I get back to the store 54%
I place some orders at the market, place some orders when I get back to the store 36%
I do major purchases at premarket 7%
Other 3%


Other markets attended by Casual Retailers

Other includes Maison & Objet, Spoga,HD Boutique/Expo, Aqua, Chicago Gift and Home, International Contemporary Furniture Fair, New York Gift Show, Hardware Show, Orlando, Las Vegas Furniture Show, Milan Furniture Fair, West Coast Market, Dallas
Atlanta 27%
High Point, NC 24%
HPBA (Reno) 24%
Regional 17%
None 22%
Other 11%


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