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Market mania

Casual Market still on my mind

High Point MarketHEADING INTO the High Point Market along with thousands of indoor furniture players from around the world, my mind is still full of the excitement experienced at the Casual Market.
     A new exhibitor described that fourday show as one of the most vibrant he had seen lately. One sales manager I talked with in Chicago had wondered aloud if all the hype would actually translate into orders and a healthy season ahead or if it was just market euphoria.
     The presidents/CEOs of several companies told me dealers wrote more orders in their showroom this year than ever. Many said their early buy orders already were higher than last year, which admittedly was when the early buy process all but stopped.
     Because plenty of retailers got caught short of product this year and their inventory was low, they arrived ready to place orders for the season ahead.
     "Everybody underbought last year because they were afraid and understandably so," Hanamint President Russ Sorenson said. "Everybody's still gun-shy. They're still going to be cautious and not overload. They're going to step it up and be better prepared, and we are, too."
      Opening a new showroom for Alu-mont paid off because it validated that company in buyers' minds, Sorenson said.
      Other manufacturers with relatively new permanent showrooms, such as Ratana Home and Floral or NorthCape International, also said their investment paid off because it boosted their company's validity in customers' minds. Brown Jordan upgraded and Lane Venture relocated their High Point Showrooms.
     More casual furniture companies are exhibiting in both Chicago and High Point. They are hoping to capitalize on the trend of traditional indoor furniture stores devoting floor space to the casual and outdoor category.
     Maybe it's just a demonstration of "the complete blurring of the lines" between furnishings appropriate for indoor and outdoor use that designer Roger Thomas described. The best room in the house has three walls and no roof, said Thomas, whose colorful designs will appear again this month at the Veneman Collections showroom in High Point.
     Let's hope the High Point Market will experience the same strength this month as the Casual Market did a couple of weeks ago.

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