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Cinde W. Ingram

Casual lifestyle keeps growing

It was fitting that stormy weather slowed the start of last month's Casual Market because this industry is more dependent on correct climate, both literally and economically, than anyone wants to admit.

As the rain tapered off and buyers filled the Merchandise Mart, I was working at the registration desk and hearing lots of grumbles from buyers who said they would have started earlier if their flights hadn't been delayed or if traffic had been less congested. All those complaints cleared as people moved upstairs to start their shopping. Many of you, like me, appreciated seeing blue skies return over Chicago and wished you had time to visit more showrooms.

Returning home, gasoline prices had dropped along with temperatures. The weather turned crisp and significantly cooler by the end of September, signaling the end of another outdoor living season in much of the nation and a desire for those stylish fire pits we saw.

As you read this issue, you'll be reminded of Casual Market highlights, ranging from its first outdoor fabric fashion show to a tribute to Lifetime Achievement Award winner Allen Swers who developed outdoor fabrics for Sunbrella in 1982. Premium performance fabrics are key to our industry's ongoing growth along with plenty of accessories including outdoor lighting, rugs, art and more to offer consumers complete lifestyle packages.

Looking ahead, I'm considering how appropriate the High Point Market's new logo is to symbolize the home furnishings industry as a multi-branched tree. Sprung from deep roots, the tree is a growing, living organism that changes color with the season and spreads in various directions.

Brian Casey, High Point Market Authority president, said the tree logo speaks to the furniture industry's early history and the case goods makers who planted the seed for market, originally called the Southern Furniture Exposition. The tree's trunk represents all the people at the home furnishings industry's core.

Once only a sapling in the larger forest, the casual furniture industry has matured and branched out. Multiple materials besides wood are involved, but wood and wood finishes on aluminum furniture continue to show strength. Whether consumers will decide to place casual furnishings inside or out, the underlying message for our industry remains the same: Sell the lifestyle.

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