Casual Market off to strong start
September 18, 2013,
New exhibitor Surya showcased a vibrant assortment of indoor/outdoor pillows and poufs, in addition to rugs and wall art.
Retailers and manufacturers said they are seeing signs that the economy is improving steadily. Less inventory of existing homes on the real estate market and more home construction starts are two positive indicators.
The current selling season proved to be a long one and a large segment of the population didn't want summer to end, Pride Family Brands President Steve Lowsky said. "Retailers have a lot more confidence and that is translating into bigger orders."
"It makes it more cohesive for the industry," longtime OW Lee executive Bob Lee said. "We're really pleased to be here on the 15th floor."
Windward Design Group added a gliding loveseat and reclining Adirondack chair to its marine grade polymer line.
Brown Jordan President Chris Carmicle described the start of market as a whirlwind. "The economy is back," he said. Dealers are responding to not only new products but also the brand's new logo, icon and tagline. "It's all about leveraging the most iconic brand in the casual furniture industry."
Teaming up with EcoSmart for its technology, Brown Jordan became one of the latest manufacturers to introduce its first collection of fire pits, one of the most talked about categories at the show. "This has been in development for two years," said Steve Elton, chief brand officer, Brown Jordan. "This is a fashion furniture company and fashion fire company coming together. We are marrying two of the best in class." The minimalistic, elegant Equinox model coffee table was on display in the front window of the company's showroom along with several other fire pit styles.
On the other end of the spectrum, a husband-and-wife start-up called Vin de Flame exhibited for the first time at this show. Their line of wine barrel fire pits, which lets folks bring a bit of Napa or Sonoma County into their own backyards, has been in production since 2006. Each barrel is handcrafted and can be moved easily around decks or patios on casters.
"Fire pits are big," said Jay Weber, Mallin's vice president of marketing. "This is our second season with them. We have three bases and numerous top options. It is definitely a category built to stay."
Mallin also showed nine new collections, including the contemporary Camden chaise and saddle-stitched Barletta which are among the last products inspired by Merv Conn, the company's former VP of sales and marketing, who passed away unexpectedly last February. Conn was to be remembered in a special tribute later today.
In terms of trends, many manufacturers were showing shades of gray. At South Seas Rattan, it was about weathered gray hues. "But we're seeing two sides of colors at opposite ends of the spectrum," said Joyce Kuo, marketing director. "There are the grays and washed out linens, but also bright and bold colors. It is one extreme or the other. "
Pride Family Brands displayed its new Brushed Driftwood finish. The company is also introducing an Antiqued Driftwood finish as well. "Driftwood has been in the marketplace for a while, but we waited to bring the right look for our product," Lowsky said.
Skyline Design showed off its Iglu swivel - an eye-catching apple-shaped spinning seat that houses four. It comes in either gray-toned Kubu or Black Mushroom wicker weave. President Allan Calzadilla said it was nothing short of a miracle they were able to get the piece into their newly renovated showroom.
As the opening day neared its end, both retailers and manufacturers agreed it had been a good start. Overall exhibitors reported a strong 2013, but unusual weather patterns complicated business for some of their buyers.
"Up north they had such horrible weather this season. Cold and rainy - I've heard those two words used together a lot today," said Carrie Morales, executive vice president of Windward Design Group. "But we've had a great year. We're up double digits again. We had a record-breaking August, which was shocking. I think that was a great mix of some late retail special orders and contract."
Managing double digit growth was a positive challenge this year for Gensun Casual Living, according to Gensun President Lisa Zhou. Gensun's showroom, which more than doubled in size during the recent Merchandise Mart changes, reflected that growth.
Solair Shade Solutions Business Manager Rett Haigler said lower temperatures and stormy weather also impacted Solair's customer base. "The weather has been a pain this year," he said. "A large percentage of our customers are in the Midwest and Northeast, so when winter weather lasts into May, it hurts things. But they've rebounded."
Haigler said Solair's business was steady during the first day of market. The company featured a new booth on the eighth floor that reflected a clean, contemporary aesthetic, with an array of colorful awning samples mounted on the walls.
"I think a lot of patio stores focus on their major lines the first day, and we're a new category," Haigler said. "But when they get here, they stay for a while."
"It was a great first day of market," said Joe Logan, executive director of the International Casual Furnishings Association. "There was very good traffic on the eighth floor."
"Today was exciting. A lot of our major customers came in," designer Liora Manne said, noting Trans-Ocean Imports was exhibiting a large line of outdoor rugs on the eighth floor.
The market's opening day also proved successful for new exhibitors. Kevin Von De Bur, sales and marketing coordinator for home accessory brand Surya, said the company's Portera collection of indoor/outdoor rugs particularly struck a chord with buyers. While customers were drawn to more neutral shades in rugs, color reigned supreme in pillows, poufs and outdoor-friendly wall art.
Baukorb also made its Casual Market debut this week, showcasing its line of modern, luxury outdoor furniture designs on the eighth floor. The company, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is pursuing relationships with specialty stores and the contract market, said Joshua Böttcher, director and president. "This is our first show," he said. "We had our official launch (Tuesday) morning. We're looking to make high-quality furniture, and I think we've achieved that."
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Don't miss the November digital edition of Casual Living! In this month’s issue, we look to the future of retail with a spotlight on technology. Assistant Editor Alex Milstein breaks down the basics of artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) and how they’re changing the furniture shopping experience. We also explain how building engagement on social media channels can boost business for retailers.
You’ve waited two years, and it’s finally here! Casual Living’s biennial Universe Study offers a comprehensive snapshot of the outdoor category, highlighting its growth across all segments from furnishings to shade to grills.
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• Market Report: Our editors give you the inside scoop on all the new outdoor introductions at the High Point Market. Can you say Cobonpue?
• Casual Insights: Kathy Wall of The Media Matters offers insight on refreshing your brand.