Casual Market off to strong start

The heat is on in Chicago

New exhibitor Surya showcased a vibrant assortment of indoor/outdoor pillows and poufs, in addition to rugs and wall art.New exhibitor Surya showcased a vibrant assortment of indoor/outdoor pillows and poufs, in addition to rugs and wall art.
CHICAGO - The International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market got off to a strong start Tuesday with bustling hallways, crowded showrooms and a round of cocktail parties with DJs spinning music, champagne flowing and martinis made to order. The upbeat market mood is what many hope is a harbinger of a strong 2014 season.

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."

The consolidation of permanent showrooms on floors 15 and 16 may create a little confusion but is great for the retailers who search for suppliers and discover new resources, Lowsky said.

"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."

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Windward Design Group added a gliding loveseat and reclining Adirondack chair to its marine grade polymer line.Windward Design Group added a gliding loveseat and reclining Adirondack chair to its marine grade polymer line.
lthough Agio International introduced its first fire pit 10 years ago, Agio President Bob Gaylord said the combination of furniture paired with fire pits makes a dramatic difference in terms of sales. After OW Lee entered the category, many other vendors have followed by offering their own versions in a multitude of styles. "Now all of the sudden, at these last two markets, everybody has them," Gaylord said. He predicted fire pit sales will double in 2014.

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."

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