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High Point Market Gets Mixed Reviews

Product introductions show strength

Cinde Ingram, Courtney Mueller -- Casual Living, May 1, 2009

Casual furnishings vendors’ opinions on the High Point Market fell all over the map this spring. Of course, many shared thoughts about the shift in dates once again. Several vendors voiced concerns that buyers just do not know when to arrive anymore, leaving vendors to guess at the ebb and flow of traffic.
While some reported fairly steady traffic throughout the weekend with a slight drop off mid-week, others reported very slow foot traffic over the weekend with a big pick up at the beginning of the week.
Sales also proved tough to gauge. Several vendors reported their sales were surprisingly up, showing stacks of orders to process, while others were not as fortunate. A few vendors reported slower traffic but larger orders, which made up for the difference. Some vendors expressed the importance of keeping in mind that just because the quantity of buyers was down, did not translate into the quality of orders being down.
The product introductions did not disappoint. Many vendors refused to let a slow economy prevent them from getting creative with product launches, which many said is the key to staying in business. From new outdoor lighting, art and rug designs to new licenses, there was much buzz about the plethora of new lines.
“We’ve had no lookers, just buyers,” said Rebecca Price, Uwharrie Chair. “We have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who are here.” The company’s new Westport Collection was providing smaller space options for many retailers and designers who wanted furniture for balconies, she said.
The smaller footprints of the Stream and Seashell groups were serving similar purposes in the Janus et Cie showroom, according to Rick Kilmer, vice president, strategic development. The striking Daydream bed was presented in a child-sized version in response to customer requests. On the other extreme, a large cantilever umbrella with granite base drew attention to its 360-degree ability to follow the sun. Summer Cloud, a chaise lounge designed to swivel with the sun, gained attention along with the intricate weave of the new Slim Line chair.
Palm Springs Rattan & Garden Classics and Three Coins Castings were among the casual furnishings vendors who stayed busy writing orders while a couple of other casual furniture vendor showrooms were dark and empty.
Acacia Home & Garden’s showroom attracted buyers with the launch of its licensed furniture line with WINOS (Women In Need of Sanity) cookbook author Bonnie Jesseph. “The bright colors are catching people,” Jesseph said. “We’re tired of the doom and gloom.”
Inside Furniture Classics’ showroom, outdoor pieces from its Two Palms casual lines mixed with more traditional indoor furniture. The range of outdoor fabrics also was presented. “We wanted to show how much we have broadened our offering,” said Alex Boyer, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re showing strong, fresh looks and we’re aggressively developing new products.”
Among those new products was Monterey, its first fully outdoor dining collection. Made of resin wicker, round and rectangular dining tables were offered as well as a chat seating group.
Braxton Culler’s showroom also intermingled traditional with casual lifestyle looks and added to the fabric and color selection the manufacturer is known for. Although natural wicker and rattan has been a mainstay, sales continue to grow in woven furnishings for full outdoor use, which it added seven years ago, said Wayne McNeely, vice president of sales.
Capel Rugs also continued to respond to the growing trend for outdoor living spaces by devoting more of its showroom floor space to stain- and mildew-resistant outdoor rugs. In addition to consumers wanting to use them by their pools or on patios, those rugs often wind up in kitchens and other indoor areas, said Bud Young, vice president of marketing. Wall-to-wall reversible rugs, loom and COM options were added to the line, which will expand outdoors even more in July at the Atlanta International Area Rug Market and in September at the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market in Chicago, Young said.

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