August 3, 2006-- Casual Living,
Anticipation and preparation play important roles in any life event, whether it’s a wedding, graduation, birth, reunion or, in our case, the industry’s major market.
Those who made it to Chicago for the July premarket or to Ontario, Calif., for the West Coast premarket got a preview from many of the casual industry’s major manufacturers of products to be unveiled next month. Photos of more than 125 entries in this year’s Design Excellence Awards contest, starting on page 42 of the print issue, also provide a look at some of the latest styles, innovations and colors. A couple of manufacturers declined to submit photos of their new products and a few others didn’t have photography ready in time, but the majority of vendors who participated in premarkets were a step ahead with marketing materials. That strategy reflects good preparation. It also demonstrates how the premarket, which the Summer & Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association sanctioned last year, has speeded up the cycle leading into the Sept. 13-16 main event. When asked how the premarket affects their stores, independent specialty retailers most commonly said it helps them prepare for the coming season. Asked how he would describe the premarket to other retailers who had not attended, one Southern California retailer laughed and said, “They missed it.” Other retailers were more gracious, taking time to share their impressions of the premarket and explain how much it helps them. One of the most vital components of the early view relates to visualization. Retailers can see, touch and try out the furniture to see how it will fit their stores and their market. They can begin to visualize how they can display it so consumers can catch the image and know how it would translate in their own backyards. Full collections in well-merchandised showrooms are giving retailers ideas they can take back to their stores with confidence. Instead of fearing increased competition from the big boxes, ranked on Page 56, successful independent specialty retailers have taken steps higher and away from the masses. Al Arad of Cast Classics described it well, noting the difference between buying a sweater from Old Navy or Ralph Lauren then saying, “There’s a customer for both.” Unlike product designs, good ideas can’t be knocked-off and stolen but are most powerful when shared freely. Best wishes as you prepare for what’s ahead.