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Cinde W. Ingram

2012 design Excellence awards

Design ExcellenceTaking home the top Design excellence Award at last year's International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market proved important for Gloster Furniture, according to President Eric Parsons, current chairman of the International Casual Furnishings Association.
     Because of Gloster's perspective of home furnishings being a fashion industry, "it's really critical for us to be on-trend and to be innovative in anything we're designing," he said. "For us, what it means is that we're doing our job on behalf of the retailers who ultimately are the ones who need to be able to sell product to the consumers."
     Winning any of the Design Excellence competition's 11 categories encourages designers, sales reps, customer service employees and many other workers who are involved with producing the products selected as outstanding by a group of design experts.
     "Within each category, everyone has their areas of expertise and that makes it exciting because you're competing within your own world so to speak," Parsons said. "It's certainly the highest recognition of innovative design that exclusively focuses on the casual furnishings industry. It serves to push each of us to expand the design envelope."
     The cost of ICFA membership and of competing in the contest is minimal related to the overall costs of developing and launching a product, Parsons said.
     "Recognition within the industry is a huge benefit," he said. "It turns retailers' heads and is going to lead to placement on floors that you might not otherwise get. Without placement on floors, you're not going to sell to consumers and you're not going to help influence the consumer behavior. To me, you're crazy not to get involved at that level."
     The benefit of sharing an idea within the industry, getting retail placement and ultimately reaching the end consumer is immeasurable, he added.
     "The competition provides our members the opportunity to showcase their latest designs and really show what is new and exciting to the industry and to their customers," ICFA Executive Director Joe Logan said. "Through the Design Excellence competition, we offer our membership an opportunity to have that product judged. The panel of judges chooses what they think are the best new products developed by the industry. Really, it's just a great way to show off all the hard work that our member companies have done through the year in producing new products for their customers."
     Product images, fees and entry forms must be submitted by June 22 to Jaclyn Kelly, casual furnishings marketing director at Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. The MMPI staff coordinates entries and stages the products prior to the selection of 11 category winners in late August. From those 11 winners, ICFA members will vote for the Lillian B. Winchester Best of Show Award, which will be presented during the next Casual Market, set for Sept. 20-23.
     "The requirements for Design Excellence complement the demands of being ready for market," Parsons said. "We all want to be the best at what we can be, so recognition with this type of design award certainly can lead to some very beneficial things. Even if you're not a winner but you're a participant or a finalist, we all win when we're able to share those ideas."
     Parsons described the casual furnishings industry as a talented but small community. "For us to be successful, we really have to push each other," he said. "We definitely are in a fashion industry and we're selling to very affluent consumers. Those folks are looking for new, exciting product and with energy that's different from what they might have seen last year or the year before. Design Excellence helps to foster that type of design energy, and it helps to recognize those who are achieving at that level."

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