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Cinde W. Ingram

2011 Design Excellence opens

Jensen Leisure reports strong sales for award-winning chair

2011 DESIGNAFTER JENSEN LEISURE FURNITURE WON THE LILLIAN B. WINCHESTER BEST OF SHOW AWARD IN LAST YEAR'S DESIGN EXCELLENCE COMPETITION, COMPANY LEADERS HEARD OTHER PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY COMMENT, ‘OH NO, IT'S A CURSE!'
     Janet Wansor, Jensen Leisure vice president of sales and marketing, was quick to answer that winning the industry's top design award would not hurt sales of its Topaz Stacking Chair. "When we were in Chicago I said, ‘Let Jensen Leisure Furniture be the first manufacturer to tell you it will not be a curse.' And, it isn't," Wansor said.
     "We're having a good season," she said. "This is the first year in a long time where we have major accounts with multiple locations that are reordering containers right away. Even with two warehouses, if the reorders take off, we can go through products pretty quickly."
     Because their original company, Jensen Jarrah, manufactured overseas and did not qualify to compete in the contest for many years earlier, Wansor and owner Max Jensen were thrilled to have won the Best of Show Award in September. They are still working with brothers Edi and Paolo Ciani, the Italian designers who fashioned the award-winning chair.
     Winning the top Design Excellence Award drew attention from the media. It also opened the door for Jensen Leisure to begin talks with contract specifiers and landscape architects.

Call for entries
     International Casual Furnishings Association members will receive information packets this month.
     "The Design Excellence competition is a great way for our member companies to showcase their products and share their new designs with the industry and their customers," ICFA Executive Director Joe Logan said. "Through the competition, we seek to recognize the best in design in the outdoor furnishings industry."
     ICFA member companies that participate in the Casual Market are invited to submit no more than two of their best designs for consideration in each of the 11 categories. The product has to be new or a new extension to an existing line. One product per collection can be submitted in each category. ICFA members who supply fabrics to the industry are invited to compete in the fabric category even if they do not exhibit at the Casual Market. For each product, a $100 entry fee is required, made payable to ICFA.
     Two forms describing the product will be collected by Jaclyn Kelly, casual furnishings industry marketing director at Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. She explained that the product identification entry form lists the manufacturer, designer, product name and category along with a brief product description. A second form includes only a product description, materials used, construction and unique functions.
     Product images, fees and entry forms must be submitted to Kelly by Friday, June 24.
     Kelly asks manufacturers to send their products to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, arriving from Aug. 22-25. The product will be displayed for judging along with others in the same category, but void of any name or logo that would identify its maker.
     "The MMPI staff does an excellent job in coordinating the entries, receipt of the entries and staging our members' products for judging," Logan said.
     The second form ICFA members submit will be used by a panel of judges to select winners in each of the 11 categories on Aug. 31 in Chicago. The panel will include interior designers, exterior designers, retailers and journalists, who will not know the product manufacturers' names.
     Added to the packet this year is a third form, which provides ICFA members with the option to buy into the Casual Living microsite that displays products for online viewing in early September.
     "Subsequent to the in-person judging, we will offer our ICFA members the opportunity to vote for the Lillian B. Winchester Best of Show Award from the 11 category winners," Logan said. ICFA will have online photographs of each category winning product for members to view and make their selections.
     "Last year, our ICFA awards reception was so well received, we'll be hosting it again this year in the ballroom of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on Tuesday, Sept. 13," Logan said.

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