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Making changes at the Mart

Casual Living Industry News

Kristine Ellis, Staff Staff -- Casual Living, July 1, 2008

Manufacturers are hoping specialty dealers will be as wowed by the new look of the casual industry at the Merchandise Mart as they are by the new product offerings.

Sixteen manufacturers have new or expanded locations:

In good company

Summer Classics
Summer Classics' new showroom has an inset, glass-walled entryway.

“I think everyone will be just amazed by the showrooms and what they’ve done,” said Whitney Gillespie, director of leasing and sales, Merchandise Mart Properties.

The changes stem from the Mart’s invitation to six casual industry manufacturers to be a part of Market Square on the 15th floor. Being open to the design business five days a week and gaining more than 4,000 sq. ft. of showroom was incentive enough for Laneventure to relocate.

“We realize how important it is to get the designer business, and hope that being on 15 will give us a lot of exposure with designers who maybe didn’t get up to the 17th floor before,” said Amy Johnson, showroom designer for Laneventure.

Retailers can expect to see a wider range of vignettes in the new Laneventure showroom with plenty of examples of how they can create separation and interest on their own floors. Laneventure also will be showcasing more antique, one-of-a-kind architectural elements and, for the first time, offering them for sale.

Summer Classics opened its new showroom on March 1, and is already seeing the consequences of the increased exposure.

“I’m very happy with the volume we’re doing. Daily traffic is up and I’m seeing people I normally haven’t seen,” said Harold Hudson, vice president of sales and marketing, Summer Classics.

The new showroom is double the size of the old space and is drawing rave reviews. With its inset, glass-walled entryway, the space makes a good first impression on new and existing visitors alike.

The new Ebel showroom also opened in early March. While the manufacturer initially was more interested in expanding on 17, Sabrina Ebel said they became fast converts to the Market Square concept — serving as a bridge market between indoor and outdoor.

“We are very excited about Market Square. We are in good company,” Ebel said, adding the relocation quadrupled the size of Ebel’s showroom.

For Ancient Mosaic Studios, a showroom on 15 was an opportunity to move up from the temporary floors to a permanent 1,510-sq.-ft. showroom and show the depth of its offerings.

“We will have our product in outdoor settings as well as indoor settings, trying to show a combination of things. Then we’ll accent the settings with our Piage-Pieta Art Stone products,” said John Wasylenko, director of sales and marketing.

Bigger is better

Pride Family Brands Jakarta Collection

Pride Family Brands Jakarta Collection

To accommodate traffic flow during markets, the Merchandise Mart constructed a new staircase between 15 and 16. While the stairs cut into ScanCom’s existing space, the manufacturer ended up doubling its showroom by expanding into space vacated by Gensun, which moved across the hall.

“We ended up with more than 4,000 square feet of showroom,” said Jay Weber, ScanCom’s national sales manager.

Retailers will find an expanded teak line and new hardwood and woven collections on display in the new showroom.

Gensun has about twice the space now as well.

“We’ve grown by leaps and bounds, but haven’t been able to show everything until now,” said Jan Trinkley, executive vice president, Gensun.

The new showroom has a tropical feel and features a wall fountain that draws people in with its relaxing ambiance. While excited about the new space, Trinkley added it is the minimum square footage he was asking for and he would like to expand even more in the future.

South Sea Rattan & Wicker has its eye on future expansion as well. During this month’s Casual Furniture Premarket, South Sea will be showing product, including six new collections, on the 8th floor. Next month, it will move into a permanent showroom on 17.

“In time, we plan to move to a larger showroom, but our first need was to get into the Merchandise Mart and establish our presence,” said Sandra Marion, director of sales and marketing for South Sea Wicker & Rattan.

Three Birds Casual’s Ciera Collection
Three Birds Casual’s Ciera Collection

For Three Birds Casual, which recently expanded its Atlanta showroom and closed a showroom in Dallas, a smaller showroom on 17 was ideal.

“We are so excited about it,” said Tad Vargo. “We have been trying to get upstairs [from 8] for the last three or four years, but the available space never quite matched our needs or budget.”

Because Chicago is just two and a half hours from Three Birds’ headquarters in Indiana, Vargo is already enjoying the ease of meeting with clients at the Mart.

Outdoor Lifestyle’s new showroom will be open but not finished in time for Premarket. When completed, the space will be an example of environmentally friendly construction.

“We are now a member of the Sustainable Furniture Council, so we are trying to go as green as possible in the showroom in terms of the materials used, the paint and so on,” said Fred Isle, president of Outdoor Lifestyle.

Forty percent larger than the previous showroom, Outdoor Lifestyle’s new space will be filled with several new collections in time for the Casual Market in September.

Designed for show

Reflecting the outdoor furniture’s evolution into a fashion industry, all of the manufacturers have worked with interior designers in setting up their showrooms. Many will introduce their new space during Premarket via cocktail hours, grand openings and other special events.

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