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Cinde W. Ingram

Fewer attending spring markets

Product introductions show strength

Contract buyers and designers were not disappointed by the array of new choices at last month's Hospitality Design Expo in Las Vegas. Although lesser attendance numbers followed the lean pattern of recent trade shows, buyers were described as serious by a number of vendors.

Tropitone Booth

"The people who are at this show are quality," Ron Katz, national sales and marketing director of Pavilion Furniture/Sunburst Outdoor Furniture, said during the HD Expo. "They have projects, and they have money to buy."

Tropitone CEO Cap Hendrix shared that positive view despite ongoing economic challenges. He said Tropitone stays focused on its core strengths, which include research and product development. "On the hospitality side, our business has remained pretty robust," he said.

At the Gloster Furniture booth, executives celebrated winning the outdoor seating award from IIDA/HD. It marked the first time the company won an award at HD Expo, according to President Eric Parsons and Managing Director Charles Vernon, and underscored its focus on product development. The modular deep seating woven Horizon group, was designed by John Caldwell.

Handcrafted outdoor lighting from Shady Lady's Oasis line attracted attention to the booth it shared with Viro fiber. "Our focus has always been on providing high quality as well as high design," said Johan Yang, vice president of sales and marketing for Viro fiber.

Inside the Veneman Furniture booth at HD Expo, weavers from Hawaii Thai demonstrated hand-weaving skills. Veneman also drew attention at the High Point Market, where it launched four designs for the Walt Disney Signature collection, Disney's up-scale, non-character lifestyle brand. The Disney debut included outdoor rugs by The Rug Market and outdoor tableware by Zak Designs.

Casual furnishings vendors' opinions about the High Point Market fell all over the map at the April 25–30 show, which marked its 100th anniversary. Many discussed the shift in market dates and voiced concerns that buyers do not know when to arrive, leaving vendors to guess at the ebb and flow of traffic.

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. Palm Springs Rattan & Garden Classics and Three Coins Castings were among the casual furnishings vendors who stayed busy writing orders while a couple of well-known casual furniture showrooms were dark.

Many vendors refused to let a slow economy prevent them from getting creative with product launches, which they said is key to staying in business.

Inside Furniture Classics' showroom, outdoor pieces from its Two Palms Casual lines mixed with more traditional indoor furniture. Monterey, its first fully outdoor dining collection, was presented along with an expanded range of outdoor fabrics. "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."

Capel Rugs continued to respond to the growing trend for outdoor living spaces by devoting more of its showroom 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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