• Cinde Ingram

The changing face of casual

Casually Speaking

My husband called it my “ambush makeover” after I got my hair cut and lightened last month. Reactions from family and friends were mostly positive as I adjusted to the new style, which you will see when we meet again in Chicago this month.

Keeping current with changing styles drives fashion not only for individuals but also for industries like this one. Inside the issue you are holding, you’ll find information about and images of new casual furniture and accessories some of you will see for the first time this month at the Casual Market. Outdoor styles will be abundant inside The Merchandise Mart, which also boasts its revamped 7th- and 8th-floor Market Suites, hosting some 300 temporary booths. Those who attended the July premarket got a preview of new products for the 2006 season in about 20 temporary booths on the 8th floor, along with much more in more than 30 permanent showrooms on the 16th and 17th floors. Tradeshow and property management firm Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., hopes to build on the momentum from the first official premarket going into this month’s Casual Market. During premarket, I got a chance to talk with several veteran vendors about their perspectives of the industry’s growth and maturity. Our “Changing Face of Casual” report includes those views. We’ve also tackled the main questions about how the industry is changing and evolving. As you know, opportunities attract competition so specialty retailers face challenges from more directions than ever. Home furnishings products for porch, patio and poolside are becoming more stylish as the boundaries of the home extend outward. Isn’t it exciting to see more stylish designs emerge as the casual marketplace matures? Associate Editor Courtney Mueller reviewed hundreds of new product images and identified trends as she selected products for style sketchbooks, a first for Casual Living. We also are featuring a report on outdoor furniture manufacturers in Vietnam, which is emerging as an important import source now that the trade relationship between Vietnam and the United States has grown closer. I toured factories and showrooms there at the invitation of privately owned and Communist Party owned companies. Most of those vendors sell their products to the European and Asian markets. A select few sell to U.S. distributors now, but many others are increasing production capacity with the hope of adding the American market. Talk about an amazing makeover. 

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