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  • Judi Fulbright

Retailers stick with solid, neutral fabrics, but add pizzazz with accent pillows

Casual Living's exclusive retail fabric survey gives a clear picture of the fabric scene at retail in 2007 and offers insights about what to expect in the 2008 season.

Playing into consumers' desire to have it now, off-the-floor fabric choices are out-selling their special-order counterparts by a five-to-four margin. Three-fourths of retailers expect this ratio to hold next year. That means retailers' choices of colors and patterns are even more critical to the bottom line than ever before.

Solids, in neutral colors, ring up the most sales for the most retailers on both dining groups and sling seating. Consumers go bright with accent pillows, not the big stuff. For the 2008 season, retailers' crystal balls keep the needle squarely in the neutral color ranges for both sling and cushion seating. There seems to be a bit more willingness to branch out of the neutral zone on cushioned seating, however.

The number of retailers expecting brights to be their best sellers on cushions in the upcoming season dropped to 16% from the 20% who said it was their best seller in the 2007 season. On the other hand, 22% expect deep, saturated tones will be their best seller on cushions in 2008, a jump from the 15% who said it was their best seller in 2007.

Florals and geometrics registered distant second-place finishes in terms of design. On cushions, one-fourth of retailers named florals as their best-selling design; on slings, one-fourth named geometrics their best seller.

When it comes to fiber type for cushions, acrylics are the unquestioned king of the hill. Less than half of retailers even carry cushion covers with other fibers.

Retailers are finding multiple uses for accent pillows. Used as attention grabbers, they provide "color in a sea of taupe," as one retailer put it. In addition, accent pillows can "make everything pop and allow you to show more fabric samples on everything," another retailer said.

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