• Cinde Ingram
  • Vicky Jarrett

ICFA Preview Show

Makes Strong Start

 

Woodard’s contemporaryWoodard’s contemporary Metropolis collection offers a striking look of bold white deep seating.
Manufacturers unveiled plenty of new outdoor furnishings with mixed materials, rustic, chunky designs or unusual woven treatments and received positive responses from retailers during the July 14-16 ICFA Preview Show.

Showrooms on the Merchandise Mart’s 15th and 16th floors were consistently busy while the 7th floor was quiet but steady for the dozen vendors who displayed new products there.

“While attendance is a little soft, retailers’ attitude has been good,” Lloyd Flanders President and CEO Dudley Flanders said. “They’re upbeat about the season.”

Cast Classics’ Al Arad, president, agreed the current season has been good and buyers arrived with positive attitudes. “There’s a lot more confidence in the marketplace,” he said. “I’ve seen more indoor people who are starting to get into the outdoor market. Specialty is becoming more specialized.”

“The high-end part of the business is very strong,” Summer Classics CEO Bew White said. He repeated his perspective that those who join the “race to the bottom” will lose the pricing battle and said his company has taken the high road to serve the top 1% of the market with selections including new White Label hand-carved teak designs.

The Avant groupThe Avant group from SunVilla is one of the company’s more contemporary offerings, featured in a warm earth-tone finish.
With the Ernest Hemingway collection anchoring one section of its showroom, Lane Venture debuted six other collections and narrowed its remaining presentation to focus on its best-selling lines. “It’s really bringing people in,” Zac Bryant, Heritage Home Group’s vice president and creative director of outdoor, said of the Hemingway line, developed for Thomasville Furniture, another part of Heritage Home Group. “We’ve been really pleased with what’s happening. We’re seeing key dealers and getting good placement.”

“The industry’s doing great, and I think the economy is doing great,” said Steve Lowsky, CEO of Pride Family Brands. “We’ve had some great response to our new products.”

“It’s an important show because of who is here,” said Mark Bottemiller, national sales manager, Ebel. “It gives us the opportunity to test new stuff.” Although Ebel has built a strong reputation for its deep seating collections, dining is increasing across the category, he said. Because of the earlier success of its Belleview collection, Ebel continued to drive the design business with its new Bellefort line featuring a banana leaf twist in two-sided vertical weave.

“Business has been very good, although the port issues on the West Coast hurt or delayed the business at the first of the season for a lot of retailers,” said Russ Sorenson, president of Hanamint and Alu-Mont. “We’ve also had a lot of rain this season across parts of the country. One of my dealers who builds pools says his pool business is off 30% because of the rain; still he’s ready to start preparing for the next season.”

Gloster President Eric Parsons said he understands many retail customers chose not to attend the July Preview S

The colorful LimaThe colorful Lima MGP collection brightens the Telescope Casual showroom.
how because their business is so strong. “It’s thriving right now,” he said. While those retailers decided to postpone their shopping until the September Casual Market Chicago, the reception to Gloster’s introductions was very positive, he said. “Teak is our heritage and we want it to be part of our designs, but we’re working to make it affordable to the consumer,” Parsons said. “We are mixing materials significantly more than in the past.”

Jensen Leisure made its largest introduction to date, including teak alternative woods in the roble English collection designed by Povl Eskildsen and the ipe and hyacinth synthetic woven Coral collection. “We’ve had an amazing response,” said Janet Wansor, vice president. “Our retailer base that has been successful with ipe is so excited.” The company stepped up its early buy program, urging its dealers to order by the end of August to ensure quick shipments.

COLORFUL CHOICES

Woodard introduced four new signature cast aluminum collections – ranging from the elegant New Orleans cuddle chair and crescent sofa, displayed in pastel floral fabric with its oval dining table, to the masculine Cartwright or upscale Knob Hill and Apollo groups. The contemporary Metropolis collection appeared in white to gain good response for its square and pie-shaped tables. The Wellington rocker reappeared in a new metallic finish. “Retro is always coming back,” Woodard Creative Director Bill Herren said.

At Summer Classics, White said the company is bringing a lot more color to the showroom floor this season. “It’s the end of the recession; people are tired of neutrals,” he said, predicting that bright colors will have a lot appeal to the 2016 customer.

Royal, a toned down metallic gold finish, drew double takes as it appeared exclusively at Mallin’s showroom.

Remove the topRemove the top for storage inside Gloster’s Bells table, shown beside the Bay Lounge chair with seat pads in Burnish Dew and an Aqua throw pillow.
Kingsley-Bate is bringing out a couple of classic groupings with Havanna, a new seating group in a classic safari look, and St. Barts, which President Clay Kingsley described as high-style design and Kingsley-Bate value with its synthetic rope woven construction. “We’re also bringing out a lot of new colors for our existing collections,” said Kingsley.

Telescope Casual’s fifth generation provided bright colors with its Lima MGP introduction. “We wanted to put in new and unique items to differentiate ourselves from the big boxes,” Greta Cosey, assistant sales manager, said.

Brown Jordan expanded the colors offered in its Flex collection, designed by Richard Frinier with Sunbrella straps, in multiple bright shades, including melon and green. A single white chair near the front of its showroom provided a peek at new product by White House designer Michael Smith. Verge, a mid-century Bauhaus inspired collection, and Pasadena were two of John Caldwell’s new designs on display.

In preparation for its relocation to a 16th floor showroom for the September market, Veranda Classics by Foremost had a double exposure with a booth on the 7th floor in addition to its showroom on North Franklin Street. “We’ve been doing really well here,” Russ Haagan, junior designer outdoor division, said of the temporary booth on the Mart’s 7th floor. “Across the street, it’s been nonstop. We’re really liking this.”

Reclaimed woodReclaimed wood from sunken sailing ships makes these occasional tables from North- Cape truly one of a kind and flexible enough to go with any design, be it contemporary or traditional.

Erik Dych, vice president of Erwin & Sons, said the company’s new polymer tops drew interest but added customers have shown excitement about all the new products and clean looks presented. “Different areas performed differently; really it has been driven by the weather,” he said. “Some areas started out strong and the season just fell off, while others were strong and smooth. It seems to be a break-even year for most people.”

Everything in Beka Castings’ showroom was new, including the frame colors, President Maggie Bederian said. “We have to have specialty looks and different ideas,” she said. “Retailers should not fight with pricing, only with product.”

Plank & Hide brought its modern rustic style to the Preview Show with intentions of offering a hip, cool look and functional products that can’t be shopped in other showrooms, President Chris Probst said. Fusing vintage style and Old World craft smanship, the two-year-old company combines the talents of veteran casual industry players, including retailer Erik Muller of Watson’s of Cincinnati, to serve the needs of specialty retailers. The company uses hidden product functions, like a fire pit revealed when two coffee table panels slide apart, and unusual materials like Sima, which has proven its durability for decades in the building industry but is new to the outdoor furnishings industry. “We want customers to have the confidence that while we’re the new ones on the block, we’re not new to the brick-and-mortar specialty retail needs of this industry,” Probst said.

Del Mar’s multicolorDel Mar’s multicolor weave is just one of the ways Agio is incorpo- rating an increased use of color in its new product.
Although the foot traffic on the show floors ebbed and flowed, it was described as “pretty consistent” by Carl Alfrey, VP of sales and marketing, Beachcraft/Capris, who was exhibiting for the first time at the Preview Show. The company has participated in the September market previously and is well-known at the High Point Market.

At Agio, colors are an important part of the story boards that provide the inspiration backdrop for each collection on the showroom floor, proving that color and design find their roots in all aspects of the world around us. Colors not only come into play in the fabric used for cushions and pillows, but also in the very weave and finish of each piece.

Ketter is continuing to make inroads with its Happy chair, a resin chair designed in Germany and available in only the brightest of colors. “Color combinations are really strong in contract,” said Mike Sosnowski, national sales manager, patio division. He noted that residential customers love to look at the colors, too, although they may tend to buy more conservative and less bright tones.

Richard Ho, senior sales manager, ABA Outdoor Limited, described it as a good show with a lot of quality customers.

No matter what the colors or whether the designs are contemporary or traditional or something in between, casual manufacturers agree the demand in this category is only growing.

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