• Jennifer Bringle

Market Report: High Expectations

Brisk business and a positive outlook set the mood at the spring High Point Market

Even a little—er, a lot—of rain couldn’t dampen spirits at the spring High Point Market.

Across downtown High Point, casual companies were overwhelmingly positive and optimistic both about the market itself, and business in general.

“We’re experiencing strong double-digit growth across many channels,” said Eric Parsons, president, Gloster. “Most people at the higher end are feeling good things now. There’s a high level of confidence for a number of reasons.”

Ashley Newton, of Palm Springs Rattan and Leader’s Casual Furniture, offered the unique perspective of being on both the manufacturing and retail sides, both of which seem to be growing. “This first quarter was really good, maybe not as good as the economists predicted, but we definitely saw an improvement in retail,” she said.

Accessories continue to grow in the casual market, and rug companies like Oriental Weavers—which named a new president, Jonathan Witt, this week—reported a banner year, thus far.

“We just had our biggest U.S. shipping month in March, and we’re coming off our biggest quarter in the history of the company,” said Angie Shook, director of marketing and public relations, Oriental Weavers.

Flood of Business

The sunshine and balmy temperatures of the first day of market gave way to chilly rain by Sunday. But buyers weren’t deterred by the less-than-stellar weather.

“Market has been very busy,” said Jim Telleysh, president/CEO, Braxton Culler. “I’ve been blown away by how much traffic we’ve seen, even in the torrential

bcTents shielded visitors in Braxton Culler's outdoor space.
downpours.”

In Showplace, C.R. Plastic Products also saw a rush of buyers, despite the weather. The company introduced a new swivel Adirondack this market, along with additional fabric options.

“We’ve been really busy, even the day before market officially began—Friday felt like an official market day,” said Meaghan Robinson, marketing and advertising director, C.R. Plastic Products.

Traffic was heavy in Summer Classics’ new larger space in InterHall. Inspired by the laid-back vibe of a resort town Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the showroom’s distressed wood floors and clean, white shiplap walls served as a backdrop for the company’s collections. Summer Classics President Bew White said business in general for the company is up, particularly on the contract side.

“Contract” was also the hot word for Pelican Reef. As the official outdoor furnishings licensee for Panama Jack, the company got first dibs on a huge new resort project. Panama Jack partnered with Playa Resorts earlier this year for a collection of branded properties located throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. Pelican Reef President Allen Calzadilla said the company will create an upgraded line specifically for the resorts.

“It’s an evolution of the brand,” he said. “Our best product is being made for these resorts, and we want people at the resort to say, ‘I want that hanging chair, or I want that daybed.’”

New and Noteworthy

Several big-name intros created buzz around the casual category this market. The much-anticipated Barclay Butera collection for Castelle drew crowds to the company’s showroom, eager to see the famed designer’s first outdoor furniture line.

The collection featured deep seating and lounge chairs in a crisp white finish, embellished with a geometric fretwork pattern inspired by a carved ceiling relief in a

CastelleThe Barclay Butera collection from Castelle made a splash.
London cathedral. Butera said he relished working with Castelle through the creative process bringing this collection to life.

“The ability for me to dream something up and they create it in Costa Rica is amazing,” he said. “We went down to the plant, and I was able to dream the dream, and they could make it reality.”

Castelle CEO Derek Ritzel said the collection was a hit for the company. “Folks have been coming specifically to see this, and we’ve also had people walking by to stop, see it, and come in even though they weren’t planning to,” he said. “The design community is in love with this look. Working with Barclay has been a thrill.”

Sunvilla introduced the latest in the Paula Deen Outdoor line for Universal Furniture, the Bungalow collection. The collection includes dining, deep seating, loungers and a rocker. The collection mixes extruded aluminum and resin wicker in a Tobacco finish, with two dining table options—traditional and fire-pit dining—adding to the versatility.

“We added a fire-pit dining table this time since we’re seeing success with it on the Sunvilla side,” said Christy Peterson, national sales manager, Sunvilla. “It’s been really well-received.”

Paula DeenThe Paula Deen Collection by Sunvilla for Universal introduced Bungalow, which includes a fire pit dining table.
Klaussner Outdoor rolled out two-thirds of its new offering this market—a first for the casual brand that usually holds most introductions for the July Preview Show. Among the new this market: the Mod collection of modular seating, complete with a weather-defying power recline seat. The battery-operated chair works with zinc-plated parts, a powder-coated mechanism and a sealed power system that keeps the motor and drive shafts safe from water.

In addition to this motion seating marvel, the company introduced four additional direct container collections built on deep seating. Klaussner Outdoor President Gary McCray said the spring market launch will allow the company to reach a wider audience sooner, and allow time for tweaks to be made before the July show in Chicago.

Making its second showing at High Point Market, Sunbrella debuted the new Pendleton licensed fabric collection, featuring bold Native American-inspired patterns in a host of eye-catching colors. The line caused a stir at Century, where chairs and other pieces showcased the new fabric.

Elsewhere in High Point, new companies made their mark on casual furnishing audiences. Padma’s Plantation brought

Klaussner OutdoorKlaussner Outdoor introduced a weather-resistant power recline seat in its Mod collection.
nature-inspired woven furnishings to the Suites at Market Square, and Wicker Hills commanded a large Suites space filled with a mixture of woven, aluminum, concrete and more, all with a decidedly contemporary slant.

Bonnie Sze, Wicker Hills’ general merchandise manager, said the company looks to reach a younger audience with its cool, modern look.

Whether brand-new or older than a century, casual companies across High Point were enthused over the market and the impending season. If things continue on this track, the industry could be poised for a huge year. Casual Living research has found a projected growth rate of 20.5% by 2021.

Image of Jennifer BringleJennifer Bringle | Features Editor, Casual Living
jbringle@casualliving.com

Jennifer Bringle is the features editor of Casual Living. She previously served as an editor and reporter at a number of publications, including Kids Today, AAA Living Magazine, The News & Observer of Raleigh and Carolina Parent. Her work also has appeared in The Washington Post, Southern Living, Our State and The News & Record of Greensboro, and she is the author of several non-fiction books for middle and high school-aged children.  Contact her at jbringle@casualliving.com

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