Sunny outlooks add to colorful High Point Market
Cinde W Ingram & Jamie Sorcher -- Casual Living, 4/29/2013 11:26:11 AM
HIGH POINT, N.C. - The High Point Market came alive last week as 75,000 vendors, buyers and designers dressed in colorful clothes and, for the most part, sensible walking shoes, shopped the showrooms to get a peek at what is hot for the home.
Lifted by a recovering economy and housing market, buyers arrived "open to buy," vendors said. High Point Market Authority Chairman Doug Bassett described the April 20-25 market as very strong and said the "mood of buyers was excellent and their pocketbooks were open."
Casual furniture companies were among the 200 new vendors at the spring market - a continuing sign that the outdoor room is no longer an afterthought. It bodes well for the casual furniture industry as it adds increased visibility with the traditional full-line furniture stores. The furniture store buyers at market are increasingly adding patio sets, pillows and fire pits to their retail floors.
New showrooms included Treasure Garden, which settled in at space 2600 in the Showplace building replacing Jersey Mikes (it relocated to the ground floor). CR Plastic Products cut the ribbon on its new home in Showplace, space 3319.
Not only were there new showrooms, but key companies made introductions in High Point versus waiting until the July Preview Show or September International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market in Chicago.
Brown Jordan introduced its Nomad II collection at the High Point Market. "This is a gateway piece for us," said Steve Elton, chief brand officer. "We decided to introduce this in April - not July or August - which was a strategic decision to give us momentum with this group for market. It gives retailers an opportunity to put something new on their floor."
The Nomad II, a retread of a collection from 1977, includes folding chairs/tables that are portable and geared to a younger customer.
Lloyd Flanders also is creating new product and expanding its demographic to include the more youthful consumer, according to Lou Rosebrock, senior vice president of sales and marketing. "There is a push toward more contemporary looks and by that I mean cleaner lines," he said. "This 25- to 45-year-old customer has income of $120,000 and they're online 10 or 12 times to research products. It's definitely putting some pressure on retailers who need to make the buying experience effortless."
Warren Juliano, national sales manager, Lloyd Flanders, noted the company exhibited neutral tones on furniture and color on accessories. "There is definitely a pent-up demand for bright colors," he said.
Elaine Smith, president of the high-end pillow source Elaine Smith, said she is seeing a movement toward buyers mixing multiple patterns. "I think people have really responded to color," she said.
At Capel Rugs, the Terrace collection of outdoor rugs made their debut with 10 SKUs in the lineup, which is made in Egypt. "The big players with this category are the big boxes," said Allen Robertson, VP of sales. "We're trying to build more business with the pool, casual outdoor specialty stores and the traditional furniture retailers."
The Rug Market America now offers about 125 indoor/outdoor rugs, according to Mike Shabtai, president. "We revamp the line to keep the most popular patterns, but about 50% of our product is new and we keep adding more," he said.
Clay Kingsley, president of Kingsley-Bate, said it was one of the busiest shows he could remember. "This is a noticeably better show than previous ones; definitely above the norm," he said. Kingsley also pointed to the importance of the traditional furniture stores. "We're definitely seeing more traditional furniture stores," he said. There is a warming trend with outdoor furniture for the traditional furniture stores, but it has to make sense for them. With the shrinkage in the industry over the last few years we need more traditional furniture stores in the business, too."
Tami Newton, manager, Palm Springs Rattan & Garden Classics, said, "At least three dealers, who have been on board with us for 10 to 15 years and who have never written orders at a show, wrote orders."
Joe Johnston, president, Johnston Casual Furniture, responded to the requests of designers who asked for the contemporary style furnishings to be made for outdoor use over the past 20 years. "We selected 10 chairs and we're offering brushed steel, powder-coated in three steps in five different finishes, using Sunbrella fabric and vinyls," Johnston said. "We did it because of the interest of designers who are selling our line."
Although a small part of the overall line of Textillery Weavers' line of throws, outdoor fibers continue to play an increasingly important role for indoor and outdoor uses. "Sunbrella was part of at least half of what we've written at this show," said Judith Rose, VP, Textillery.
The slow start to spring has no doubt had some impact with the outdoor business, manufacturers at the market concurred. Despite the cool weather, there are some bright spots for the peak season which is just around the corner.
Perhaps one of the most encouraging signs is new home construction which, in March, hit its highest level in nearly five years. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are up from last year and prices continue to rise, factors that make homeowners feel more secure and willing to use their checkbooks. It likely brought more buyers to High Point along with throngs of interior designers scouting for clients ready to shell out for better quality furnishings and upgrades.
There is also a turnaround in the economy which is expected to continue to some degree. Unemployment also seems to have taken a turn. In February, the unemployment rate fell in 22 states and the national unemployment rate fell to 7.7%.
With April market a memory now, casual outdoor furniture companies are focused on Chicago. For many, July and September markets are still the main arenas to roll out new introductions.
"We will have 75 to 100 new products to introduce by July 1," said Henry Vanderminden, president, Telescope Casual. "People were bullish with orders in July and September. We finished a good year and started another. The commercial side is doing well. I think we're going to have a good season."
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