Retail Gains help upholstery sales

Retail Gains help upholstery sales

Strongest performance in quite some time

Gary Evans — Furniture Today, April 21, 2010

Jordan Spencer by Lorts Chair

AT THE MARKET — Stationary upholstery makers were heading into the last stretch of the market here this week in a sunny mood.

There is universal sentiment that stationary upholstery sales will end up the strongest they’ve been in the past several markets, with producers feeling that after a long dry period good times are finally returning.

Several showrooms report that foot traffic and accompanying order-writing are up in the double digits. Most factory executives said that dealers are experiencing retail gains at home and have more confidence to fill diminished inventories.

Daniel Best, brand manager at Halo Styles, showing in the International Home Furnishings Center’s Interhall, said that while dealers were buying pieces at recent markets, they’re now buying the whole collection.

“We’re back to the early 2008 numbers, which were good for us. In general, there seems to be more optimism in from the marketplace,” Best said.

But he added, “Dealers are assessing their risks very closely. But at the same time, they’re saying we really do need to push the envelope.”

La-Z-Boy’s stationary upholstery is getting strong dealer reaction for it colors in citrus, terra cotta, turquoise and rusty reds used as pops of color on neutral body cloths, a trend the company is showing in vignettes at its showroom entrance.

“Our dealers are coming in and they’re focused, they’re buying. We’re really excited, we’re pumped,” said Paula Hoyas, vice president of merchandising.

La-Z-Boy also is working to quench dealers’ thirst for value-oriented merchandise. The company remerchandised nine existing frames to provide an opening price point of $599 and $699.

Tina Nicole, an owner of Nathan Anthony, said orders have been “significantly better” than previously. “People are really upbeat and excited and wanting to talk about summer and winter (selling seasons) coming up and what they’re going to do.”

Stefanie Lucas, president and CEO of Rowe, also described business in the Rowe, Clayton Marcus and Robert Bruce showrooms as up “significantly.”

Designer-oriented Lorts Mfg. said it is getting good reaction to eight new frames here in its first full launch of upholstery, with finishes that correlate with case goods.

“For us, we’ve really been pleased. We had high expectations and we weren’t disappointed,” said Fred Faul, vice president of marketing. “Our traffic and order-writing is up.” He said that signifies that the company’s designer customers are getting more projects.

“This is one of the best shows we’ve had in the last two years,” said Mike Bakian, CEO of Ital Art Design. The company said it had seen 800 customers by Monday afternoon and had run out of order pads.

Traffic at England was up 30% over the first few days of market, according to Cara Cox, vice president of merchandising, with many of the company’s customers interested in the advertising and gallery programs the company is offering.

Cox said that the gallery program has added 60 stores in the past year, with 30 more on the books. England now has 220 galleries, and says sales have grown significantly in the past year.

Dealers also were shopping England’s value-oriented merchandise of seven collections – four new this market – in the $599 starting price point for sofas.

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