14200 Fri, 04/04/2008 - 2:33pm
By Jennifer Quail
HIGH POINT, N.C.–As they eye another of the year’s major markets, suppliers are hoping just to keep par with last year, but many have said they’ve been encouraged in recent months by a relatively positive attitude among many of their retail customers.
While most agreed attendance at the winter markets has been only fair, sources also said the buyers who attended were excited and determined to find new products to give them an edge over their competition. Vendors are hoping for more of the same here this week.
“Buyers are in a sensitive position,” said Mac McCormick, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Jaunty Co. “Key management will be looking at the numbers more than ever, thus, buyers will feel limited in what they can do on their own.”
“Customers are still buying, but much more cautiously,” said Arash Yaraghi, co-principal of Safavieh. “What is on their mind is they want value-added programs, and they want products that are advertised and promoted to consumers.”
“When times are more challenging for consumers and retailers, the buying selections become more measured,” said Joe Barkley, executive vice president of Kaleen. “Value and quality become the focus of purchase decisions and consumers hold off until they find the right combination of color, design, quality and, most importantly, value.”
Austin Craley, vice president of sales for Momeni, said as retailers are getting less customers in their stores every day, they need to maximize those who come through their doors. “They cannot afford to not have what the customer wants,” he said. “So they will be looking for the leaders in the industry to show them the best colors, designs, constructions, etc., to turn quickly at retail.”
Suppliers are indeed becoming more creative in their offerings to retailers, creating more merchandising and marketing plans so the stores themselves don’t have to and also so they can maximize their floor space without the burden of a massive inventory.
Jaunty’s ShowTime series of display units, designed to allow dealers to show greater product variety than their floor plan or budget permits, is one example, with the fifth installation set to debut at this market. Another is Safavieh’s expanded sampling program, also designed to reduce costs for its customers. Based on a rack program for the Martha Stewart line, the program provides 1 1/2-by-2-foot samples, instead of full-size rugs.
Steve Mazarakis, president and chief executive officer of Hellenic Rug Imports, said his company is confident the one thing retailers heading into market do need is an “uplift of their looks to help enhance their furniture sales.”
Others agreed the retailers’ desire and necessity to stay competitive will translate to sales and hope to see furniture dealers coming to market this week with the notion that accessories can make for great business in lean years, when not as many people can afford a houseful of new furniture.
“Salespeople should realize that the accents play just as an important part as the furniture,” said Wendy Reiss, key account manager for Kas. “In hard times, the accessories can change a look of a room at a minimal expense.”
With regard to the consumers’ mind-set, Sphinx, for example, has noted two key trends surfacing on the design and product front. “First, consumers are looking for products with a longer life-cycle,” said Kim Reynolds, vice president of marketing for the company. “While they are still looking to make a statement, with fewer disposable dollars to go around, they also want a product that brings comfort and offers longevity. Second, as part of the growing ‘green’ movement, organic colors and design elements are coming to the forefront.”
Executives said buyers will be shopping for “wow” products at good price points, the type that will not only draw the customer in, but keep them there through a purchase. Some also pointed to indoor/outdoor rugs becoming more important to the furniture retailer, saying that product segment should be a positive one at this market.
Rich Siminou, vice president at Harounian Rugs International, expects buyers to be shopping for better-quality rugs that combine classic patterns with more modern color.
Others pointed to tufted product, both wool and synthetic, as being key at this market, and also said High Point is a mainstay for traditional and transitional designs. Contemporary designs are expected to continue on their softer path, while transitionals get sophisticated and traditionals relax a little. Colors expected to fare well are rich and earthy shades, such as browns, greens, golds and rust.