13765 Fri, 02/08/2008 - 5:56pm
HFN Staff Report
LAS VEGAS–It may not be the greatest retail climate for home furnishings right now, but you wouldn’t necessarily know working the Las Vegas Market here in late January.
Vendors and retailers alike agreed that buying activity was strong at the market, held at the World Market Center and elsewhere. Retail remains tough, but the chance to get new product was the strong draw.
With a brisk wind perhaps serving as a hopeful harbinger for business conditions, many vendors said they were counting on heavy rollouts of new products to drive business and keep away the doom and gloom.
That said, there was a general consensus that many buying contingencies were smaller than in years past and that some stores were being more cautious.
“The home furnishings industry is in a recession right now,” admitted Steve Russo, president of Restonic, the bedding resource, but he added “for us, it’s more imperative to bring stronger products to the market. The recession has motivated us to bring new and better products.”
Jonathan Bass, CEO of PTM Images, said that contrary to other manufacturers that have pulled back on research and development, his wall decor company is doing more product development to give retailers a reason to buy and keep their stores fresh. PTM is showing 600 new SKUs this market.
“People aren’t moving, but the consumer is educated for change. They can’t afford a new kitchen or case goods but want change. Accessories change an environment,” Bass said.
“You have to constantly throw new things at them and offer them new directions,” said Jeff Gonzales, national vice president of sales for Surya, the floor covering company. “The key now is if you’re not willing to listen to customer demands and work and change with them, you are just not going to be successful.”
Sometimes, however, even new product is not enough. “The issue is you can’t even really go out and get aggressive,” said Mike Reilly, president of Sphinx by Oriental Weavers. “If there’s no foot traffic in the store, you just can’t sell. [The retailers] realize they have to bring in fresh products to get the business, but they also have to mark down the existing inventory.”
Reilly said his company carries a lot more inventory than it used to and that had helped it weather the storm. “It is absolutely critical today that we have stock ready for them and be able to have it to them in a matter of days.”
For two furniture producers, the strategy has been to avoid intensely competitive market segments and focus on other categories.
Jim Schmidt, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Bush Industries, said the good news for his company is that TV unit sales, which drive the entertainment RTA segment, are strong.
“December was huge, and what we’re seeing is that 70 percent of consumers get their new TV home and realize they need furniture and that’s where home furnishings retailers can win.”
“Our business at Linon has always been specialty stores, big box retailers, Internet and catalog,” said Jim Ziozis, president of Linon Home Decor. So, he said, “We’re not your typical serious furniture vendor, we’ve avoided a lot of the carnage of the furniture retailer liquidations, closings, etc.
“At the end of the day, there’s still a lot of replacement furniture business, and a lot of functional furniture needs. The stool, the seating, kitchen, storage and entertainment businesses are all solid businesses,” he said.