All Things Considered

The casually sophisticated Donna Karan Lenox collection included dinnerware, flatware and glassware. lenox.com

The casually sophisticated Donna Karan Lenox collection included dinnerware, flatware and glassware. lenox.com

By Allison Zisko

Carefully edited and considered collections debuted at the New York Tabletop Show here last month, reflecting vendors’ ongoing efforts to offer product that is saleable, price-conscious and practical, but also beautiful and inspirational.

In this fashion-oriented business, the stand-out introduction was Donna Karan Lenox, but there were additional trend-right looks. Organic themes and shapes—particularly florals, single branches with leaves or oversized single leaves—prevailed. Paisley and other prints inspired by textiles are becoming popular. Colors were either bright or muted; taupe was one of the leading neutral tones.

Embossing and reactive glazes were the predominant finishing techniques in dinnerware, and in several instances, those two techniques were combined in one piece. Some vendors said these finishing techniques could substitute for handpainted dinnerware, which is harder to execute because of a labor shortage in China. Pattern over pattern is another growing design option.

Overall, designs were traditional or transitional, in dinnerware as well as flatware, where matte-frost finish combinations have returned to the front lines.

Beverageware is big. Mugs—whether traditional ceramic or thermal and silicone-lidded—are strong sellers and a growing number of vendors are offering them. Colored glassware is back. There were also more introductions in stemware and barware geared toward specific types of alcohol (like wine or whiskey).

Pleased with the results of the show, most vendors nonetheless talked about the need for more long-term planning and increased flexibility with their retail partners as a way to counteract the rising costs of doing business.

“Business is very specific . . . you have to offer a lot of options” and be able to further customize product that may already be exclusive to a particular retailer or retail channel, said Tom Moleski, director, product development & creative services, at Arc International, one of the biggest glassware makers in the world. That is challenging when you are a large manufacturer, acknowledged Moleski, but the company is trying to use its strengths and make them work for the marketplace, he said. “We’re being more flexible.”

Prices are going up (one vendor estimated an initial rise of 5 to 25 percent) as a result of rising factory costs in China, but generally, retailers are accepting manufacturer increases, industry members said. Price increases may adversely affect the opening price point tier more than any other, said Sal Gabbay, president of Gibson. The next step will be implementing more creative ways to give consumers the value they crave while preserving some degree of profitability.

Overall, the show was “good” and “positive,” according to Gabbay. “There’s very little talk about failure,” he said.

This is compared to a “terrible” year last year, Gabbay added. “What you really have to measure against is 2008. That is the true measure. [Whether business will exceed that measure is]  up for debate.”

Morale at the show was high. Some manufacturers believe the business is on an upswing and that 2011 business, while not without its challenges, will show continued improvement. Some even said they had their best show in years.

Notable European companies such as Caleca and Antheor have stepped back into the American market after a brief hiatus, while others, including Hermes and La Mediterranea, had a greater showroom presence here in New York. Rogaska, a well-established European crystal maker, is making a bigger name for itself in the United States, managing more of its marketing and distribution and signing licenses with recognizable figures Donald Trump and Kathy Ireland.

“We’re trying to be interesting, new, fresh, fun,” said Bostjan Leskovar, Rogaska’s president.