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High Point Rebounds

Home furnishings manufacturers use brands to tell consumers their story.

Home Furnishings TrendsBy Alfred DockeryHigh Point Rebounds Home furnishings manufacturers use brands to tell consumers their story.

The October 2003 edition of the International Home Furnishings Market saw a significant increase in attendance compared with previous markets held over the past two years.At the time of this writing, the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, N.C., is just winding down. Many industry insiders describe it as the best market since 9/11. While hard numbers are not yet available, phrases such as huge uptick were used, and quick eyeball estimates put attendance at the market up about 20 percent.Jerry Epperson, managing partner of financial services firm Mann, Armistead and Epperson, Richmond, Va., predicts total US furniture sales will rise 3 percent in 2003, to $69 billion, and increase 5.5 percent in 2004, to $72.5 billion.Hopefully the [furniture] business is at an inflection point and poised for real growth, said John Gorcyca, global furniture business director for INVISTA Inc. (formerly DuPont TextilesandInteriors). Retailers with the right range of products are doing well.The streets of High Point once more morphed to bear a resemblance to New York City, as they filled with furniture buyers from throughout the United States and around the world. International visitors were back, although not at the same levels as five or six years ago.The pre-market Mood to Market survey conducted by certified public accountant firm Dixon Odom PLLC and the Office of Business and Economic Research at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, found furniture retailers significantly more optimistic about current and future business than they were six months ago.The Mood to Market Index for this Octobers market rose 0.9 points to 7.4 on a 10-point scale, compared with 6.5 in April 2003, and 6.6 a year ago.The findings are quite encouraging, said Randy Brodd, a partner at Dixon Odom. The positive mood is a strong indication that the furniture industry could be slowly moving toward a much-needed recovery.Licensed Brands Are BigBrands were the big story at this Falls High Point market. From the National Geographic Society to NASCAR, from hip designer Todd Oldham to homemaking maven Martha Stewart, licensed brands were dominant.Licensed brands give the furniture manufacturer a story to tell and the furniture store something to promote, said Richard Bennington, director of the home furnishings program at High Point University. Its a way to romance the product.Brands are the emotional tie that binds for American consumers, according to Bob Stec, chairman and CEO of Lexington Home Brands, a company that pioneered lifestyle furniture brands with the introduction of Bob Timberlake® in 1990. This Fall, the company adds Woolrich to its stable of brands with a 3,000-square-foot display of case goods and upholstery inspired by the outdoors.La-Z-Boy made a big splash at the High Point market with its collaboration with fashion designer Todd Oldham. The Todd Oldham by La-Z-Boy collection includes 26 furniture frames and more than 150 textile fabrics.Todd Oldham well known for hosting such MTV programs as House of Style and Crib Crashers, as well as for his chic dorm room collections for Target introduced retro contemporary recliners, sofas and chairs, as well as occasional pieces, for La-Z-Boy. The company is seeking to reach younger consumers with this collection.Our focus on style over the past few years, embodied by our New Look of Comfort campaign, has been transformational for us, said Doug Collier, vice president of marketing, La-Z-Boy. And this collection is really going to take that effort into overdrive.The inspiration behind this collection is to give people the tools and confidence to cultivate their own individual style, Oldham said.When asked why he designed the Snap convertible sofa with an easily removable back and arms that allow it to transform into a bench, armless sofa, fainting sofa or chaise, Oldham replied, because Ive always wanted to be MacGyver.
The Snap sofa, part of the Todd Oldham by La-Z-Boy collection, transforms into a bench, armless sofa, fainting sofa or chaise.Thomasville Introduces Extreme FabricsNew entertainment, occasional and home office pieces expand the Bogart Collection at Thomasville Furniture Industries.Since it first appeared at retail in early 2003, the Bogart Collection has quickly become one of Thomasville Furnitures best-selling collections, said Tom Tilley, company president and CEO. This market, we are continuing to build on the success of the collection, while providing consumers with product choices that meet the needs of their lifestyles.Thomasville is meeting consumers needs with its new Extreme Fabrics program. These new fabrics offer durability, stain resistance, lightfastness, colorfastness and easy-care cleaning. In addition, they are child-friendly, pet-friendly and suitable for one of consumers newest favorite spaces, the home theater.Consumers are kind of backing into the need for performance fabrics. You cant just put a bubbly jacquard on a recliner and expect it to last through the popcorn and beverages, said Sharon Bosworth, vice president of upholstery design, Thomasville. This is why we brought out Extreme Fabrics.Extreme Fabrics comprises four categories of gold standard products Crypton®, Sunbrella®, Microban® antimicrobial product protection and High-Performance Suede. The program includes 240 fabrics in styles and colors designed to fit a variety of dr styles ranging from traditional to urban contemporary.
Thomasville Furniture Industries Extreme Fabrics program offers 240 fabrics in a variety of styles and colors designed to fit numerous dr styles.Henredon Furniture Industries collaborated with New York designer David Easton for its At Home Collection by David Easton. The collection has 52 new frames and 173 new fabrics, and is intended to put a fresh spin on traditional styling by blending classicism and modernity.Easton specifically created the fabrics for the At Home Collection, and they are Henredon exclusives. Easton relied on traditional elements, colored in a fresh transitional palette of reds, creams, yellows, pear and aqua. The constructions consist of linens, cut and printed velvets, jacquards and washed chenilles.Brands Come HomeVaughan Furniture Co. presented its new NASCAR House and Home collection of master bedroom and youth furnishings.Branding has exploded in home furnishings, said Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA). From couture designers and film legends to media mavens and models, manufacturers are banking on name brands like never before.Additions to already successful licensed lines this Fall include a contemporary addition to the Oscar de la Renta line at Century, and Turkey Hill, the third Martha Stewart Signature collection at Bernhardt an 115-piece collection of case goods and upholstery inspired by Stewart's 1805 farmhouse and surrounding countryside in Westport, Conn.Impact Of ImportsFurniture and upholstery fabric imports are the major challenge facing the US furniture industry today. For the first half of 2003, furniture imports were up 13 percent. Shipments from China were up 28 percent, to $3.6 billion. Three other countries managed double-digit increases: Brazil 16 percent; Malaysia 12 percent; and Mexico 11 percent.Furniture makers, upholstery mills and furniture retailers are all adapting in various ways to the rising tide of imports. The two most common strategies are cutting costs and using imports for the bottom portion of their lines. Many firms are reaching for higher-value products and reducing their participation in commodities.The only way that we can combat imports is [ to offer] quality, service, style and color, said M. Edward Auten, director of merchandising and design, Dicey Fabrics, at Julys Showtime fabric market. Because they are going to deal in commodity items, at least initially, we have to style around them.Intellectual property issues remain a particularly nettlesome problem related to imports. The day before the Fall market opened, Bennington already had received a call from someone who wanted the name of a good lawyer because one of the companys designs had been knocked off.Ironically, imports and the pressure they have brought to pricing also may be one of the big factors in bringing the consumer back to the furniture store. Its just a question of where the furniture will be made and who will benefit in the long run.Furniture is the best value that it has been in years, Bennington said. Imports have driven prices down, and many [newly built] houses are under-furnished.Projected Changes In Consumer Color PreferencesLeatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, kicked off the Fall market with Pantone's 2004 Color Forecast at a press breakfast sponsored by AFMA.Humans are intrigued by newness and novelty, Eiseman said. You need to show a new color, something that draws the eye and makes them pay attention. As color remains one of the most important persuaders in the marketplace, it behooves all segments of the home furnishings industry to know about the latest trends in color, and, most importantly, to understand what drives consumers tastes and needs.She noted several big departures from past color trends. Orange, for example, used to be considered a cheapening color associated with fast food, but it is becoming more popular as a result of multicultural influences. Deep greens such as avocado also are coming into fashion because of greater interest in environmental matters.People look to colors that give them a link to the past, Eiseman said. They want organic colors in an increasingly synthetic world.Pantones 2004 Color Forecast identifies eight distinct palettes: Natural Instincts: This is the quiet environment that is closest to the simplicity found in nature, reflecting a love of weathered wood, natural fibers, and all things organic and real. Beach Retreat: This palette offers a relaxed retreat, an escape from the invasive and hectic surrounding world. The colors are a medley of deep marine, lavender blues and sky blues, oyster gray, and cloud white. Global Warming: A vital, bold and sensual palette, this warming trend is a strong color story made up primarily of color wheel neighbors in and around the red family such as molten lava, spicy orange, dancing pink, magenta purple and vivid yellow, with an unexpected jolt of electric blue. Enhancing Hues: Taking its cue from the world of cosmetics, this pleasing palette celebrates a myriad of skin tones. These flattering hues are gentle, soft and mellow, yet more complex and sophisticated than simple pastels. Sweet Stuff: Sweet but never cloying, these confection shades entice the eye by adding a new level of tantalizing tastes with combinations such as mimosa, smoky grape and pink mist; or brandied melon, taffy and banana crepe. Creature Comforts: This is an engaging presentation of warm cozy quilts and comfort food colors such as soft creamy whites, rustic reds and golden yellows. This palette has a very casual or country look to it. Streamlined: It is sleek, stylish and gracefully configured minimal and modern meets design statements of the past. Inspired by the curvaceous, compact and gleaming Airstream trailers that captured everyone's attention in the 50s, it is still seen both as motor home and as dressing room for the stars. The aerodynamic styling inspires metallic finishes such as chrome or silver, while other design icons inspire the glamour of polished black or the stark simplicity of pristine white, used singly or in classic combinations. Finishing Touches: These are the styles and colors that traditions are built upon a tasteful blending of time-honored antiques with nouveau style, understated rather than overstuffed, with a hint of opulence. The colors are lush, classic and rich, reflecting the possibility of intricate combinations. Colors include wine reds, purples and yellow greens. Avocado is making a comeback. Editors Note: Alfred Dockery is editor of The HunTex Report, a newsletter for industrial textiles. A graduate of North Carolina State Universitys College of Textiles, he has been writing about the textile industry for 15 years. Dockery is based in Clemmons, N.C.

November 2003