HIGH POINT — Motion has been the major growth story for several years in upholstered seating, and while the category remains hot, vendors are giving more attention to stationary goods this market.

The rise of sectionals has given stationary upholstery a boost relative to motion’s comfort story, along with advances in seating for sofas and chairs. Those factors, plus the fact that more consumers are replacing their old sofas and straining retailer stocks in the category, have upholstery resources paying more attention to tried-and-true stationary seating.

Some vendors known for imported goods such as Spectra Home and Universal are expanding with domestic production. Universal has its major showing of a new domestic upholstery program unveiled at June’s pop-up event, which gives the manufacturer new special order capability with a six- to eight-week lead time. It’s also adding a quick-ship component through imported upholstery. Ten frames are new for the season.

“We also build all the upholstery in our facility in Vietnam so we can keep 100 styles in inventory at our High Point warehouse,” said Sean O’Connor, senior vice president of sales. “We have the same styles available out of the North Carolina factory with 425 fabrics and 50 leathers. We’ll have 200 SKUs total, with 100 ready to ship and another 100 special order out of the Conover, N.C., facility.”

Universal also will back its custom capabilities through a new partnership with product visualization specialist Cylindo for a draping tool that gives retailers and consumers online access to Universal’s available fabrics in the store or at home.

“They’ll be able to change things like fabrics, nailheads, pillows and leg finishes,” O’Connor said. “Every SKU is set up in that assortment.”

Klaussner is highlighting its Apex 12-inch cushion in foam or down blend, and growing special order capability for accents.

“We can take this cushion and move it between both our Klaussner and Distinctions lines,” said Senior Vice President of Sales Jason Neal. “Also, we offer special order with all our fabrics, but to take that and add cushion special order is something we haven’t done in a while.”

Sectionals steam ahead

From moderate to high-end, sectionals continue to get major focus among vendors across the board.

Ashley is putting a spin on that with what President of Sales Rick Coppola called “chofas:” sofas paired with a reversible chaise and ottoman.

“Sectionals had been around 48% of our stationary upholstery sales,” he said. “Now, it’s been 60% since May 1.”

Sectionals also are a major component of the Kicking It at Home license at Peak Living with country music star Brantley Jacobs.

At the high end, resources such as Taylor King, Vanguard and Sherrill to name a few are building out their sectional assortments.

Managing supply chain

Norwalk made a big push in green tones for spring and has enhanced that with some additions for fall. As with many vendors, a lot of what buyers will see are April intros that haven’t had a look yet from many. That’s the main reason for the fairly short frame list this market.

“We thought it would be too distracting to have a lot of new goods,” said CEO Caroline Hipple. “We have as many new fabrics for fall as April, but they’re still organized in the same themes and families.”

Norwalk has stayed tied in to customers’ business strategies and pre-ordered deep on fabrics early, and Hipple said shipping is mostly under 30 days.

“In January, we bought eight months’ worth of fabric for top-sellers,” she said, noting more than half are domestic, the reset from China, India and Turkey. “We’re seeing supply chain issues for the imports, so we’re buying much more than usual to offset lead times. These are our more decorative fabrics.”

Trend watch

At Taylor King, which is adding 30 new pieces this fall, there’s an emphasis on updating familiar forms with more modern treatments and different materials.

“Everyone wants to re-invent traditional and make it hip and cooler,” said President and COO Del Starnes. “We’re seeing a lot of blacks and whites with accents of gray. The other thing people are wanting from us are more items with tight backs, more curvature in fronts and on sides.”
Taylor King also is building out its assortment of indoor seating with wicker frames in a variety of shapes and weave patterns.

“It’s indoor only, but you can do 50 finishes to change the look and feel of the pieces,” Starnes said, who added the company is making moves to improve delivery.

“We’ve added people and are working overtime in the factory,” he said. “Right now we’re at nine to 10 weeks, and we want to be in the seven- to eight-week range. That’s why we’re working overtime.”

E.J. Victor is paying attention to what Director of Sales John H. Jokinen called the “ebb and flow” of cushion preferences.

“The three-over look has been consistently most popular, but the last couple of years we’ve seen more requests for two-overs or bench seating,” he said. “Luckily for us we can customize our frames to adapt to any of those styles.”

He added that the predominant color “is still a lack of color.”

“Whites, blacks, grays —maybe a light champagne tone —those are the major themes,” Jokinen said. “Designers might get bolder with blues and teals. As far as the plains are concerned, texture is the name of the game. We’re seeing requests for a lot of linens, larger weaves there.”

Performance fabrics keep playing a bigger role at the high end as well. Those comprise 30% of E.J. Victor’s offerings now, up from 20% not too far back.

“The hands are getting softer, and the price points are so approachable,” Jokinen said. “Consumers awareness of performance fabrics is an additional driver, and we’ve put an together an entire fabric handle just for performance.”
Sherrill Upholstery is expanding its strength in traditional with cleaner looks in 15 new frames and 75 new fabrics.

“We’ve dropped a lot of skirts and nailheads and built these pieces off best-selling frames and adding sectionals,” said Kara Sherrill, social media and marketing coordinator. “We did a large-scale ottoman as a seating piece, with or without skirt.”

Moves in stationary

Several resources are paying extra attention to stationary this fall. Manwah, for example, is known for motion, but its MW Home division is adding eight stationary leather new frames retailing from $1,199 to $1,699 with 16 color options to bring its stationary assortment to 12 so far.

“It’s a category I’ve done for a long time, and within this company we can properly execute stationary,” said MW Home President Jackson Carpenter. “There’s a void in the marketplace, and what gives us a leg up is we can ship stationary with our motion. We’ll be shipping in November or December for new goods. … This will be a full-on stationary program over time.”

Bernhardt took its “Plush” seating comfort story in its interiors line into its regular upholstery line with six new all top-grain leather groups that combine performance with the look and feel of aniline.

The groups are stocked in Conover, N.C., as shown, but also are available customized in 20 leathers out of Bernhardt’s Lenoir factory. The program includes tables designed specifically for the seating, and accent chairs will feature shearlings and other textures to complement the leather. Sofas run $1,999 as shown to $2,999 for custom domestic production.

“A lot of these colors were created in conjunction with the tannery for Bernhardt,” said Vice President of sales Bryan Edwards. “It’s leveraging what we already do in in fabric and translating that to leather.”

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