HIGH POINT — First Tuesday’s first edition is in the bag.

While coming on the heels of Thanksgiving weekend and renewed pandemic-related travel concerns caused some retail cancellations, several exhibitors reported they saw from five to 10 customers. A lot of traffic was regional, but dealers from places such as Texas and Florida including a couple of majors were in town.

Most important, vendors at participating showrooms wanted to establish the event before year’s end and lay the groundwork for coming months. They believe renewed worries about large gatherings and the opportunity to offer smaller amounts of new product more often, especially while vendors play catch up on backlogs, make First Tuesday a viable proposition.

New goods

Exhibitors who said they’d be offering fresh product here came through on those commitments with mid-market introductions. The new goods were concentrated in upholstery, a reflection of the difference in product development lead times relative to case goods.

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1st First Tuesday

Klaussner Home Furnishings, for example, offered five new stationary frames including three slip-covered fabric sofas starting at $899 available in Klaussner’s 500 covers and two new all-leather, deep-seat sofas with 60-plus leather options at a $1,399 price point.

“This kicks off our commitment to having monthly introductions,” said Klaussner Vice President of Marketing Len Burke, who noted mostly regional drive-in attendance this time. “Even though the first Tuesday was lightly attended, it gave us the opportunity to have a good practice run of what we intend on doing for the next 12 months. It’s our goal to introduce new product across all our product lines on a monthly cycle giving our retail partners the opportunity to take in a little at a time rather than have a massive amount of introductions twice a year. We will present new product on the First Tuesday events and through our monthly digital presentations as well as April and October markets.”

Manwah’s Cheers division rolled out five new motion groupings with sectionals from $2,999 to $3,499, depending on leather for six pieces (three with triple power), and five stationary sofa and sectional offerings, with sofas starting at $499 and sectionals for $1,499.

“Our big play in covers is the introduction of our exclusive ‘Beyond Fabric’ collection with outdoor grade performance fabric on indoor seating,” said Cheers division President Gabriele Natale. “Beyond Fabric is solution dyed so the performance qualities are not an application to the fabric, but part of the yarn itself.”

Kuka North America has brought out four new motion and stationary frames since October, and at First Tuesday it unveiled goods in Repreve fabric with yarn produced from recycled plastic bottles.

“This is a new cover we’re testing the waters with here,” said Kuka North America President Matt Harrison. “We’re also bringing in new frames every 30 to 45 days.”

LeatherWorks brought out two new sofas at $899 retail, Barron and Cindy, and the new Windsor sectional for $1,399. All are in top-grain leather with splits on the side.

“I’ve seen one customer that alone made it worth my time, and I’ll have a couple more coming in,” said LeatherWorks President Larry Crink. “For a new guy looking to gain traction, any time you can visit face-to-face with customers is good.”

Palliser introduced two motion sofas with three-motor power, extended footrests, USB and bucket seats: Valour with plush arms and extra-comfort seating, and Hargrave with a squared-off armrest and subtle stitch detailing. Another new offering was Erindale, a three-recliner home theater configuration with three-motor power, lighted cupholders and ground lighting, and home button and memory features.

Looking ahead

With the event now established, vendors look to work First Tuesday into their business plans and use the event for more strategic introductions throughout the year.

Bernhardt Furniture, for example, decided to open up and is gauging how the event fits into its approach to customers.

“We didn’t know what to expect. So far, we had one confirmed appointment, and we’ve had a couple of customers in from the area and one passing through on his way home to Florida,” said Senior Vice President of Residential Sales Steven Pilgrim on day one. “One thing we’re determining is which kinds of customers will be in town, whether it will be more regional or will people be willing to fly in. Any customer, any time and of any size, we’re happy to take care of them. We’d already told our customers that during COVID-19 we’ll see them when they want.”

Jackson Furniture/Catnapper had four dealer appointments set as of opening day, all from North Carolina, but Senior Vice President of Merchandising Anthony Teague believes the concept will pick up momentum.

“This one is hard to gauge coming off Thanksgiving and with people concerned about COVID-19, but I think we’ll see more in January,” he said. “We still have dealers who want to come to our showroom on their own between markets.”

Kuka, which had two major appointments and some smaller, regional accounts that showed up, will use first Tuesday in conjunction with its ongoing commitment to showroom availability.

“If this First Tuesday works out, we’ll have a lot more new goods every month,” said Harrison. “As new product is ready at the plant (in China), we’ll bring it over here, even in a 20-foot container. There are more of those available right now.”

In January, Klaussner plans to offer a new bedroom group along with several motion introductions and occasional.

“Our objective here from a product development standpoint is to keep a good mix of categories flowing,” Burke said. “As broad as our line is, we’ll introduce select introductions in multiple categories so we don’t throw everything at everybody at one time.”

While vendors often gauge events on dealer attendance, those here said First Tuesday is a different story.

“We anticipated it might be slow this time, but we expect a really big impact in January and February,” said Manwah’s Natale, noting that big traffic is a secondary consideration for First Tuesday. “It’s about flowing new product consistently.”

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