OAKDALE, Minn. — For years, Mexican case goods producer Issa Muebles has sought to penetrate the U.S. market with a line of wood bedroom, dining and occasional that has branched out from the rustic looks traditionally associated with Mexican-made furniture.
While the company has sold customers in the U.S. over the years, its updated traditional, transitional and contemporary designs appear to be gaining more traction.
The latest example of this was a recent order Top 100 Company Slumberland Furniture placed for Issa’s Urbana collection. The line is now selling on 80 of Slumberland’s floors, including 45 corporately owned stores and 35 franchise locations.
The Mid-Century Modern Urbana includes bedroom, dining room, occasional, entertainment and office furniture. Slumberland initially purchased every category except dining, which it may add later in a few locations.
Case goods buyer Georgia Wilcox said she first became aware of Issa, which is based in Delicias, Chihuahua, Mexico, about four years ago. She initially tried one group that never quite took off but kept the door open as she saw the company leaning toward more toward contemporary and mid-century looks she believed would do well.
Enter Urbana, which has what Issa Sales and Product Development Specialist Jason Schoenfeld calls a “Mid-Century Modern meets contemporary” design aesthetic.
Made with walnut veneers and poplar solids, it includes three beds, including a $799 retail fully upholstered bed, a wood panel bed and an upholstered panel bed, plus companion case pieces, including a swivel armoire with a mirror on one side as well as vertical storage and shelves on the other sides. The collection also has occasional tables, entertainment consoles and a desk and chair.
“It has been in the stores three weeks and is getting sales every week,” Wilcox said in late November, adding that the store is now about to receive its third cutting. “I think we have something here, and it has been great. … We are giving it a good presentation on our floors, and it is getting good response from our customers.”
She said the styling is particularly aligned to what younger customers today are wanting for their homes. While she said that there is still a market for much of the rustic style furniture Mexico is known for producing, she said Mexico has needed to branch out in terms of style.
“Which is why I excited about what Issa is doing: They are branching out,” she said. “They have a great look.”
She added that while the store is not carrying the dining yet, she might try it in a few stores based on the response to the rest of the collection.
The line is being produced in Issa’s 300,000-square-foot plant in Delicias, which is about 285 miles south of El Paso and employs about 330 workers. Schoenfeld said the company, founded in 1975, has been exporting for nearly 30 years, primarily as a producer of components and as an OEM producer of finished product for other distributors.
Today the U.S. represents about 25% of Issa’s business, with the other 75% for the Mexico market, which means the company designs product that can work in both markets. As orders continue to flow to Slumberland and other customers, the percentage to the U.S. market could steadily increase in the coming months.
“This is the first time we have had a significant rollout,” Schoenfeld said, noting that the plant has the capacity to produce the Slumberland order. “So far they are getting sales, and we think they are pleased with what is happening. … For us to have a retailer with the prestige of Slumberland to get behind our program is really important for us.”
While he said that Mexico has not been immune to some of the supply chain issues faced around the world — including materials shortages — he said the country still is easier to get to and hence has much shorter lead times ofseveral weeks vs. several months or much longer out of Asia.
“I am all about pushing Mexico as a source country,” he said of Mexican-made furniture, noting that while Mexico will never meet Asia’s cost of finished goods, it does get more competitive when factoring in lower lead times and shipping costs to the U.S. market. “Why more people aren’t looking at it is a mystery.”