HIGH POINT — Traffic might have been off at High Point Market, but it closed out a “market season” that’s proven exceptional for manufacturers and importers of stationary upholstery.
Vendors interviewed at market anticipate that business to carry over well into next year as winter and the pandemic keep consumers at home and focused on their interiors, especially areas where families gather and relax.
To meet that demand, importers on one hand are increasing their emphasis on domestic warehousing, even expanding with domestic manufacturing footprints. On the other hand, stateside manufacturers are expanding capacity within the restraints of a tight labor force, with some moving into sourced finished goods for domestic stocking to help keep goods flowing.
On the product side, there are several trends for new goods. Sectionals keep gaining momentum through their flexibility and emphasis on lounging comfort, expanded options for plushness levels in cushions, the ever-growing demand for and quality of performance fabrics, and a resurgence of leather in stationary seating all were in evidence at market.
While price increases are in the works almost across the board, many manufacturers are tweaking the product itself to create more value.
Craftmaster Furniture, for example, was able to hit a new opening price point at market with its M-9 series, $899 for sofas vs. its prior $999 starting price. It’s a design-your-own program in smaller scale, casual contemporary styling on 30 frames.
“We were able to save because of the scale,” said CEO Roy Calcagne. “That changes some construction features and allows savings on materials and labor.”
Custom orders comprise around 65% of Craftmaster’s business right now, and it’s working for dealers in this environment, he added. “With customization and in-home design, retailers can have a smaller footprint on the floor while increasing sales per square foot.”
Vendors are offering retailers the opportunity to let shoppers better tailor their seating to their own comfort preferences and space requirements.
While Century Furniture offered a selection of smaller items such as accent chairs and a lightly scaled tufted sofa, its major emphasis this market was the “Great Room” program. The collection features 17 bases and eight different arms with multiple track-arm options from 3 to 8 inches and a focus on performance fabrics.
“It’s centered around big, deep, comfortable modern frames,” said Vice President of Marketing Comer Wear, noting that seat depths previously had topped out at 41 inches. “Great Room goes all the way to 48 inches.”
The program is heavy on sectionals but also includes sofas, chaises and chairs. While the emphasis is on plush, extended seating, Great Room has a more modern profile.
“We see people wanting lower back rails so it opens up views from the room,” Wear said. “People pay a lot for those views, and they want to show them off.”
Vanguard also hit the comfort story with three levels of seat-cushion firmness and another round of large sectionals with clean lines and broad, padded arms for stretching out.
“You hear about the difference between ‘sitting on’ and ‘sitting in,’” said Vanguard spokesman Ed Tashjian. “All three cushions are comfortable, and our ‘plush’ cushion seating level is about ‘sitting in.’”
Leather gaining steam
Numerous vendors see big opportunity in stationary leather, introducing and expanding programs in a material heavily associated with motion in recent years.
La-Z-Boy, for example, is almost synonymous with recliners and motion, and it had new goods there, but its new ‘Stationary Leather Select’ program was front and center in the showroom.
“It’s three sofa groups, one with a sectional, in very unique styles,” said Paula Hoyas, vice president of merchandising. “We have it married with two colors in each group, but you can customize from a choice of 10 other colors with leather match. Then, you can upgrade to our full range of 70 leathers for a top tier of 100% top grain.”
Why now for such a program?
“We always had a stationary leather line, but we’ve been seeing the trends, and our customers ask for it now,” Hoyas said. “Motion leather has always been hot, but we see this movement in stationary, and my hunch is that consumers are asking for it.”
La-Z-Boy also spurred fabric upholstery action with 32 brand new iClean performance fabrics.
Rounding out the room
Jonathan Charles kept growing its presence in stationary upholstery line at market. In addition to April-scheduled introductions — a six-piece upholstery offering for Toulouse and a sofa and two chairs for Barcelona — the company launched its largest upholstery intro yet with 13 SKUs for the brand new Cambrio collection.
The company is best-known for high-end bedroom, dining and occasional furniture, but wanted more upholstery to round out its looks.
“You need upholstery to give the other furniture scale and presence, and to round out the room,” said Eric Graham, president. “Now, as part of Markor, we can get our upholstery out of China at a quality level that matches up with our case goods.”
He added that stocking the goods in High Point is working in the Jonathan Charles’ favor right now.
Market showrooms present an opportunity for vendors to provide customers with their ideal vision for flooring goods at retail. That was the goal with Spectra Homes’ total revamping of its market presentation this fall to better ,segment its leather, fabric and Spectra USA domestic upholstery, in addition to highlighting its new collaboration with Christina Anstead.
“I’ve tried to take this showroom and give our reps more to sink their teeth into,” said Senior Vice President Jim Telleysh. “We wanted to present our customers more of a home living environment vs. an item business. We want them to know we have anything you can put in your living room besides lighting and wall art.”
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