Thursday, August 9, 2007
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
More casual furniture manufacturers are moving into retail roles. In addition to Brown Jordan International opening two Elegant Outdoors model stores in Houston, Laneventure is partnering with retailers in California and Florida while Summer Classics' licensed stores are opening this month in Nashville and St. Louis. A few outdoor furniture makers have stores in or near their headquarters, like Ebel in Jacksonville, Fla., and Kettler in Virginia Beach, Va. Other manufacturer/retail operations have shared owners for years.
Webb Carter, Carter Grandle chairman and CEO, is among the manufacturers who oppose the migration. "I think it's very greedy for a manufacturer to try to go sell his goods against the people who feed him," Carter said. "To me, it's a desperate situation if I'm going to cross the bridge and cut out the people who have made me what I am."
Ken Ehrlich, president of Harrow's, is among the retailers alarmed by outdoor furniture manufacturers moving along the company-owned store path blazed by residential furniture makers, such as La-Z-Boy. "The challenge is to try and find out where the mind is of the manufacturers that they're supporting and advertising with their retail dollars," Ehrlich said. "Are they looking to go forward? Are these the first steps in a very bad trend of manufacturers deciding to compete with retailers?"
Bill Echols, BJI president of retail and contract divisions, said the intent in opening Elegant Outdoors stores in the Houston market was to provide a model its dealers can visit, see how it operates and the potential profitability in following part or all of a turnkey plan. He said BJI does not plan to open stores outside of Houston.
"The purpose of these stores is to show at least one strategy to separate yourself from what the mass merchant's doing and to demonstrate the profitability of that strategy," Echols said. "So it's not a matter of Brown Jordan International wanting to go into the retail business as it is to create an environment to demonstrate the strategy we believe works for the retailer."
Too many casual specialty stores are filling their floors with a much higher percentage of import goods and offering fewer choices, he added. "We get very concerned when we see the number of products on a dealer's floor that a consumer cannot pick the fabric or the finish they want — that really is the main difference a specialty retailer has over a mass merchant," Echols said. "Every time they diminish the number of floor spots that enhance their difference, they're diminishing their ability to compete."
Summer Classics was among the first casual furniture manufacturers to test retail waters in the late 1980s in Birmingham, Ala. What started as quarterly sales of overstocks, returns and damaged goods at its factory showroom grew through consumer demand and lack of competition. Another company-owned store opened in April 2001 in a former nursery in Raleigh, N.C., followed by a store in Charlotte, N.C., and licensed stores last year in Mobile and Huntsville, Ala. Licensed stores are set to open this month in Nashville and St. Louis while four additional licensed Summer Classics locations will open over the next 18 months.
Summer Classics' No. 1 goal was to build its brand name and its secondary goal was to improve displays of its furniture on retail floors, President Bew White said.
"In our business, a lot of dealers do a great job with display, but generally display has been in the past not very good," White said. "It has to do with a lack of competition to some degree. As long as they're successful and can throw the stuff out there on the floor and sell some of it, they're going to be happy and do the same thing next year."
Smaller dealers didn't invest in their store to improve merchandising, even with as small a cost as painting the walls. "Now, I've seen the big dealers come in and open more stores, but those dealers are trying to build their own brand," White said. They buy less from manufacturers, remove labels or change them into their own logos and rely more on direct import programs.
On the other hand, nurseries that converted their stores to make room for casual furniture were amazed at the results. Summer Classics Vice President Harold Hudson recalled asking Dave Mansfield, owner of Mansfield Nursery in St. Louis, how many bedding plants he had to sell to equal his margins on his first sale of outdoor furniture. "From the first year, he doubled what he was buying from us," Hudson said. "He got in the Shops program four or five years ago and has been one of our top five Shops retailers. And here it is six years later, he's converting his store over to a Summer Classics store."
When manufacturers move into retail, other retailers often are angered. "Usually the ones who have had heated conversations with me have never bought from me so they don't understand what I'm trying to do," White said. "The fact is we all have a lot better chance of building a brand together than trying to build a brand by selling a lot of different products for a lot of different manufacturers. What I'm really doing is what has been done in a lot of other industries — apparel, furniture." He compares it to the Ralph Lauren business model.
Gary McCray, Laneventure vice president of marketing, has an inside view of dealer-owned stores in the residential furniture industry through parent company Lane. Ethan Allen and La-Z-Boy were among the first to try dedicated stores, but spawned vigorous movement from others including Ashley, Bassett, Broyhill, Drexel Heritage and Thomasville.
"The indoor furniture industry is being driven by what's happening with imports, and what's happening with companies trying to control and strengthen their brand," McCray said. "One way to do that is to have more of a retail presence."
Laneventure plans no company-owned stores, but will partner more with retailers in the same way as its first venture in 2002 with World of Outdoor Living in Dalton, Ga. Retail partnerships with Authenticity in Banner Elk, N.C., and Four Seasons in Memphis followed. Last month, Laneventure worked with a retailer to open a store in Irvine, Calif., adjacent to Lane, Henredon and Drexel Heritage stores. This month, Laneventure partnered with a long-time Port Charlotte, Fla., dealer who is opening a store adjacent to a Lane store.
"It's an opportunity for us to build our distribution or enhance and build a stronger display," McCray said. He predicts the industry impact will depend on how manufacturers go about moving into retail. "In our case, we're looking at it on a limited scale, where it makes sense to increase distribution and be able to do more business," McCray said. "There's a place for it in the industry. I think it will make the industry better and stronger. What we want to do is take the things we learn in these partnerships and be able to spread it to the independent stores that we work with as well. It's certainly not our position that we want to move into areas where we already have distribution, we just want to enhance our company in area we don't and enhance our business with independent retailers where we do."
Paul Varshney, president of Suncoast Furniture, sold its retail store in Fort Myers, Fla., about three years ago. "The reason we sold was it was taking some of our time away from manufacturing," Varshney said. "We thought it was better for us to stay in manufacturing, which we do best, instead of us doing retail. The other thing was retailers were not feeling good about us. They thought that if we were doing retail in Fort Myers, it can happen that after a few years down the road we would be doing retail in their territory. We thought it was better to just get out of retailing so that way the retailers would have more confidence."
White realizes retailers who have sold 20 lines for 20 years will find it more difficult to change their way of thinking about working with manufacturers. "If I were a smart retailer, I would go and look at them all and say: Do I need to do this? Or can I compete with this? If you're comfortable that you can compete with it, then don't worry about it. But it's available for you to do it. Still almost no retailers, other than the ones who buy in excess of $300,000 from me, are looking at it. Frankly, it doesn't work very well for people who are in the business and don't have an open mind."
Hudson said he was surprised recently during visits to retailers when they asked "Are you bringing a Summer Classics store to California?" rather than seeking information about the licensing program itself.
Echols said he doesn't see dealer-owned stores being the strategy or marketing push of casual furniture manufacturers. "What I hear from my fellow manufacturers is: How do we make our retailers better? I think that's the overall goal for all of us."
Brown Jordan International recently opened two Elegant Outdoors model stores in Houston.
Laneventure plans to partner with more retailers like it did in 2002 with the World of Outdoor Living. The Dalton, Ga., store features Laneventure products in several vignettes.
Sponsored by Finest Linens and Things
Friday, August 3, 2007
Finest Linens and Things store owners will focused its team of ten experts in the areas of home living and lifestyles on the task of defining the future look and feel of home textiles. Their conclusions are captured in the company’s Home 2008 presentation, which reveals color palettes, textures, patterns, and the inspirations behind it all.
The Pure color plan reflects all things natural, of the earth or that mimic earthy elements. The colors are soft and “barely there,” and project a feeling of serenity. The materials are lightweight and billowy. The inspiration for the actual colors comes from hard stone surfaces such as marbles and granites.
The fabrics in this grouping have extreme textures, a way to differentiate products without print. White-on-white matelasse effects are gaining popularity with low-twist yarns for loftiness in towels, and towels with puckering for a searsucker effect.
"Multi-cultural influences and interpretations or updates of aboriginal motifs will be key.The blues will continue strongly into 2008. White, and white on black will be “big” in 2008, says Finest Linens and Things owners.
The Stability category fabrics are made with precision and strength. Qualities of architecture interpreted into fabrics will be present, along with a masculine color palette. The colors are serene with structured, restrained, small-scale patterns and textures, some rendered with sophistication and elegance. For example, pinwale corduroy with embroidery.
Upholstery is sturdy, and fabrics contain hints of fuzziness and pile.
Fabrics here are hand-made or hand-touched, but not crafty or kitschy.
Today, people aren’t acting or dressing the way they used to at the same age. The average age of a video gamer, for example, used to be in the teens, while today it is 37. People are living longer. More have the ability to travel and experience adventures. There is also a trend among young people not only to be rebellious, which is an expected trait, but to take on works of philanthropy. These changes produce agelessness, and sense of wonder and playfulness.
The qualities of fantasy and imagination come into play as textiles are designed as though the creator is looking through the eyes of a child. Whimsical Asian patterns, conversational prints, and motifs consisting of an animal repeated are examples of this direction.
The children’s textile market has skyrocketed. Offerings in that category will be more stylized. The horse will take center stage among animal motifs.
For more on Home 2008, visit Finest Linens and Things whose mission is to build the market for cotton through research and promotion .
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
For modern bedding with “bling” to retro pillow patterns inspired by British wallpaper,
Catherine Lillywhite’s strikes while the iron is hot on a trend the company sees in the home furnishings industry—flocking. This decorative velvet-like decoration is reflected in the fabric of Catherine Lillywhite’s new Davino & Damask Collection, a line of table runners, placemats, cocktail and square napkins, jewelry boxes, decorative boxes and wine bottle bags made of 50/50 poly-nylon blend. The collection is available in burgundy, green, brown and silver jewel tones.
Delicate beading and embroidery call attention to the new lines of decorative pillows and table linens from the Saro Trading Company. Its English Garden Collection makes use of fresh color and design with toppers and square pillows available in sage, mocha and caramel with embroidered Queen Ann Lace flowers. All are made of 100% polyester and available at Finest Linens and Things bedding department.
Catstudio adds whimsy and adventure to the dining table with the addition of placemats and napkin sets to its Geography Collection. Both are adorned with machine embroidery, mixed with silk-screened colors that depict most
My Vintage Baby, the couture children’s apparel manufacturer, unveils its new luxury line of infant bedding. Collections blend both one of a kind vintage materials and “bling” for its new crib bedding collections by combining doupioni silks, rich velvets and Swarovski crystals. Sets include a bumper pad, dust ruffle and fitted crib sheet. Quilts and pillows are also offered as accessory items.
Pacific Coast Home Furnishings debuts a new bedding collection with apparel designer Jessica. Finest Linens and Things selection of baby crib bedding.
Ten Bears’ Tea Party Collection opts for a more subtle, traditional palette with bedding and table linens that have been tea-dyed to achieve an antiqued effect, resulting in color variations unique to each piece. The collection is handquilted in
Fashion bedding from Catfish Bite aims to liven up retro patterns with modern details. The inspiration for the colors for its new Urban Pad Collection came from popular chocolate bars in the
New bedding from Ann Gish looks to appeal to both traditional and trendy markets with its Dynasty Collection, which features a popular shade of blue paired with taupe for a soft contrast alongside a traditional pattern. The collection is fabricated from poly-quilted diamonds on a cotton/poly blend and is available in duvets and shams, sold individually.
Finest Linens and Things Collection rugs also touch on both classic and modern with the introduction of an Oushak line. Its Yvette rug features elegant designs and sophisticated shades of vegetable dyed wool, depicting