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Canadian upholstery makers: down but not out

21 December 2020
Furniture, Manufacturing

In many ways, the past few months have been a godsend to most Canadian upholstery manufacturers. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemic their backlogs haven’t been this long since the bygone days when the Canadian dollar was trading for 75 cents U.S. or less. This boom isn’t going to last forever, something that isn’t lost on the men and women who are leading these companies in their fight to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

It’s also an open secret there’s less Canadian-made upholstery on furniture store floors in this country at this point in 2020 than in the industry’s history. An overview of the data published by Statistics Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada) reveals a number of disturbing trends that collectively suggest this country’s upholstery manufacturing sector is losing ground both at home and in its sole significant export market – the United States.

One of the recent bestsellers in the line-up from Brentwood Classics is the Quincy sectional, which is seen here in a velvet fabric called Prestige Pesto. This sectional has wide-angled arms, a loose pillow back and an eco-friendly construction using a sustainable kiln-dried wood frame supporting a sinuous wire spring system surrounded with a soy-based polyfoam cushion. Also available in leather or two other fabric choices. Leg colour options include black, gold and brushed chrome.According to that data, at the end of 2012 there were 254 businesses in this country identified as upholstery manufacturers. In June 2020, this had fallen to 153 – with less than half declaring they employed more than one person. The overwhelming majority are in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. There are a handful in Alberta and Manitoba with one each in Newfoundland & Labrador and Saskatchewan. The sector is dominated by some two dozen firms, which range in size from Palliser – still held to be this country’s largest upholstery manufacturer – to a collection of 20 or so producers most of whom specialise in partnering with independent retailers. Then there are an unknown number of one and two-man shops crafting bespoke sofas that are often found in out-of-the-way places across the country.

An analysis of shipment data suggests by the end of 2019, the average output for a Canadian upholstery manufacturer was valued at $3.27 million – down from $5.58 million just a few years before.

Total upholstery shipments by Canadian manufacturers fell for the second consecutive year in 2019 to $560.4 million – 3.7% below the $582.2 million in 2018 and 29% off the recent high of $786.4 million set in 2017.  Canadian upholstery shipments to Canadian retailers were valued at $289.9 million in 2019 – 7.8% down from 2018 and a 40% drop from 2017.

Collectively, Canadian manufacturers accounted for only 19% of the apparent market (the value of industry shipments less exports plus imports) for upholstered furniture at the end of 2019. They have been losing ground for the most of the past 15 years, but they suffered most heavily when the price for Canadian produced oil skyrocketed in the years immediately following the financial crisis of 2008, thereby strengthening the value of the Canadian dollar (particularly against the U.S. greenback) to record heights. This makes upholstery exports more expensive and upholstery imports less expensive.

Related Story: CBSA to investigate leather furniture dumping

Today, upholstery manufactured and imported from the People’s Republic of China accounts for approximately 45% of the apparent market for upholstery in Canada – up from 40% in 2014. Their share of the market is 2½ times larger than that of Canadian producers.

Imports from the United States have fallen in each of five years. In 2014, U.S. upholstery producers accounted for 39.6% of the apparent market – it had fallen to 19.3% by 2018.

Conversely, the United States is the only targeted export market for Canadian upholstery manufacturers. In fact, the retailers in the U.S. currently consume roughly 45% of all Canadian upholstery production. Shipments to other trading partners – such as the European Union, the United Kingdom and the Middle East – are miniscule in comparison. As the U.S. falls out of favour with Canadian retailers, there are a handful of other countries moving in to compete with China. The most noteworthy of these are Vietnam, Italy, Poland, Malaysia and Mexico.

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Home goods store sales climb in October: Statistics Canada

11 January 2021
By the Numbers, Retail

OTTAWA – Furniture, home furnishings and electronics/appliance stores kicked off the fourth quarter of 2020 with a bang, recording upticks in sales for the month of October according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada. All three saw improvements over September as well over the same month of 2019.

It should be noted this report covers sales by brick-and-mortar store operators and excludes pure e-commerce merchants such as Article, Good Morning.com and others.

The federal bean counter set sales by brick-and-mortar furniture stores at an actual and preliminary $1.23 billion in October, some 2.8% ahead of the $1.19 billion rung-up in September and a huge 24.9% leap from the $981.8 million for October 2019. It was the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

However, thanks mainly to closures ordered by various provincial governments across the country as part of the fight to stem the COVID-19 pandemic throughout April, May and into early June, furniture store sales for the ten months ending in October were $9.27 billion, down 4.6% from the $9.72 billion for the same period the year prior.

Ed Strapagiel, the Toronto-based retail consultant, noted furniture store sales for the three months ending in October were up 14.1% but were down 3.5% for the trailing 12 months at $11.4 billion.

Meanwhile, sales by brick-and-mortar home furnishings stores – which sell everything from floor covering to lamps and lighting, decorative accessories and accent furniture – had preliminary and actual sales of $654.6 million, up 7.4% from the prior month’s $609.4 million and 9.6% greater than the $597.2 million sold in October 2019.

For year-to-date, home furnishing store sales totalled $4.88 billion, off 14.3% from last year’s $5.69 billion. Once again, much of the decline has been attributed to COVID-19 closures imposed throughout much of the second quarter of the year.

The performance of these retailers wasn’t as strong as that of furniture stores as their sales for the three months ending in October were up a comparatively modest 4.5%. But for the trailing 12 months, they were down 11.7% at $6.2 billion.

Unlike furniture and home furnishings stores, electronic/appliance store sales took a step back in October at $1.30 billion, down 1.5% from $1.32 billion in September. However, it was 17.2% higher than the $1.11 billion rung-up in October 2019.

For the first ten months ending October, electronic/appliance store sales totalled $10.9 billion, up 5.9% from the $10.3 billion for the comparative 2019 period.

For the three months ending October, these merchants enjoyed an uptick in sales of 13.9% and for the trailing 12 months, their performance was a more modest 2.4% at $14.3 billion. Most observers believe electronic/appliance stores did comparatively better during the second quarter retail shutdown than their furniture and home furnishings counterparts because of their greater adoption of e-commerce.

All three members of the home goods sector were among the top performers across all location-based retail in Canada throughout most of 2019. The uptick has been attributed to many factors, including the increased popularity of working from home as well as a noticed consumer shift in spending priorities. Since consumers can’t travel, go to restaurants or engage in similar activities, they are spending the money they have improving their home environment.

Pantone selects two hues as 2021 colour of the year

11 January 2021
Products, Retail, Misc

CARLSTADT, New Jersey – Pantone, a leading provider of professional colour standards for both industry and the international design community, selected two different hues as its Colour of the Year for 2021. Together, Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and Pantone 1300647 Illuminating, a bright yellow, convey a message of strength and hopefulness that’s both enduring and uplifting.

In a statement, the company said these are two independent colors that come together to create an aspirational colour pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine filled day.

The 36-inch retro range from Big Chill is seen here in ‘broom yellow’, taken from one of the Pantone Colours of the Year.In its announcement, the Pantone Colour Institute said as people look for ways to fortify themselves against society’s continuing uncertainty, these spirited shades will help satisfy the quest for vitality.

Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time. Ultimate Gray quietly encourages feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.

“The selection of two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one colour or one person, it’s about more than one. The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute said in a statement.

“Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit,” she continued.

“The Pantone Colour of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that colour can hope to answer.” added institute vice president Laurie Pressman. “As society continues to recognize colour as a critical form of communication, and a way to symbolize thoughts and ideas, many designers and brands are embracing the language of color to engage and connect.”

The institute noted Ultimate Gray and Illuminating do not have to be used in equal proportions, either color can take precedence whether for home furnishings, product design, packaging or apparel.

The Kirnik sofa from U.S. high end upholstery maker Medley is seen here in an Ultimate Grey fabric.When used in home décor, they form a great combination to set the mood in any room adding a dose of sunshine and positivity. Juxtaposing Illuminating with Ultimate Gray in table linens, sheeting and home accessories including pillows and tabletop infuses vitality and liveliness. Painting a front door in bright yellow Illuminating conveys a warm and welcoming message when supported by solid and dependable Ultimate Gray in the exterior finishes. It can also be an effective combination for any home or commercial office with Ultimate Gray providing the firm foundation for Illuminating, which Pantone believes will enhance intuition, curiosity, originality, and resourcefulness.

According to the organisers, the Colour of the Year selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis. To arrive at the selection each year, experts at the Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for new color influences. This can include the entertainment industry, traveling art collections, fashion, all areas of design, popular travel destinations, as well as new lifestyles, playstyles, and socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures, and effects that impact colour, relevant social media platforms and even sporting.

For 22 years, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design. Last year’s colour was Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue while Pantone 16-1546 Living Coral held the distinction in 2019.

Home launches look book

11 January 2021
Retail

ST JACOBS, Ontario – Home Hardware Stores (HHS), the member-owned retail organization specialising in hardware, building supplies and furniture, has launched its first-ever Inspired Home Collection as part of an effort to demonstrate its ability to assist customers planning both big and small projects around the house.

The design-focused, inspirational look book will be available in print at most of the 1,050 Home Hardware, Home Building Centres and Home Furniture locations across Canada, as well as in digital format on HomeHardware.ca, as well Reebee and Flipp, two popular platforms for retail flyers and other promotional materials. It is designed to help customers visualize Home products as part of renovation projects being planned for their home.

“We wanted to show our products in a way that was more intuitive and inspirational,” HHS vice president of marketing Rob Wallace said in a statement. “Renovating can be overwhelming, which is why we created beautiful designs to meet the different styles and needs of our customers.”

The cover of the first ever look book published by Home Hardware.The inaugural look book of 2021 features inspiring ideas for two key rooms in the home – the kitchen and bathroom. Beautiful kitchens that are chef-inspired, family-friendly and designed to entertain with style, along with spa-inspired and chic monochromatic bathrooms will entice Canadians to take on a quick update or complete overhaul. The look book also features top trends, fab finds, easy upgrades and a quick guide to assist consumers in all their home renovation decisions.

“As part of our marketing strategy, we are staying true to our brand which is offering our customers everything they need for their projects – including design ideas that are both practical and beautiful,” Wallace said.

“Our creative team had a lot of fun designing our kitchen and bath collection for 2021,” added Kristi Stemmler, HHS director or marketing/content and media. “The front cover inspires ideas for your dream kitchen while the back showcases stunning ‘luxe for less’ bathroom designs.”

Creative was led by Transcontinental Premedia in collaboration with Home Hardware’s own creative content and digital marketing teams. Inspired Home Collection will be promoted through Home Hardware’s digital platforms including web, social media and e-mail marketing.

To preview the Inspired Home Collection look book, click here

 

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Home Goods Online.ca and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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