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Optimism reigned at CFS

From the HGO Merchandiser

 11 September 2017     Ashley Newport 

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario – Over the past three years, the Canadian Furniture Show (CFS) has undergone a number of major changes. It has shortened its name, launched (and then quickly retired) Consumer Day and welcomed more design-centric speakers while transiting from being a winter event to a spring event.

But although event organizers – the Quebec Furniture Manufacturers Association (QFMA), which has operated this country’s only national furniture industry event for the past 45 years – have made fairly significant changes to the show, this was probably the first year that something much harder to alter shifted – attitudes, on both the part of exhibitors and attending retail buyers and designers.

This year’s CFS was held in the all-too familiar International Centre, just across the street from Pearson International Airport in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga on the weekend of May 26 – just as it has been for all of its 45-year history. Although it was smaller than it has been in recent years, it was certainly the most exuberant held in the past few years.

The Beam lamp, which comes in three sizes, is part of a new collection of décor accessories from Trica. It is seen here in grey oak.Featuring special presentations by design guru and television personality Sarah Richardson, engaging data expert David Coletto and retail success story Kimmberly Capone, the show focused – as it’s been doing more steadily while welcoming more designers to the fold – on a mix of style, selection and education.

The pared down three-day event featured some 230 exhibitors showcasing everything from mattresses to solid wood bedrooms and dining rooms to bold upholstered pieces and glossy imports of every description and category. Boasting its usual array of temporary, permanent and off-site showrooms, the show seemed to elicit a different, more positive response from both exhibitors and buyers.

As for what prompted the optimism, it’s likely a combination of factors. While some buyers praised the on-trend products, one couldn’t help but get the impression that the contentment was fueled, at least in part, by a return to balance, normalcy and – dare we say it – prosperity in the overall market and the Canadian economy in general. Finally, furniture can be fun again.

So, what’s trending?
While it wouldn’t be correct to say CFS is entirely focused on style (it offered a broad range across most of product categories of interest to Canadian furniture and furnishings retailers), it worked hard to bring style awareness to audiences in the form of sophisticated talks.

Sarah Richardson of the Toronto-based Sarah Richardson Design took the stage to provide insight on the latest consumer trends and advise attendees on how to grow their brands and reach more customers. onsumers. Unlike last year’s presentation by fellow designer Steven Sabados, Richardson focused more on refining one’s business acumen than curating a home.

“Design keeps us employed, but not every consumer can afford to hire a professional,” she said. “We're all striving for harmony, whether you’re a manufacturer or a designer or a retailer. Regardless of budget or home, it can go from a dramatic before to a beautiful after.”

Richardson offered some useful anecdotes about starting small, mentioning – much to the surprise of more than a few audience members – that flea market and thrift store finds launched her career.

“Great results are about great creative ideas,” she pointed out. “Believe that budget is not a barrier to great design.”

She also advised attendees to be aware of the transient nature of trends. “Not every trend can be embraced. New leaf green, I don't imagine in a big way on walls and furniture,” she noted. “Where are we today in the world market? I look at social media and am inspired by ideas on Instagram from around the world. As a buyer, you're a curator. Know your customer. My customers have limited means and almost everybody has a budget. Who are you serving? Coastal style? Country style? City style?”

The style trends Richardson did highlight fell into three categories: shore, lane and boulevard.

She defined shore as beachy and coastal, evoking images of “barefoot elegance.” Land is more grounded, boasting a look comprised of rich wood, darker tones, chunkier and warmer pieces and an autumn-like feel. Boulevard, on the other hand, is more contemporary. It’s ‘city chic’ and upscale. She also mentioned ‘sidewalk’ style, which is contemporary, modern, family-friendly and youthful.

Called MAC, this new entertainment centre/wall unit is from Tuff Avenue and was built in their new Montreal cabinet making centre.While style changes often, it appears some are holding steady – especially vintage looks.

But although the show was full of glossier and more contemporary elements, some exhibitors were still offering big, homey, classic pieces because there’s always someone in the market for a more classic and traditional look. That product mix makes sense, as Richardson noted some consumers are gravitating to what she called ‘high country’ – a look featuring an elevated country style that boasts both rustic and fine elements.

She also advised designers to really understand the consumer’s more emotional decor needs. “Less is more. Everything in your home should be useful or beautiful,” she says. “Designers should listen. What does the space say? A lake house doesn't want to feel like a city house. Celebrate the classics and investment pieces; we should not be living in a disposable world.”

She also advised people to above all else, have fun with design (further emphasizing we’re truly long out of the matchy-matchy era of the 1980s and 1990s). “Mix patterns and give rooms a sense of spirit and whimsy,” she says. “Don’t take design too seriously. It’s supposed to be fun.”

What are exhibitors thinking?
Every year, resources of every kind and category converge upon the floor to sell their new wares to retailers and designers looking for something fresh and exciting. While sales are always a challenge, exhibitors were in good spirits, with many saying they were happy to reconnect with old clients and attract new ones.

“[It’s been an] amazing response,” says Martin Sivrais, sales director for Tuff Avenue Collection, the Quebec-based case goods resource, which also was a winner in the show’s ‘Best Booth’ design competition. “It’s been a very good show.”

The fact that Tuff was doing well made sense, as it’s well-curated booth offered mixed material case goods that paired classic looks with a uniquely trendy exterior – something Sivrais said buyers are looking for. “Buyers are looking for contemporary mixed with rustic, it’s very popular. A little bit of Scandinavian, a little bit of legs that are skinny and slick. Modern rustic is something we’ve been doing for over seven years now.”

As for what the show could improve upon, Sivrais said the dates could use some tweaking. “The show is good, but right now the dates are too close to the High Point show, so a lot of people doing High Point won’t come here. We try to show every year and show new products at every show we do, and it’s hard to have new products every three weeks.”

Click here to read the rest of Ashley Newport’s report on the 2017 Canadian Furniture Show in the Fall edition of the HGO Merchandiser.

This HGO article was written by:
Ashley Newport
Ashley Newport

A regular contributor to HGO Merchandiser, Ashley Newport is a Toronto-based freelance journalist who writes primarily for trade and business publications. Her specialties include food, hospitality and emerging social/business trends.

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Home Goods 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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