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LVM exhibitors promising new product for a new year

23 January 2023
Events, Furniture

LAS VEGAS – With a new year just kicking off, it makes sense Canadian exhibitors participating in the upcoming Winter 2023 edition of the Las Vegas Market (LVM) intend to show off a fair number of new products, particularly as the opportunities to do so have been severely hamstrung for the past couple of years.

The first of this year’s two furniture, home décor and giftware events will kick off at the World Market Center here this Sunday (January 29) and run through the following Thursday (February 2).

“Our lines are always showcasing a new seasonal collection or introduction,” Gary Christianson, sales and marketing director for modern furniture specialist Mobital (B-775).

Smooth curves add allure to Ivana, the effortlessly stylish modern dining chair from SUNPAN. Stocked in soho grey, blush and teal fabrics with stainless steel legs in a gunmetal base finish.At market, the Laval, Quebec-based producer will showcase its Puddle collection of occasional tables, which are inspired by a mid-century Italian aesthetic and shapes found in nature. The brand is also introducing the Tugg oval dining table with the same look and feel as well as the Moritz, a modular sectional sofa in alabaster and licorice boucle.

Meanwhile, full-line furniture resource SUNPAN (B-700) will focus on the outdoor furniture collection it kicked into high gear early in 2022.

“We’ll be showing more outdoor furniture. Our really big focus is on anything that’s new that’s in stock,” vice president of sales Carl Lovett told Home Goods Online. “The last few shows, people have been looking at product that was coming in three-to-six months later, so we want to make sure whatever they see, it’s available now and they can get it in three-to-four weeks.

“All of our other categories, we’re showing stuff that’s in stock. Bedroom, occasional tables, dining chairs, bar stools,” he continued, adding SUNPAN has been focusing on case goods and noting pieces comprised of mixed materials and lighter wood finishes are trending.

“That’s been a big trend over the past few years – and Canada and the U.S. are very different. In Canada, people want lighter, natural oak finishes. That’s been around for a while and it’s sticking. You’ll see a lot of new designs with light or unfinished oak.”

Angelo ‘J.R.’ Marzilli, president of Décor-Rest Furniture (A-554) says retailer buyers visiting his company’s showroom can expect to see new pieces – think sofas, loveseats and other upholstery pieces – but not new categories.

Sealy Sofa Convertibles will add several new categories to its line-up at this weekend’s Las Vegas Market, including a collection of cabinet beds, such as the model seen here in a tobacco finish.“New products are a must but not new categories this market,” he says. “Dealers are encouraged to visit our space to touch and feel them.”

“Sealy Home is introducing multiple new categories,” Frank Rinella, sales and marketing director for sofa bed specialist Sealy Sofa Convertibles (B-1028) reveals, adding. “We have recently moved into motion upholstery furniture consisting of sofas, loveseats, recliners, sectionals, and lift chairs. Also, for this market, we are introducing upholstered beds, sectionals and Trufit sofa beds.”

What challenges lay ahead?
While many people expect 2023 to be a good year, even if it’s quieter in terms of the demand experienced in 2022 and 2021, some say real challenges lie ahead – especially with the uncertainty surrounding the developing COVID-19 outbreak in several regions of the People’s Republic of China.

“Pricing negotiations have already taken place in the overseas production of goods and containers are now readily available at reasonable shipping rates,” says Mobital’s Christianson, highlighting the ways in which things have gotten easier for industry insiders.

“I do feel like it could be interesting after the Lunar New Year breaks in Asia. If COVID is being under-reported in China and there becomes a greater problem with illness and hospital capacity, then factories might not be able to perform at full production levels, causing further delays and lead times. Time shall tell,” he observed.

SUNPAN’s Lovett points out while some costs have come down, others have increased, leading to difficult choices when it comes to pricing goods.

“Everyone knows that ocean freight has come down, but inland freight and wages are up. Maybe this year, not everything will sell. There have been a lot of price increases due to ocean freight costs. Has inflation come down? That’s a debate. Wages have not come down and that’s a challenge everyone will have to face in 2023,” he says.

Upholstery house Décor Rest doesn’t plan to add any new categories to its assortment at the upcoming Las Vegas Market, choosing to focus on expanding its current product assort such as the Style 2238, seen here. Offered as both a loveseat and chair, this group features sinuous spring construction, seat webbing with standard foam.He also believes the current COVID outbreak in China will likely have some impact on the industry.

“Every year, customers around the world put their orders in and they try to get goods out before Chinese New Year, but some didn’t get orders early enough and some factories are not at 100% and some are closing because of COVID. You hear about issues at the ports as well,” he says.

“It’s definitely going to cause some delays that were not there two months ago. In a nutshell, the supply chain has been broken again,” he continued, adding his company has been some improvement in the labour shortages that have plagued a host of industries since 2020.

“We’re starting to see better quality candidates. We were struggling to fill roles all of last year, but I’m seeing that change in the last 60-90 days. Most big tech companies over hired and there are more people back in the job market again with better qualifications.”

Decor-Rest’s Marzilli expects consumer demand to wane and remain lower than than it has been over the past two years throughout much of 2023. “Lower consumer spending started a few months ago and is predicted to continue until Q3,” he says.

Sealy’s Rinella says price points – and an expected recession – will remain a challenge this year.

Mobital will introduce the Puddle collection of end tables designed by Dimitri De Vocht. Offered in three sizes and two colours, their design was inspired by the organic shapes found in nature and made with a durable and highly resistant material called microskin.“The volatility of pricing of materials will be a challenge. Asia manufacturing has dropped off along with freight and that will drop pricing as end consumers are looking to spend less on furniture now that travel restrictions have been reduced,” he says, adding, “We expect less furniture being sold overall in the industry as recession-like conditions set in and travel interests grow.” 

What will 2023 look like?
Although many people expect a host of challenges – COVID in China, cost increases, lacklustre economic growth, etc. – will make 2023 a less of a banner year, many are optimistic consumers will continue furnishing their homes in earnest.

“We are hoping to be optimistic in our sales projections with expected growth through new distribution channels and marketing strategies,” says Mobital’s Christianson.

Marzilli says 2023 will be the year Decor-Rest “eliminates” the disruptions common in 2021 and 2022.

Rinella simply says that Sealy’s outlook for 2023 is “positive.”

SUNPAN’s Lovett expects a very good year as more people resume their pre-COVID habits, particularly travelling and dining out.

“Because we still do a lot of hospitality business, we’re expecting to see double-digit growth still in Canada. Hotels, restaurants, common area spaces – anything non-residential,” he says. “There are new restaurants opening up now. A lot of restaurants closed during covid, which left a lot of vacancies and now restaurants don’t think they’re going to get closed again. We’re seeing new ones pop up and they need furniture.

“The first six months will be a little rocky for the industry, but overall, the year will be fine,” Lovett continues. “Once the raising of interest rates has stopped, that’s when you’ll see things start to settle and improve.” 

Related Story: Viva Las Vegas: gearing up for a busy market 

Viva Las Vegas: gearing up for a busy market

23 January 2023
Events, Furniture

LAS VEGAS – While the world hasn’t yet returned completed to 2019 levels of normality, there currently isn’t a new COVID-19 variant threatening to disrupt travel, so many of the roughly 40 Canadian resources showing are expecting to see pre-pandemic attendance at the upcoming Winter 2023 edition of the Las Vegas Market, which opens for its usual five-day run at the World Market Center here this coming Sunday (January 29).

The last few years have been interesting for furniture and home furnishings retailers – as well as their vendor partners – to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic, its related shutdowns and restrictions prompted both significant uncertainty and an unexpected surge in consumer demand, leading to record sales coupled with logistical difficulties companies at every point of the supply chain had to be creative to resolve.

Despite the continuing spread of the virus, lingering logistical challenges posed by supply chain disruptions, inflation and cost increases, furniture retailers and resources are saying operations are back to “business as usual.”

Sealy Sofa Convertibles will add upholstered beds to its assortment at the upcoming Winter edition of the Las Vegas Market. Seen here is the Marley bed in dark green.For many, business as usual involves attending industry events such as the upcoming Las Vegas Market (LVM), whose organizers expect will showcase over 4,000 furniture, home décor and gift products and welcome pre-pandemic attendance levels.

“I would expect it to be back to pre-COVID [levels],” says Carl Lovett, vice president of sales for the Toronto-based full-line furniture resource SUNPAN (B-700), adding he expects more international visitors at market now that COVID restrictions are limited to people flying in from the People’s Republic of China.

“Some major retailers are coming, some are not, but there will be no comparison to last January. We should see double the number of people coming through,” he told Home Goods Online, noting the last winter market here – which coincided with the emergence of the Omicron variant and renewed restrictions in parts of the world, including Canada – was quiet.

This year, he expects buyers will return in decent numbers, even if some decide to stay home because they simply don’t need to purchase anything due to an abundance of goods coming in after months of delivery challenges.

“A lot have received a lot of goods at once. We’re sitting at record levels of inventory because it all arrived at once. Some are not coming because they’re not buying because they need to get through their inventory,” Lovett continued, adding, “We’re dealing with a high level of inventory because of the timing of things, but we have not seen demand fall off at all. January started off well, so we’re pretty optimistic.”

Gary Christianson, sales and marketing director for Mobital (B-775), the modern furniture specialist based in Laval, Quebec, says while it’s hard to say what attendance will ultimately look like, he doesn’t think COVID will keep the crowds at bay.

New from Sunpan is the Sierra collection, a bold modern and structured sofa group (the armchair is seen here) designed to turn heads. It features an interior upholstered in meg taupe fabric and an exterior in textured porcini taupe faux leather. Completed with an antique bronze stainless steel frame.(International Market Centers, the event’s owners and operators, don’t publish attendance figures for either of LVM’s winter or summer editions.)

“I can’t say what volume we are going to expect but we don’t think that any illness-related issues will come up as an excuse for not travelling,” he says. “Most people are vaccinated and not afraid to travel for business, plus it’s a good excuse to escape somewhere a little sunnier and warmer this time of the year.”

Angelo ‘J.R.’ Marzilli, president of Décor-Rest Furniture (A-554), the Woodbridge, Ontario-based upholstery house, is another Canadian factory exec who doesn’t expect COVID to impact attendance. “Yes, Canadians are travelling to Vegas. Appointments have been scheduled,” he told HGO. “They say they are ready to cautiously move forward and attend a market.”

Others say if attendance is lower, it’ll likely be economic factors keeping people home.

“We expect to see better attendance since 2019. However, it will be interesting to see if the current economic climate will keep a few retailers away and put it off till High Point,” says Frank Rinella, sales and marketing director for sofa bed specialist Sealy Sofa Convertibles (B-1028).

That said, he agrees some might want to make the journey. “Travel has become easier with reduced restrictions. [The] desire to travel and see and touch product and the warm weather won’t hurt.” 

Are exhibitors coaxing customers to come?
Although many say it’s difficult to gauge whether market will see the same foot traffic recorded in 2019, few say they’re going above and beyond to attract customers to their showrooms.

The Style 2239 from Décor Rest is part of the upholstery specialist’s 50th anniversary collection. The seats have a sinuous spring construction filled with a super soft foam encased in a 100% poly-twill.“No, we aren’t flying people in or having a party,” says SUNPAN’s Lovett, adding the company benefits from a prime spot in Building B the World Market Center. “We’ve got a really good location and we’ve been there for a very long time. If you’re tucked away in the corner or on a high floor, you’ve got to do a lot of things to lure people in. I think we’re generally going to see more people. I’m hoping to meet new customers that haven’t been in several years. We expect to see more appointments.”

Marzilli says Décor Rest is enticing customers with new products. “We have new introductions and we’re encouraging dealers to visit,” he says.

Sealy’s Rinella also believes new product will drive traffic. “We are showing all new lines of product that have never been shown by us. It’s the first introduction of bedframes and stationery product by Sealy,” he says. 

Is demand still high?
In 2020, 2021 and much of 2022, demand for furniture reached intense highs and while sales were impressive, many retailers and manufacturers struggled to keep goods flowing to customers due to supply chain crunches. Now, with the supply chain normalizing (although China’s COVID situation could always prompt disruptions) as both retailers and resources work their way through their excess inventory, some say this year could be quieter – or at least different.

The three-piece Moritz sectional from Mobital is wrapped in a soft textured boucle fabric. This piece features a tight back upholstery in a feminine curved silhouette, creating an elevated look suitable for almost any space. Also available in an alabaster fabric option. Designed by the Dainelli Studio of Milan, Italy.“We have completed fulfilling most orders with the odd trouble-making SKU in the line-up on back order,” says Mobital’s Christianson. “Several stocking dealers who warehouse back-up inventory are also making changes in the way they buy, and container purchasers are now looking at pulling inventory from local distributors instead of ordering their own container inventory based on a slowdown of traffic and purchasing in stores.”

SUNPAN’s Lovett says while demand is coming down, his company is still busy. “I think we noticed [demand lessoning] in the summer. A lot of people who didn’t go on vacation or didn’t do the family trip to Europe travelled in 2022. We didn’t see much of a slowdown, but I did definitely hear of a slowdown in mid to lower-end goods. Last Las Vegas Market in July, we heard that a lot.”

Lovett noted the “panic buying” phase that hit during the height of the pandemic appears to have passed. “It’s steady demand now. Customers aren’t scrambling. There’s plenty of inventory, and there’s plenty of selection out there, so buyers will be more selective, both retailers and end consumers.

“We deal with the design community and they have a lot more to choose from today than they would have last year. A year ago, there was nothing, and that’s not the case today,” he continued, adding, “The supply chain backlog has cleared, factories have caught up on production and there are no more issues finding container space, and transit times are shorter.”

Sealy’s Rinella agrees many companies have healthy inventory. “Most large customers over-purchased and had full warehouses this late summer and fall. Our orders are now getting back in line and moving positively into 2023,” he says.

Related Story: LVM exhibitors promising new product for a new year

Durham revamps website

23 January 2023
Furniture, Manufacturing

When the e-commerce boom started, many people in the furniture industry insisted the brick-and-mortar shopping experience would continue to reign supreme since the idea of someone purchasing a costly solid wood bedroom group or Italian leather covered upholstery suite without first seeing and touching it seemed absurd.

Now, with the shift to online shopping well-ingrained in western culture finding its way in a post-pandemic world, some companies are working to enhance the online buying experience by allowing retailers and consumers to customize their very own pieces and see exactly what the finished product will look like without ever stepping into a store.

As it’s part to lead the industry into this new frontier, Durham Furniture recently announced it was partnering with Intiaro, a 3D technology and software company based in High Point, North Carolina to launch a revamped website that offers browsers the ability to completely customize every piece and collection in its offerings.

This is one of the new kiosks Durham Furniture installed in its new, smaller High Point showroom just before the fall 2022 industry trade event. It demonstrates the new customization software developed for the solid wood specialist by Initaro, a North Carolina-based technology firm.The Canadian solid wood bedroom and occasional furniture specialist first showcased its new state-of-the-art 3D visualization tool at the recent fall edition of the High Point Market. The tool provides high-quality 3D models of more than 95% of Durham’s products, boasting 4K zoom and 360-degree rotation functions.

The tool, which will also be available on Durham’s website sometime over the few weeks, allows users the ability to pick a piece and then see how it looks in any of its wide range of finish and hardware options.

“We’ve used this as a revamp for our whole website. It’s not a significant visual change, but it’s a change to the way you access the product, and our website partner has developed a proprietary backend login for our retailers to use,” Luke Simpson, president and chief executive officer of this country’s oldest continuously operating furniture manufacturer, told Home Goods Online.

“The third component – where Initaro (https://en.intiaro.com/) comes in – is they’ve built a plug-in that’s a product configurator. You can browse any product with any finish,” he said, adding buyers were able to try out the new feature, which also allowed Durham to pare down the size of their market showroom, which it moved from the International Home Furnishings Center (IHFC) to 220 Elm.

“We were able to show our reps what the experience is going to look like and what they’re going to be able to do with it,” Simpson continued, adding the technology allowed them to shrink their showroom from about 12,000 square feet to 3,000.

“This went hand in hand with our whole strategy for the company. We downsized our showroom to about 3,000 square feet, and this made that happen. We invested in standalone touchscreen kiosks so that amongst the furniture we were showing, you could see everything else we had in various finishes. It’s demoing to the retailers how this investment in tech will be an effective selling tool,” Durham marketing and sales support manager Amanda McQueen said. 

Click here to read the rest of Ashley’s report in the HGO Merchandiser…

Why can’t we attract top performers?

23 January 2023
Opinion

Attracting top performers is the number one challenge facing every business in the world today. I doubt this is a temporary problem. There seems to be a fundamental shift in the attitude towards ‘work’ on the part of a large segment of the population in the western world.

One of my big fears is employers are now hiring people who have no possibility of performing as required or honouring the business culture. It is going to cost a fortune and create great disruption to get rid of them, including wrongful dismissal lawsuits, when these folks become intolerable.

In spite of how challenging it is to attract, engage and retain top performers, we must keep trying. It’s still true the best people have to work for someone, it’s just that we have to deserve them. The reality is what we must do to deserve them has changed drastically in the last few years. What they want, demand from an employment experience has changed – and so must you.

To help you, I have created a check list of 20 key areas you can work on to make your business the preferred supplier of meaningful employment.

Note: Some of the key points below raise tough questions and require real soul-searching, self-awareness and guts to answer honestly. Denying reality doesn’t change reality, so give it your best shot.

In which of the following key areas must we improve to attract, engage and retain top performers?

  1. We’ve not clearly defined who we’re looking for. How do we improve our clarity? Do we have updated ‘outcomes-based’ job descriptions?
  2. We’re not looking in the right places. Where should we be looking? Where are the people we need working, living or being educated right now? Are we using online employment sites like Indeed, Monster and Zip Recruiter?
  3. Our industry is perceived negatively by our target employees. What can we do to honestly change that perception?
  4. The word is out that we’re a toxic or dead-end employer. What makes us toxic and what will we do to change that negative perception?
  5. Our employment interview process makes us look unprofessional, or poor screening or our desperation to ‘find bodies’ during the interview stage lets the wrong people in. What are the ‘interview process’ best practices of world-class companies from which we can learn?

Click here to read the rest of Donald Cooper’s insights in this edition of the HGO Merchandiser.

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