Casual News Now spoke to multiple manufacturers who said the recently concluded ICFA Preview Show was the busiest they’ve ever had.
“It was more like the typical casual show for us,” says Tad Varga, CEO of Three Birds Casual. I think of the term early buy—people placing orders in April, May, and June for the next year. People kind of got away from that but now they’re realizing they need to get back into that habit.”
And Varga says that doesn’t just benefit retailers, but manufacturers as well.
“If we don’t know how much we need to produce, we can only go off of our projections based on what retailers tell us,” he explains. “If they don’t tell us until the last minute, we can’t create furniture out of thin air.”
He says that if retailers wait too long, they’ll be disappointed in when they’re receiving their goods because the whole buying, shipping, and receiving timeline has shifted about 3-4 months just because of the demand.
“We’re finding that our early buys have come in earlier than they typically do,” he says. “We’re trying to promote to our dealers that if they want to have product in a timely fashion, they need to order before September. If they wait, we’ll still be able to fulfill orders, but they aren’t going to get them in January or February like they usually do.”
John Dorney, sales manager at Sunset West, says that during a regular premarket, about 50-60% of buyers usually attend. But this year, there was 75% attendance.
“That tells me people were there looking at products, whether it’s something they bought in early buy and wanted to see in person, or just to see new product,” he explains.
Dorney says two things are at play here. One is that some retailers were worried in 2020 and did some “panic buys.” He also says the dealers have been buying more containers now to make sure they’re prepared. “People are in the mindset that they need to have inventory,” he adds.
Dorney thinks traffic will be good in September because “there were a lot of guys in June and July who were busy trying to serve their customers, so they didn’t come.”
“Plus, no one has been to Chicago in a year or so, and we have three markets left before it leaves Chicago, so I think people will go to experience it.”
Mamagreen Brand Specialist and Business Development Partner William Kruzel says he’s previously questioned the value of the preview market, but that’s no longer the case.
“Over the past year and a half, I think retailers have seen that all of the supply chain issues have affected them,” he says. “You almost never hear the ‘how much’ question, anymore, you hear, ‘when can you ship?’”
Kruzel says he’s had retailers who’ve had a small delay in their orders, but Mamagreen has a decent amount of stock, and they’ve been putting a lot of effort into retaining.
“We have retailers who just want anything we have available shipped,” he says. “It’s sure sobering when you’re in high seasons and the demand for outdoor has decreased, and you’ve got customers lining up outside your door and the shelves and pretty lean. It’s a tough situation to be in.
“What I take from July’s buzz is that people won’t put themselves in that situation anymore, and if that means they’re going to take a ticket early and get that in the pipeline in July, it’s okay if it takes a little longer, but at least the processing has started,” he continues. “It’s fear and experience that drew everyone out. Plus, this was really one of the first trade shows in our business, and people were just so happy to see each other.”
And Kruzel doesn’t think the increased attendance at the preview show will have an effect on the attendance of Casual Market in September.
“I think Casual Market will be crazy,” he says. “This July was the busiest preview by far in memory, maybe because of that it won’t be the busiest Casual Market, but I don’t expect it to be slow. More people will show up to the show that maybe haven’t before. And that list of attendees, in general, might reach across more markets than independent and full-line retailers. Our market segment is on fire, and I think it will still be quite busy.”
This story first appeared on our sister publication website Casual News Now.