Some line expansions, innovations take a back seat … for now

Price pressures and need for efficiencies, cause some companies to table or rethink programs launched pre-pandemic

HIGH POINT — A number of product initiatives that seemed good at the time before the global pandemic have resulted in some importers and manufacturers hitting the pause button — at least for now.

For a variety of reasons — ranging from cost of producing the goods to manufacturers trimming their lines to focus on their best selling items — several suppliers have been putting new ideas on the back burner and deciding whether to rethink these concepts further down the road.

For example, Progressive Furniture aimed to get into the upholstery business back in 2017 nearly three years before there was even any hint of a global pandemic. The goal was to produce a line in North Carolina that would complement its occasional offerings.

Initial reaction was positive, noted Dan Kendrick, president. However, the region where it was producing the goods, tended to focus on higher-end upholstery, which in turn, requires paying upholsters higher wages — upwards of $25 to $30 an hour for experienced workers.

“Our labor costs exploded and our materials costs exploded,” Kendrick said, noting that to continue in the segment would mean selling at a much higher price point than customers were used to with its occasional line.

“It wasn’t competitive to a lot of our Top 100 retailers,” Kendrick told Home News Now of the upholstery program. “We were selling to some mom and pops, but we were never going to get enough volume to grow with them.”

This past fall, the company ended up selling its upholstery assets including equipment and facilities to direct-to-consumer resource Coley Home.  Progressive may return to upholstery in the future. But if it does, it will likely be an import line, Kendrick said, noting that once travel opens back up, the company plans to go overseas and develop something more in line with its price point.

“In order for us to sell product that is in the same price category as our bedroom dining room we will have to import it,” he said, noting that he doesn’t expect another launch until sometime next year. “It is something that has to be developed. It is still on paper right now.”

Also on the upholstery side, International Furniture direct relaunched an all fabric upholstery line last fall after an earlier wood trim program failed to resonate as the company had hoped. The company, however, is going to relaunch the more recent program in April to reach a sharper price point, said Miguel Ochoa, general manager.

“Everybody liked the designs and the styles,” he told Home News Now, noting that there was more an issue of price with the fall relaunch.

For example, the sofas in the fall program were targeted to retail from $999 to $1,100. However, he said, buyers were looking more for product in the $899 to $999 range.

“We figured out how to do that without compromising quality,” he said, noting that he believes IFD can achieve the sharper price points with a change in suppliers of fabrics and fillers and covers for the pillows.

He said that several sofa and loveseat groups are in the works for High Point as well as a sectional or two.

On the wood side, John Thomas launched a dining program in the fall of 2019 that featured tables with imported bases and solid wood tops produced by an Amish manufacturer. Early response to the program was strong.

However, during the pandemic, John Thomas faced a 12% price increase on various materials that went into the tables. Thus it decided to drop the line for the time being.

Bryan Sprinkles

“It wasn’t just the price of the hardwood,” said Bryan Sprinkles, national sales and marketing manager, of the solid oak tops. “It was things like glue and various other items to produce them that would have increased the cost to us.”

Sprinkles said that while the company has liquidated its remaining inventory on two sets of tables, including a 48-inch round single ped table and a 38-by-76-inch long table with a trestle base, the company may come back to the concept perhaps as early as this year.

“We just sold out whatever we had and we will look maybe at revisiting it,” Sprinkles said.

Case goods manufacturer Vaughan-Bassett also tested the waters with a concept that originated in wood cabinetry: a push-to-open drawer mechanism for its case goods lineup. Launched in early 2019, the concept didn’t quite take off as the company had hoped.

“It was very clever, but we didn’t sell much of it,” said Doug Bassett, president.

Doug Bassett

So this past year, when Vaughan-Bassett decided to pare down its line from 24 to 10 of its bestselling collections, the group with the push-to-open drawers was one of the ones that got dropped from the mix.

“Two of those 24 groups were dining room — we got out of dining at the same time,” Bassett said, noting that the dining line wasn’t profitable and was difficult to produce for a factory that primarily makes bedroom. “When the bedroom business got really going, we were glad to get out of dining room.”

Of the bedroom with the push-to-open drawer concept, Bassett said he thinks it was more the overall design that caused its lackluster performance versus the actual functionality, which was new to residential bedroom at the time.

“We may revisit it down the road,” Bassett said. “It certainly is not a bad idea.”

“The pandemic was such a game changer,” he added. “The reason we all try innovative and different stuff is that we are looking to grow our business. None of us are in that boat right now where we are asking the factory to stretch… The window (of opportunity) for this is a year down the road when business finally cools and we need to use product to capture market share.”

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at and at 336-508-4616.

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