Exhibitors report steady attendance that many say makes traffic patterns feel more like pre-Covid times
HIGH POINT – Premarket kicked off Sunday and Monday with what case goods and upholstery resources alike considered a return to more normal pre-pandemic traffic patterns.
Describing traffic as slower than more heavily attended Premarkets during the pandemic, exhibitors were pleased nonetheless to show new product for the fall market cycle. Most were eager to hear the reaction from dealers, many of which they said had a good Labor Day holiday weekend, a sign those customers could be in the market for new goods moving forward.
“Generally retailers are reporting a pretty strong Labor Day sales,” said Steve Pilgrim, senior vice president, sales for residential furniture at Bernhardt, noting that the appetite for product appears strong. “Dealers are looking for things that are fresh in the market and certainly are looking for value.”
As many are shopping for product that will hit floors in roughly six months, the thinking is that inventories also will fall to more normal levels by that point, thus clearing the way for new goods.
Company President and CEO Alex Bernhardt, Jr. also felt the mood was positive, echoing reports of a strong holiday weekend.
“It’s been upbeat,” he said. “Most people had a really good Labor Day.”
Knowing that retailers come to see new product, Bernhardt was well prepared with two full case goods collections, the modern 40-piece Stratum and the 35-piece rustic modern Prado. It also showed new upholstery, including several new iterations of its Plush, which featured three new sofa groupings, one new sectional and five new accent chairs.
In the motion category, it showed three new sofa groups, one in leather and two in fabric as well as a few new recliners. It also showcased 20 new pieces of outdoor furniture, giving dealers a well-rounded mix across its entire line.
Other large product offerings were seen at Hooker Furnishings, which showcased its new Charleston collection, featuring 80 pieces of updated traditional case goods available in multiple finish options, along with its new estimated 50-piece Nouveau Chic collection. The company also showed new case goods finishes and pieces in its Big Sky collection,
In addition, it showed new upholstery pieces its domestic upholstery divisions, Sam Moore and Bradington-Young.
Jeremy Hoff, president and CEO of Hooker Furnishings, said that dealer traffic was about normal, as the company had about 45-50 appointments.
“I would say for us, Premarket did not vacillate that greatly,” Hoff told Home News Now, noting that traffic got off to a slower start on Sunday but picked up Monday.
Hoff also received largely positive reports from dealers about the holiday weekend.
“We are hearing exactly the same thing — that Labor Day sales were strong,” he said, adding that retailers have seen a good solid two to three weeks of traffic of late. “We are sensing a lot of optimism from our retail partners.”
Case goods manufacturer Vaughan-Bassett showed two new bedrooms, with a third expected to be on hand at the October market. All are veneered sets that fill a void in its line; with the three new sets it will have seven veneered groups altogether this fall, said company President Doug Bassett. Including solid wood bedrooms in the line, the three new sets will bring the overall number total to 12.
All three case goods collections are expected to ship between early October and December.
Bassett noted that this also appears to be the first Premarket in a few years where the event sponsors have most of their product here in time for the event as previous supply chain disruptions kept many products from arriving in time.
“This is the first Premarket in three years where all the sponsors have a complement of new introductions, because we have all caught up and the backlogs are back to historical norms,” he said. “It’s time for us to help dealers freshen up their floors.”
He also agreed that Premarket attendance appears to be in line with historical norms.
“We’ve been operating out of the norm for so long, this seems to be a return to a normal Premarket and a normal market. That’s our hope.”
Not all companies had their new product here in time for Premarket as some has been stuck at the port, waiting to be unloaded from containers and put on a truck for delivery to market.
But come October, many believe that will create an opportunity for dealers to see even more product than ever as some delayed product from the spring cycle will also be on hand.
Hekman was showing one collection that didn’t get here for the spring market cycle. Made with oak veneers, Arlington Heights has roughly 15 pieces of bedroom, dining room and occasional furniture along with some new home office and home entertainment.
Hekman also showed pieces from its Bedford Park collection in a new Tobacco finish, the third finish available in the collection.
“I think there is an appetite for product from Hekman because of its history of quality and value,” said company North Carolina and Virginia sales rep Seburn Bass, noting that containers on both collections will begin arriving at the end of the month.
Motion furniture manufacturer Manwah USA said that it started seeing customers Friday and then throughout the weekend, with especially strong traffic on both Sunday and Monday.
“Premarket is definitely back to what it used to be,” said Gabriele Natale, president of Manwah USA, noting that dealers appear eager to freshen their floors. “They are very open to buy — perhaps not immediately, because a lot still have a high inventory situation — but they want to put in motion plans for later this year and early next year.”
He said that Manwah is offering a solution for those dealers, not with large discounts on secondary or tertiary product that won’t sell, but with meaningful programs and meaningful product that is not built for inventory but rather intended to turn quickly.
“We don’t have excess inventory that needs to be turned into cash,” he said. “The retail environment is not sustained by opportunity buys.”