What’s the real business story of Market?

Consumers ultimately will determine how well an introduction performs in the marketplace

HIGH POINT — Sometimes old habits are hard to break.

For years, I and many other product writers would go around Market and hear and write the same thing — traffic down, orders up.

It’s something that our own columnist Brian Carroll chastised me for in my furniture and bedding coverage at a previous January Las Vegas Market. While his comments stung a little, Brian was right. Gauging business at a market is almost a fallacy for several reasons.

For one, most large customers don’t place written orders at a market. At best, it’s commitments that rule the day. Of course, many of those don’t turn into actual orders for several weeks if not months down the road.

And it’s those written orders that move the needle in helping rate the success of any type of product launch, whether it’s a major collection or several standalone bedrooms or upholstery groups.

But until it actually gets on the floor and starts selling — or not — we really won’t know how well a Market introduction does.

Add to that retailers’ desire to put their own stamp on a design — such as a taller or shorter headboard, a different finish or different hardware — which will further delay a product launch weeks, if not until the next market cycle, be it High Point or Las Vegas.

Many retailers also are dealing with still-high inventories, making it hard to know what makes sense to floor not just in the weeks ahead but also in early 2023. One major retailer told me they have so much product in trailers, they are looking to add another warehouse to their mix.

Of course there was plenty of excellent product to see in upholstery and case goods at Market, from large collections at Hooker Furnishings and its sister companies to new categories at Martin Svensson Home, which showed more than 100 new pieces, including a new accent furniture category sourced from India.

Other companies we saw both at Market and Premarket also had major new initiatives — from Kuka’s expansive upholstery offerings from around the globe to Universal’s Newstalgia and its expanded Erinn V collections and sister company Legacy Classic’s doubling of SKUs in its e-commerce-centric Home Furniture Outfitters line.

Companies such as Universal and Flexsteel also had aggressive launches in upholstery, each delving into areas they believe can help their retail partners grow the business.

Of course, another point retailers have told us about new product is that it will begin to arrive more quickly as lead times — domestic and overseas — continue to lower. This also could help fill voids for retailers looking to replenish their stock with inventory that actually sells versus lingering carry-overs that aren’t selling or have an incomplete mix of product, such as missing dressers, nightstands, etc.

Taking another approach, others we’ve spoken with have been much more limited in their offerings at this Market. For them and their customers, adding any new product really doesn’t make sense until inventory situations improve. For now, they still have plenty in the pipeline to sell customers.

So which scenario is better? That really depends on whom you ask.

I would say from a business standpoint either approach will work out fine.

Even with the largest and most aggressive product launches, we won’t know what does well or has staying power probably for another market cycle or two.

First, this product needs to get into production. Then it needs to get on a container. Then it needs to hit the retail floor and finally get in front of consumers — let’s not forget them.

By then, perhaps we might just have a valid Market business story saying how well a collection does.

But here’s another important thing to consider. By the time most of this product we are seeing at Market gets in front of the consumer, there’s already new product in the conceptual and design stages. The goal? To get a spot on the retail floor that not only displaces product from a competitor, but by default, some of the product they just landed. It’s the constant ebb and flow of what’s new and what’s next. And so on, and so on and so on …

That, for better or worse, is probably the real business story of Market.

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 tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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