Showroom presentations, new products, give buyers plenty of reasons to shop
LAS VEGAS — Companies showing at the recently concluded Las Vegas Market offered a glimpse into how they are approaching the slowdown in business at retail and how they see themselves being part of the solution that ultimately drives traffic and sales at those stores.
With a wealth of first-time introductions — along with plenty of inline goods available in warehouses or on their way to the U.S. — case goods and upholstery resources had plenty to show at market.
One example? In its new 40,000-square-foot showroom, Four Hands was displaying thousands of SKUs in furniture, art, lighting and accessories, including 350 first-time-seen pieces, some two-thirds of which were furniture.
Traffic was strong through the weekend and Monday with a mix of independents, majors and designers working on projects.
“People have been very, very enthusiastic,” Rick Lovegrove, president of upholstery, said of the new showroom and mix of product across categories. “And the beginning of the year has been very positive from a business perspective. People seem to be in a buying mood and are looking for newness.”
But he said that the new space and new product was just part of how the company has been making efforts to boost its relevance to its customers. In addition to a new web platform and photo studio, the company also has doubled its warehouse presence with an additional 500,000 square feet of warehouse space in the Austin area in the past year.
“The customer experience has been really positive,” Lovegrove said, adding, “They are excited about the stories we are telling in design, in product and sustainability. People are pleased with the product and services they are getting from Four Hands.”
At Horizon Home, the strategy has been to further expand its product mix with new mixed media materials, new wood species and new designs aimed not only to spur business with its core brick-and-mortar retailers, but also with the design and hospitality trade.
“We have diversified our looks, and a lot of our product is geared toward younger consumers and the higher end,” said Felipe Orozco, vice president of sales.
The company even showed a complete kitchen that included an island and cabinetry complete with door and shelf storage and available in multiple finish options and some 50 types of stone available for countertops. With this category, it seeks to further expand its offerings to designers, contractors and architects looking to furnish condos and other properties in the growing Cabo San Lucas part of the Baja peninsula of Mexico.
“People are looking for something new and something where they can make money,” echoed Ralph Orozco, company co-founder. “When you are hungry and have to build new revenue streams, you look at what you can do.”
Special order business continues to be a major part of sales at Best Home Furnishings, representing roughly half of its business. Thus, the company’s showroom at Las Vegas highlighted different configurations, fabrics and leathers that are helping bolster that business.
Company Vice President of Sales and Marketing Greg Sicard said that the special order business has remained strong of late. And based on traffic ad orders at the Las Vegas Market, the company expects this to continue for the foreseeable future.
“We always do well out here because of the West Coast customers that don’t come to High Point,” Sicard said, noting that many of the dealers are smaller independents that collectively represent an important part of its business. “That’s our bread and butter.”
Steve Silver Co. showcased a mix of indoor and outdoor product, much of which was already shown in High Point, but seen for the first time by many of its West Coast dealers that don’t come to High Point.
Much of that product dealers can buy directly from the warehouse and have it shipped in a matter of days, versus waiting weeks for a container from overseas. Thus they can get the product to their own warehouses and floors quickly, while also achieving quick turns.
“Our partners are pulling out of the warehouse and selling the goods before invoices come due,” said Luke Silver, president, noting that many customers are buying monthly and sometimes weekly.
Despite the overall slowdown in retail, the company said its domestic distribution model appears to be driving sales as business was up both in the fourth quarter and January.
“We are investing in new product, we are refreshing retail floors and we are moving merchandise,” Ian Geltner, vice president of sales, said of the company’s strategic initiatives.
Anthony Teague, executive vice president of upholstery manufacturer Jackson Furniture Industries, said this market, the company moved up two floors to a new showroom in B1000. As a result, he noted, the “freshness and the layout energized our sales team and our customers.” The company also had a mix of inline and new product to show including seven new items in two colors.
And despite the reported softness in general at retail, he noted that the company is working its production facilities three Saturdays a month to service a strong backlog.
“We believe product rules and JFI is still reaping the benefits of greater retail velocity on our styles across categories,” Teague told Home News Now. “As a result, we are continuing to gain share.”
He noted that another factor driving orders is the work “of a strong and seasoned sales team.”
“We just have a tremendous team of dedicated sales representatives and are continuing to invest in more feet on the street to service our customers. Not only are we opening new dealers and expanding our footprint with existing dealers, but our sales associates are succeeding at helping our dealers improve closing ratios on product categories through thorough training.”
He said that in addition to providing regular support to dealers during the week, the sales team has long been on hand in stores on busy Saturdays to “show support and assist our customers. This has paid great dividends for both our company and our retail partners.”
AICO said that market traffic was steady and that many customers were buying product, much of which was introduced previously in High Point.
“No matter how bad business is, people are buying furniture,” said Michael Amini, chief executive officer. “And companies that are offering brand-new fresh designs, good value and something that is different in the market are the ones they are going to grant those opportunities. Therefore, we as a company have decided since last year, that rather than just sitting and waiting for business to get better, we are going to be very aggressive with our merchandising, coming up with fresh designs and coming up with different design categories.”
“And business is not the best, but we are fine and we are doing business and we’re going to do a lot more business in 2024, despite all the issues,” he added, of the election year in particular. “We are doing what we do best by coming up with beautiful designs, great values and trying to be different from what’s out there in the market.”
AICO President David Koehler added that the company continues to step up its efforts to have its sales reps — whom the execs described as some of the greatest salespeople in the industry — educate dealers about its product mix.
“We are educating them so they know all the features and benefits of the product,” Koehler said. “We’ve got such a diverse product mix with so many different looks that they really have to educate all the (retail) salespeople on all these different features and benefits that we have and the different finishes and designs that we have. So they have to be out and present in the retail environment more so than ever when we are in a home furnishings environment like we are right now. It’s really very important.”