Premarket kicks off spring market cycle

Slow economy creates uncertainty despite some aggressive — and aggressively priced — product introductions

HIGH POINT — Battling a tepid retail environment with some of the slowest sales in recent memory, case goods and upholstery vendors here at premarket this week showcased aggressive product introductions aimed at spurring business later in the year just as product from last fall begins to hit retail floors.

Estimates of nearly 70 retailers from around the country got an early look at that product, roughly a month ahead of the April 13-17 High Point Market, giving them a chance to see new styles and in some cases lock up distribution in key markets.

While most are not placing orders this soon, the event helps those customers prepare for important decision making on what to floor —and what to potentially move off their floors to make room for the new — as they continue to navigate an uncertain business environment.

In typical premarket fashion, the event gave them plenty to choose from as many event sponsors had a majority of their spring introductions on display. Sponsors, who help foot the bill for guest lodging at the event, are committed to being mostly market ready, with just a smattering of product still en route, while some non-sponsoring companies worked off sketches.

Hooker Furnishings showcased two midsized whole home case goods collections, including Vineyard Row, a casual organic collection inspired by California wine country and made with hickory veneers in two finishes, a lighter Sonoma and a darker Napa finish. The regional design influences are seen in the architectural detail of a panel bed headboard and footboard inspired by a gate, and wine barrel-inspired bases on a round dining table and base of a demilune, for example.

A second collection, Settler’s Bay, sports casual traditional New England and coastal-inspired design influences. Made with maple and quartered walnut veneers, it is available in three finishes, including a white accent finish called Sail and two wood tone finishes called Chestnut and Autumn. The collection offers smaller-scale pieces that are geared toward older or smaller homes with smaller bedrooms and dining areas.

In addition, the company showed new upholstery pieces in its Bradington-Young, HF Custom and M brands, ranging from sofas and accent chairs to modular sectionals. These were showcased with new and inline occasional products, some of which ranged from Hooker’s traditional Charleston collection to more contemporary cocktails and end tables shown in new finishes in Hooker’s M line.

This leather sofa featuring decorative nailhead trim was shown at Bradington-Young, a division of Hooker Furnishings.

Bernhardt’s presentation included new collections in its Loft collection, a smaller-scale, entry-level-priced segment that is priced about 15% below typical Bernhardt product. These included the 25-piece rustic modern Antibe, made with oak veneers and featuring glass-reinforced lighter-tone concrete bases that offer a rich contrast to the darker oak veneers along with decorative reeded elements.

“While it’s a value and smaller scale, we’re still adding a lot of style and interest,” said Heather Eidenmiller, director of brand development, of the looks achieved at sharpened price points.

Its second collection, also in Bernhardt Loft, was the 16-piece Menton, which has organic modern design influences seen in features such as the exaggerated reeding on door and drawer fronts and bases of cocktail tables, for example.

The company also showed several new styles in its motion upholstery lineup along with three new stationary leather SKUs, six new stationary fabric upholstery pieces, three new recliners and five standalone occasional groups. A total of 19 new wood pieces and five new upholstery frames also were available in its Interiors division. Many of these new items, particularly in upholstery, featured soft rounded shapes throughout the entire frame, from the cushions to the backs and arms and in some cases were adorned with wood and metal accents.

Vaughan-Bassett unveiled its new Custom Express program, which aims to set it apart as a custom manufacturer of custom case goods that can ship in record-setting times thanks to a several million dollar investment the company is making in inventory. The program offers three bed styles including one with an architectural-inspired headboard, one with an inset upholstered headboard and one with a farmhouse-inspired wood panel, along with companion cases pieces in five finishes and six fabric options.

Vaughan-Bassett’s Custom Express bedroom program features three bed styles, five finishes and six fabric options. The line aims to ship within 72 hours from the time of order.

Part of its solid wood Artisan & Post line, all pieces are made with solid American white oak, with queen beds retailing from $999 to $1,299.

The manufacturer will stock all these options and plans to deliver within 72 hours from the time of order offering quick delivery to dealers around the country. The company showcased two different ways that dealers can buy into the program, complete with marketing materials showcasing the different options, including a mini-gallery featuring a bed and different headboards and case pieces shown in different finishes available for about $4,000. Combined with a separate room scene it is available to dealers for a total of $7,000.

“It’s more than a collection,” said company President Doug Bassett of the ability to ship custom product in 72 hours. “Nobody in the industry has figured out how to do that. It’s a game changer that the dealer just can’t say no to.”

He said that a first cutting of the program will begin this month, with a second cutting planned in April that will have the program fully in stock “across the board. We will work hard not to run out of it,” Bassett said.

Universal Furniture showcased two whole home collections, including the 45-piece organic transitional Griffith Park, made with oak solids and veneers and available in two finishes, with select pieces available in a dark accent finish called Obsidian. It also features mixed-media design elements such as Danish cord on chair backs and the doors of a credenza and textured black granite on the tops of select case pieces.

A second collection, Avaline, offers 36 pieces featuring transitional and modern leaning design elements seen in its geometric elements and forms, including modern tambour detailing on door and drawer fronts and the base of a round dining table along with embossed wood veneers on select case pieces.

Additions to bedroom and/or dining furniture lines were seen at resources FD Home, Urban Design Collective along with Avalon Furniture, American Woodcrafters and Lifestyle Enterprise to name several.

These marble-top dining tables were seen at Avalon Furniture. The mixed-media program has grown in popularity among its dealer base.
Lifestyle Enterprise showed this glam-inspired bedroom which features LED lighting on the headboard and faux crystal accents. A four-piece set is targeted to retail at $1,499.

Among these were groups offered at aggressive price points such as two promotional bedroom groups shown at Lifestyle targeted to retail at $799 for a bed, dresser, mirror and nightstand. Table-and-four-chair dining sets shown at premarket are targeted to retail as low as $599 while a table and six chairs retails as low as $699.

Other companies showing line extensions in dining at premarket included LC Direct and Legacy Classic each of which offer standalone casual dining programs featuring mixed-media looks in a variety of styles.

Most sponsoring companies reported steady traffic with more dealers expected through midday tomorrow. Nonsponsoring companies typically generate less traffic as dealers invited to the event focus first on the companies that pay for their stays. Those who visit the most sponsoring companies also can receive free room upgrades at future premarket events.

But most companies opening their doors this week, whether sponsors or nonsponsors, don’t expect to see any orders until after market at the earliest.

Another grim reminder of that? Some resources are still waiting for companies that made commitments at the October market to place orders on those products.

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.

View all posts by Thomas Russell →

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