High Point Market generates strong early order-writing

Retailers seek values they can promote to drive traffic and spur sales later this year

HIGH POINT — Furniture resources showing here this week reported strong order-writing at a market that typically results in commitments that don’t materialize into firm written business until weeks, if not months, after market.

It’s a sign that dealers are not wanting to delay the arrival of new goods that will freshen their floors starting in the fall and hopefully boost year-end foot traffic in a period of ongoing malaise at retail.

Suppliers both on the case goods and upholstery sides of the business noted that many of the orders came from smaller dealers as opposed to larger accounts, which typically have a larger team that compares notes back home on what they saw at market.

Regardless, case goods and upholstery manufacturers are certainly eager to take those orders and start flowing the goods, whether it’s from oversees or domestic warehouses, though newly introduced goods this market likely won’t hit floors in many cases until sometime this fall. Goods launched this past October are starting to arrive now, allowing retailers to promote heavily for the upcoming Memorial Day and even July 4 holiday weekends.

But there also is a sense of urgency in getting newer product sooner versus later.

“The first question they are asking is how quickly can I get it,” said Sergio Zorio, vice president of sales at Mexican case goods manufacturer Meximuebles.

The Catalina console by Meximuebles is made with solid parota wood and retails at $599.

Zorio added that customers also were looking for sharp price points and value offered in new compelling looks. Meximuebles offered that combination in a mix of categories including bedroom and entertainment consoles made with solid parota wood with five new bedrooms retailing around $1,599 for a bed, dresser, mirror and nightstand and 13 new entertainment consoles retailing from $499 to $699.

“If we don’t step out of the box we will just be another Mexico factory,” he said, also noting that lead times — from the time of order to when it ships — are currently four to five weeks. “We don’t want to be just another Mexico factory.”   

Others also pursued a strategy that combined speed to market with ease of doing business, including Stickley’s Express Ship program that offers 30-day shipping from the receipt of order to 60 days on items available in certain custom options and configurations.

“During Covid we had so many orders and deliveries delayed and we have to overcome that,” Stickley CEO Aminy Audi told Home News Now. “People are not willing to wait 120 days for delivery.”

Bassett Furniture’s mixed container shipping program allows dealers to mix wood products with its top-selling Club Level motion upholstery styles from Vietnam on a single container. In addition to offering multiple categories on a single container, Bassett’s program helps lower freight costs, officials said.

“This will allow customers to land products at significant savings, while carrying manageable inventory levels in both categories,” said Bruce Cohenour, senior vice president and chief sales officer at Bassett Furniture.    

But pricing remained top of mind for many dealers here at market. Sources said they continued to look for competitive pricing — not necessarily to raise retail price points on their floors for a higher margin — but to help move goods quickly, thus boosting sales to help turn around a lackluster start to the year.

“It is slow out there and people are holding onto their money,” said Christian Rohrbach, president of solid wood case goods resource A-America. “A lot of people are looking for value product. You have to be sharp and provide a value. It doesn’t matter what price point you are. You have to provide a value and you have to earn that business.”

The Weston dining set by A-America is made with solid oak and features this trestle-base table with a self-storing leaf. A table and four chair set retails at $2,499.

Order-writing activity was seen across price points, including the upper middle and high end.

Brad Cates, president and chief executive officer at Sarreid Ltd., said that he was pleased with the level of order-writing activity, adding that it was pacing above the October market.

“We have the right price point, the right look and the right availability,” he said. “That is why we are getting people to say yes. It has been teamwork that has gotten us here and that has been very evident this market.”

In addition to strong orders on case goods, the company reported strong orders on its leather program, where customers are reordering pieces in different colors off an item seen at the showroom. The company is backing this up with stock in its North Carolina warehouse but also placing reorders at market based on the demand.

However, much of the order-writing activity was most notable at the lower price points, where dealers can promote heavily with door-buster types of deals that bring people into the store. Those reporting strong orders at market ranged from Coaster and Lifestyle Enterprise to Crown Mark and Elements International, to name several key suppliers.

Many also offered large introductions, giving dealers a wide variety to shop at market. Lifestyle, for example, had 18 new bedrooms and 50 new dining sets with some wood veneer bedrooms retailing as low as $699 for a bed, dresser, mirror and nightstand and dining sets retailing as low as $199 to $399 for a table and four chairs to around $999.

Lifestyle Enterprise’s 8438 bedroom is made with oak veneers and features reeded detail on the headboard and drawer fronts of companion case pieces. The bed retails at $599.

Elements International had introductions across all major categories including bedroom, dining room and occasional, along with upholstery.

“We are seeing people wanting to buy anything that is a value across price points,” said Mike Wurster, president. “We did write in October and we are seeing more this market. … Customers are ready to buy new stuff at a value to bring people into their stores.”

Based on such demand for new products, he said a key strategy is to make sure it has the right mix of product both in its Vietnam and domestic warehouse facilities.

These and other resources reported strong early traffic through the weekend heading into the second half of market early this week.

At upholstery manufacturer Albany Industries, traffic by late Sunday was up 20% from last April and possibly even October, Bentley Jones, chief revenues officer, told Home News Now. He also noted that interest and order-writing from dealers was strong, compared to previous markets, which typically result in more commitments.

“It hasn’t been an order-writing market for a long time,” he noted, adding that many retailers have worked through their inventories and have open to buy as they look to freshen their floors.

But price also was a factor, as dealers gravitated to lower-priced fabric sofas targeted to retail from $499 to $599 and two-piece sectionals priced to retail at $999 to $1,199 compared to sofas retailing at $899 and two-piece sectionals at $1,499 toward the upper end of the line.

“We are giving them a high-end look at a value,” Jones said. “That is what has enabled us to gain market share with current customers and has enabled us to open up new customers.”

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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