Occasional category has strong showing at High Point Market

Cocktail, end table and sofa table groups, plus entertainment units and accent pieces, continue to help elevate the living room segment in style and functionality

HIGH POINT — As expected, upholstery was among the most sought-after categories at the April High Point Market. Regardless of the footprint — stationary or motion — the category continues to drive sales at retail, while bedroom and dining room take a back seat.

There are several reasons for this, namely in that upholstery needs to be replaced more often because of wear and tear from people and sometimes pets.

Secondly, it’s a category that is most visible in the home and thus one that people like to show off to family and friends. In addition, it’s one of the more innovative categories thanks to the ability to charge your phone, tablet or laptop, listen to music and relax at the same time it offers health benefits such as zero-gravity and even massage functionality.

But interest in upholstery drove new product in at least one wood category that’s also part of the living room mix, and that’s occasional, entertainment and accent furniture.

Several resources we ran into at market had aggressive introductions in the category or at least made a bigger push than they have in recent markets.

For example, Magnussen Home introduced 26 new occasional table groups that featured a variety of looks and mixed media elements the company has long been known for as a style leader in the category.

Meanwhile, upholstery manufacturer Nice Link entered the segment this market with 15 new occasional groups made in Vietnam.

Retailing from $399 to $799, they will be made by manufacturer Shing Mark, which will have the ability to match wood finishes on the tables with some of the bestselling motion and stationary upholstery groups that Nice Link is producing on the same campus. This aims to create a coordinated look between both categories that will help drive sales at retail without consumers having to hire a designer to mix and match pieces from different collections.

This functional storage cocktail ottoman was among the new occasional pieces that upholstery manufacturer Nice Link showed for the first time alongside its motion and stationary upholstery groups at the April High Point Market.

“It is another revenue stream for us,” company President Jay Carlson told Home News Now. “We have the ability to build the collections in full, but we also have the flexibility to flow to the retailer’s demand rather than having a large minimum order.”

As they ship on mixed containers with the upholstery, this also saves the retailer money on freight costs since the tables are occupying empty space in the container that otherwise wouldn’t be filled with upholstery.

In a similar fashion, Legacy Classic | Modern also has merchandised and developed occasional product around its new motion upholstery mix featuring wood trim and accents, coordinating the wood finishes with of some of its bestselling occasional groups. This creates a coordinated approach that consumers can appreciate and understand in both categories.

The company added new coordinated groups this market and plans to follow a similar strategy in the future as it broadens its mix of motion upholstery.

Jofran also has showcased upholstery with its occasional mix, while also showing some standalone accent pieces such as consoles and table groupings.

Jofran showed its new Ryder entertainment consoles, which are made with solid acacia and feature metal bases. Available in three sizes, 50 inches, 60 inches and 70 inches, they retail from $499 to $799.

This market it had four new groups of occasional tables as well as new consoles in its Ryder collection that come in three finishes and three sizes for a total of nine SKUs retailing from $499 to $799. Another standout was its new 69-inch Asher console made with mango veneers in a mango finish that retails from $999 to $1,199.

“Generally speaking, we saw good action on the groups we debuted,” said Joff Roy, president, noting that the company had some order writing but mostly strong commitments on its new products. “These products are resonating because of our overall value story.”

He noted, however, that with demand being higher for upholstery in the marketplace in general, the buzz at retail is that some occasional table purchases could be postponed until later.

“The consumers’ focus is on need versus wants,” Roy said, noting that this means focusing on the sofa and perhaps leaving the occasional table for the next time.

But the timing of product launches this market could land some of the occasional on floors later in the year or sometime early to mid-next year when consumers are willing to buy. And of course these examples cited above are just a glimpse at some of the occasional, meaning there will be plenty of new product to choose from at retail.

Stickley showed its new Durant upholstery and occasional collection at the spring market. The console and cocktail table shown here feature hand-hammered copper from Mexico.

Some others that had strong showings in the occasional category at market included Artistica, Austin Group, Bernards, Bernhardt, Four Hands, Hooker Furnishings, Lexington, Sarreid, Stickley and Universal, which offered occasional as part of their collections, and in some cases as standalone groups.

In addition, Mexico manufacturer Meximuebles introduced several new solid wood entertainment consoles and A-America returned to the segment with several new occasional groups made with solids and veneers.

Bernards’ Trilogy collection, marketed under its new Apex division, includes these occasional tables, which feature travertine stone tops. Occasional had a strong showing here at market with some 20 occasional and accent pieces that were part of the 80-piece collection.

Finally, if our Consumer Insights Now data is any indication, sales in the upholstery category will likely spur the purchase of an occasional table set to complement a new sofa or sectional.

The good news for consumers? Many of these occasional items — not to mention smaller accent and side tables — can be purchased right off the floor or out of the dealer’s warehouse without breaking the bank. Could the occasional and accent table category spur more business on your floor? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject, so feel free to email them to tom@homenewsnow.com.

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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