14278 Thu, 04/17/2008 - 2:47pm
By Nancy Meyer
HIGH POINT, N.C.–The tone of the High Point Market this month was one of resignation about challenging business conditions.
Retailers came to market looking for answers on just how to proceed in this shaky economy. While furniture, lighting and accessories vendors didn’t have answers, as they’re facing their own supply-side difficulties and escalating costs in every aspect of their own businesses, they did have fresh merchandise and higher-priced goods.
As for the new products, accessory introductions focused on organic and natural themes, if not actual materials. Examples included natural driftwood lamps from The Natural Light at the higher end and J.Hunt at the mass level; extensive use of marble, crystal and iron from a wide variety of sources; and a return to spindle lamps and turned-wood balustrade styles. Mixed-media pieces were also prevalent, as were splashes of color, from such sources as Dale Tiffany and Waterford Crystal, among others. Revivals of classic styles were shown, like the Italian Capo Di Monte lamps, featuring applied ceramic flowers on the base, at Fangio Lighting. And nautical, coastal and tropical themes continued, including the launch of Cabana Joe’s at Stylecraft.
Some of the new products shown at market carried higher prices than previous releases, as vendors and retailers pass-through their higher costs.
For some, this wasn’t a huge issue. Indeed, several buyers focused their attention on better-quality, middle- to upper-market goods.
Joanne Neff, accessories buyer for Wolf Furniture, said the quality of the products and the fact that they’re domestically produced is what keeps her coming back to Sedgefield by Adams, a line she’s bought for 20 years.
“Especially in the past couple of years, [Sedgefield] keeps coming out with new and exciting looks. It makes a difference to us and to our customers to buy product that’s still made here in the U.S.,” Neff told HFN.
Likewise, William Kreitsek Jr., principal of Suffolk Designer Lighting in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., was on the hunt for exquisitely made lighting for his wealthy clientele. He found styles at Visual Comfort, particularly Thomas O’Brien pieces, and is adding Fine Art Lamps to his mix later this season, he said.
One domestic producer, Babette Holland, of Babette Holland Design, said she’s seen a resurgence of demand for higher-end goods, and attributes her buoyant sales to this trend.
This dovetails with advice that style maven Martha Stewart gave to retailers in her fireside chat at market. “Look for good quality, exceptional design, attention to detail and [product that addresses] the customers’ desires,” she told the audience. “They’re looking for quality.”
Stewart summed up what many here felt: “It’s not a time to be frivolous. It’s a somber time.”