13622 Wed, 01/23/2008 - 4:50pm
By Andrea Lillo
Though the business environment continues to be challenging, manufacturers feel that the decorative accessory category still has opportunities for growth.
As they get ready to exhibit at the Las Vegas Market, several manufacturers mentioned benefiting from a significant lift in their West Coast sales from the show, as they gain exposure to new accounts they otherwise wouldn’t have access to, and they hope that continues.
Though the consumer may not be buying a new home this year, they will be “maintaining” their current home, said Jonathan Bass, chief executive officer of PTM Images, and wall decor will have an important role to play in that. “People can’t afford to change the case goods and big-ticket items in their homes—but they do want change. Wall decor is always a cost-effective way to bring change into one’s environment.” PTM is developing more new releases this year as well, to “give our customers a reason to purchase more and different products,” he said.
And getting the customer to buy more will be important in this environment. Retailers will be looking for ways “to increase traffic in their stores or redirecting through other outlets such as e-commerce,” said Ken Kallett, executive vice president of Dale Tiffany Inc., adding that “gas prices affect walk-in traffic, home sales and loan crisis affect consumer mood, China currency issues affect pricing.”
Speaking of China, David Gebhart, CEO of Global Views, believes that as the Olympics in China approaches, “we’ll see more of a crackdown on pollution, and work stoppages [in that country]. I think there will be a big push to clean up.”
For the Las Vegas Market, Kallett has “guarded optimism.” It’s “always been a good show for us,” he said, and he’s seen sales grow by 10 percent each market. “Right now, the business environment is very tough as we all know, but I am optimistic that attendance at the Vegas show will hold strong as compared to the weakness of other shows lately.”
Though the Vegas show has not delivered the numbers it would like to see yet, said Bob Ulrich, vice president of sales and marketing for Currey & Co., it has seen “significant” increases on the West Coast and “we have to contribute some of that to the show.” As a company, “we’re still in a growth mode,” and the lamp business entered into two years ago continues to increase. “We just finished a record year,” he added.
At Currey & Co., natural materials are the focus for its products, Ulrich said, stemming from its beginnings in the garden industry. “If something in our line looks like carved wood, it is. It’s not resin,” he said.
Gebhart agreed that people are looking for quality now. “The days of selling at a low price and of cheap quality are going away,” he said, as there are so many companies doing that now. “People buy things because want to make an investment; they don’t want the cheap [stuff] anymore. … Customers want items that look nicer and are of better quality, like heirloom pieces.”
Global Views is another company that also sees significant growth in the Western part of the United States, due to the show.
Planning for its third Las Vegas Market, Chelsea House expects to have a strong show, said Bill Cain, president. “Our purpose in opening a showroom in Las Vegas was to better serve our customers west of the Mississippi that are so vital to us.”
Metal furniture is currently a strong category, Cain added, and mirrors, especially ones with distinctive shapes, are also selling well. “We also seem to be seeing more of a return to classic shapes,” he said. “The one thing that does not seem to change is the desire for quality, well-made products.”
But it will still be a challenging year, Cain added. “Every time it is a presidential election year, that always causes a bit of wariness. People know there will be change and that in itself can make people more cautious.” But being at the high end, as his company is, insulates it from some of the economic issues, he said. To better service its customers, it has produced a printed catalog, showing its more than 2,500 products, which enables customers to more easily shop the line.
“Difficult times often purge the marketplace of weak suppliers and retailers alike, so we are increasing our efforts to diversify our customer base and gain market share,” said Lendell Glassco, president of Paragon. “Our business plan priority calls for us to leverage our strong market position and be ready to respond to opportunities in a tough economy.” Among its introductions is the new wall decor line by HGTV’s “Divine Design” host Candice Olson, which will initially begin with 34 pieces.
For Dale Tiffany, the crystal and contemporary art glass are growth areas, Kallett said. In addition, “with the current business climate, the trends seem to be more operational than product-oriented, such as SKU and inventory management.”