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Minimarket Off To Good Start

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 By Powell Slaughter

Lifestyle Enterprise's showroom, on opening day of minimarket, was a microcosm of High Point's main events in April and October – plenty of new product on display, buyers milling about and a smattering of languages being spoken, including Spanish and Portuguese.

Exhibitors elsewhere reported traffic that outstripped their opening-day expectations, since they figured most buyers in town would gravitate initially toward Lifestyle's Forbidden City exhibition venue, which they did. But early activity in outlying showrooms indicates minimarket's originator carried through on its promise to bring considerable buying power to town this week.

"We expect about a dozen customers to come by," said David Schreibfeder, director of sales for River Forks, an importer of case goods from Indonesia and China, whose key customers include retailers on Lifestyle's comp list. "Our North Carolina rep expects some new people to come, and that will be their chance to get a touch and feel of the product we introduced in October here. Several of our customers said they weren't going to Tupelo or Las Vegas, and we wanted to see them."

"It's better than what we'd see at premarket so far," said Wyatt Bassett, executive vice president at Vaughan-Bassett, of opening-day traffic. Vaughan-Bassett, along with five other primarily domestic companies, committed early last month to Lifestyle's idea for a January High Point minimarket. "And from what I can tell, people will be pretty evenly distributed over the three days."

Orleans Furniture, like Vaughan-Bassett, brought new product for display this week. President and CEO Ed Marshall also believes the event meets a retailer need to see new goods earlier in the year.

"I feel it will be much busier than a normal premarket, which we don't do anymore," he said. "It's hard to put a number to what we'll get this week, but we have several commitments. I feel it will be much busier than a normal premarket, which we don't do anymore."

Minimarket got some attention late in the game from companies such as importer Magnussen Home Furnishings, where North Carolina sales representative Neil Anderson decided to open up the showroom as long as buyers were in town.

"We heard through the grapevine that there are more people here than we'd thought," he said, noting that there's a broad geographical range of retailers here. "We had one from California and one from Conway, S.C."

Lifestyle's brainchild apparently resonated with buyers looking for more new product earlier in the year. That desire goes beyond the largest U.S. retailers, said Jerry Sagerdahl, executive vice president of case good importer Legacy Classic.

"There was one South Carolina retailer we talked with, doing around $3 million a year, who said he wasn't coming to spring market in High Point anymore because he wants to see product in January, and that High Point hasn't addressed that," he said. Moving forward, that retailer is planning on attending the Las Vegas market in January and High Point in October. "Several retailers we know want to combine April market with premarket and move it into late January or early February."

And while a lot of exhibitors are talking shop or giving potential new clients their first look at in-line product, several suppliers latching onto Lifestyle's idea are showing new samples in High Point this week.

Orleans, for example, had five new wood bedrooms from its step-up Magnolia Classics import program and four new promotional bedroom sets from its domestic Orleans operation.

"I went to China in November to have sample production moved up in time for this event," Marshall said. Orleans, which will have permanent Las Vegas showroom space in 2007, will show those groups along with two more completely new introductions at the Furniture Show in Las Vegas Rio venue later this month.

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