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Kush Teams with Mexican Partner

By Home Furnishings Business in on February 2006 Longtime California case goods manufacturers Dan and Elena Kush have formed a new sourcing partnership with Mexican manufacturer Toro Furniture to create Kush Furniture Co.

The Kushes owned Kushwood, which ceased domestic production in 2004 after 25 years of operation in the face of increasing workers compensation costs and stringent environmental regulations in California. A look to the Far East for Kushwood's new sourced line wasn't a good fit, but late last year, the Kushes teamed up with Toro Furniture, a longtime supplier of OEM wood furniture to major U.S. retailers.

Dan Kush, who owns Kush Furniture Co. with his wife Elena, said three points work in the new joint venture with Toro, which supplies all of Kush Furniture's some 150 pieces of bedroom, dining and occasional.

"One, Mexico is close by - they're our neighbors, and we see lower labor costs, and finishing can be done faster and better, especially in colors," he said. "Second, we'd faced a prohibitive regulatory environment in California, Third, we can deliver quicker, provide better parts service, and take care of quality easier than if we were a 16-hour flight away."

Kush Furniture offers all pieces in six colors and through warehouse or direct container service on its mid-priced goods.

"All the product is coming out of one manufacturer, Toro, so we can send a mixed container of any selection of pieces in the line," said Elena Kush.

Prior to the alliance with Kush Furniture, Toro had worked mostly with waxed finishes, but Dan Kush and his longtime quality assurance manager, Rafael Orozco, spent weeks with Toro to train workers on the new color treatments.

"We spent an entire week with a chemist just to develop the colors," said Elena Kush.

Las Vegas was Kush Furniture's first market under the new arrangement, so the Kushes declined to state delivery capacity, but Kush did note that Toro has just completed a 500,000-square-foot addition that brings its total plant to around a million square feet.

Dan Kush did say he was pleased with the new line's reception.

"It's been an excellent week," he said. "We had all our old accounts from Kushwood in, and everyone's excited about the quality and the finish."

Kush Furniture has retained Kushwood's old motto: "Designed for today's lifestyle ... Crafted to last a lifetime."

Felipe del Toro, president and co-owner of Toro Furniture, said he's proud to be doing business with the Kushes.

"Yesterday, Dan mentioned that God had put us together, and the future looks bright," he said. "We've been exporting for 15 years, so we have the necessary experience in customer service."

Highway Project to Give Easier Access to WMC

By Home Furnishings Business in on February 2006 It's going to be a lot easier to access the World Market Center in Las Vegas from Interstate 15 in a few years if a massive public works project from the Nevada Department of Transportation goes as planned.

Project Neon, a proposed widening and improvement of the portion of Interstate 15 that runs west of the Strip and past the WMC to its intersection with U.S. Highway 95 - locally known as the "Spaghetti Bowl" - includes a new exit that would deposit northbound drivers onto Bonneville Ave., practically at the WMC's doorstep.

Currently, drivers and shuttle buses must cross under I-15 and travel several blocks south on Martin Luther King Drive before accessing the interstate to get to the large strip hotels south of downtown. This week, shuttles either exited I-15 several blocks south of the WMC, or drove past the market buildings to downtown before doubling back to the center.

"Right now we're still in the study phase for Project Neon and hope to have the environmental impact study to the Federal Highway Administration by summer," said Raquel Torres, public information officer for Project Neon at the Nevada DOT. "Construction would start in 2009."

In addition to new exits, the project would widen I-15 to six lanes on both north- and south-bound sides, and involve the widening and improvement of existing ramps to improve traffic flow.

Temporary Exhibitors Like Vegas Turnout

By Home Furnishings Business in on February 2006 A dynamic venue, better marketing by show organizers and a sense of more buyer familiarity has exhibitors at the Las Vegas market's temporary show space at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center very pleased with business this week.

Cresent Fine Furniture brought a new direct container program to bear in its Las Vegas debut at Mandalay Bay, and Richard Tomkins, director of sales and marketing, said Thursday was the first day with any extended lulls in buyer traffic. He has three ideas why business was so good.

"First, I believe the temporary space has been marketed more heavily by the World Market Center - that's one of the things (WMC Director of Marketing) Dana Pretner has focused on," he said. "Second, a lot of the customers we talk to find this space easier to shop than the big building. You can tell within 30 seconds if something's of interest, and you don't have to wait in line to get into a showroom."

The location itself, Mandalay Bay, was Tomkins' third key.

"This is a destination in the sense that it has a casino, great restaurants and entertainment, and people come here to end their market day and then enjoy the facility," he said. "A lot of buyers are staying here as well, and they're using the temp spaces as a starting or ending point of their day. We've been very busy every morning and evening."

Don Eisen, key account manager for case goods importer Philippe Langdon also credited the space's open layout for strong visibility for his goods.

"We had more customers in this space than the total number of customers we'd seen in the two years we've shown this line," he said. "This market, even with separate venues, is so compact. In High Point, buyers spend so much time traveling from place to place. For the size space we're in, this was as busy as any market I've been a part of. I think this market put Philippe Langdon on the map."

At rustic furniture specialist Gonzalez and Associates, West Coast Sales Manager Robert Gonzalez was already filling out an application for space at the July show.

"I told them to show me the floor map right now because I want to grab a high-traffic spot early on," he said. "We had a great market in July, and that's why we're back, but we did hear mixed emotions from other temporary exhibitors last summer. This week has been outstanding."

Linda Owen, Riverside's vice president of marketing, said that set up was tough this week, but she's pleased with the results.

"We had less time to get ready, but the cooperation from the exhibitor services and show management was very good," she said. "We had great attendance in July, but it's up at least 15 percent to 20 percent for us. Orders are up, and the final counts aren't in - we have another day to go."

Copeland Furniture definitely plans to return, even if maybe for every other market until such time it has permanent space in Las Vegas, said Tim Copeland, president.

"At a minimum, Las Vegas is a great West Coast market," he said. "California, in terms of the furniture business, is a nation unto itself, and a lot of those retailers just don't come to High Point. It's an opportunity to see a lot of people we wouldn't get to otherwise."

Copeland, a Vermont case goods manufacturer, also saw new customers from Oregon and Washington during its Las Vegas debut.

Intercontinental, the former Ashley plant in Brazil now going out on its own under new ownership, found Las Vegas a worthy venue for its first-ever showing at a U.S. market.

"The traffic has been incredible. Our business is container-only, but a lot of retailers have come in and kicked the tires," said Alessandro Franco, chairman and president. "It's a matter of us qualifying who we'll be dealing with. A lot of what we're doing here is getting feedback on what we're bringing to market. We've been an exclusive supplier for so long we haven't had that direct customer input."

Second Las Vegas Market Gets Thumbs Up

By Home Furnishings Business in on February 2006 Anyone thinking last summer's order-writing bonanza and heavy traffic at the Las Vegas market was a one shot deal had best think again.

With higher hotel rates on the Strip and a little novelty worn off, some in the industry had thought this week's show couldn't match July's blockbuster event. Indeed, some exhibitors reported slight declines in traffic, but even those said they were writing more business, and all reported no let-up at the new-account activity that was a hallmark of Las Vegas' furniture debut last year.

Most of the credit goes to the growing number of introductions brought out specifically for the Las Vegas market.

Standard Furniture, for example, showed April 2005 High Point introductions at the summer show, but came to town this week with plenty of new product, including four collections of bedroom, dining and occasional, and four new leather groups.

"The first day our traffic was even to last summer, Tuesday was off about 20 percent, and today (Wednesday) is about even to last market," said Todd Evans, vice president of sales and marketing. "As far as written and incremental business, this will be a better market. ... We've seen more new accounts than we've seen at a show in 10 years. Out of 400 accounts Monday, 130 to 140 were new customers. We've gone an entire year without seeing that many new customers."

Broyhill came to town loaded for bear, with a westernized version of Attic Heirlooms , the Mission-inspired Artisan collection, new frames and leathers for its leather container program, new textured microfibers on casual two-over-two sofas, as well as home entertainment and accent additions.

Of 42 upholstery settings on display, 12 were new frame styles, and 40 featured new fabrics. The other two settings were October introductions.

"Everybody got the message in July that this wasn't the San Francisco market where people generally just showed in-line product – there is a lot of new product here and a lot of order-writing," said Broyhill Chief Executive Officer Harvey Dondero. "We had 475 visits through Tuesday, and we had 600 total in July. Our traffic is tracking about the same, but we're doing more business on it."

Pulaski reported a dip in traffic, but as with Standard, new product resulted in better business than July.

"Our traffic is down slightly compared to July, maybe 10 percent, but the written business is up at least 50 percent," said Bill Sibbick, senior vice president. "When people came here this time, they planned more for it because they knew what to expect. They saw last summer that they'll see introductions here."

Sibbick also believes buyers are settling into a routine here, and are happy to stay at off-Strip hotels, where pricing is more moderate, making this show a real working trip.

"A lot of people seem to be thinking they didn't need to come out and spend a lot of money on the hotel room this time," he said. "For the most part, hotels are pretty good, and they don't have to stay at the big-name places."

Traffic at the Michels & Co. showroom was as strong as in July, said President Irwin Allen. A member of the market's advisory board of exhibitors, he said others on the board reported more orders as well.

"I don't see a fall-off," he said. "I think we're attracting new people who didn't come in July because it's hot, and we're still building the dealer base here."

Klaussner loaded up the showroom with more sales representatives and inside account managers to handle the anticipated crowds, and that paid off, said Darren York, vice president of merchandising.

"Our first day was up from July, and the second day was as busy as last time," he said.

"I think we have more written business this time than last summer."

Over in the Pavilions temporary spaces next to World Market Center, Universal President Randy Chrisley reported an "absolute zoo" in terms of traffic the first two days.

"Wednesday has been steady – we've had 10 percent more visits so far than in July," he said. "We had more order-writing this market than last market. It seems like a lot of last summer's window shoppers are actually writing business this time."

Universal introduced one new collection and some occasional, but plans to ramp up introductions when it moves into a 30,000-square-foot permanent space in Building 2 for next January's show. In addition, if it gets a critical mass of key buyers coming to Vegas, it will use the show as a premarket for the subsequent High Point show in addition to introducing new groups specifically for Las Vegas.

"You'd actually have time to make changes to that April product if you show it in January," Chrisley said.

Somerton, which also showed in the Pavilions, had been at the Las Vegas Furniture Show at the Sands last summer. This time it occupied a row space that took up almost half of one side wall of Pavilion 2.

"We're pleased with the traffic because we catch everyone who comes in the door," said Ed Roth, executive vice president. "We've seen more than 200 dealers the first two days, and we had 160 the whole week at the old space. The most important thing is we're seeing people who actually purchase furniture at the market."

Exhibitors also praised the market's organizers for strong action to correct problems from the first show in Las Vegas.

"Everyone's telling me the logistics are better this time, the shuttles, getting around the market," noted Klaussner's York.

Chrisley at Universal said the food service, while needing more seating, is greatly improved, as well as shuttle service.

"They've tried to address everything that was an issue last market," he said. "They still need to work on registration, and that will be a major focus I believe they'll have worked out by next market. Some kind of express registration would be the biggest single thing they could do to improve that."

Michels' Allen credited market management with paying attention to suggestions from the exhibitor advisory board.

"The staff is responsive to the information and feedback we give them," he said. "They're doing the right things, and they're responding to the needs of both the retailers and the manufacturers."

Pier 1 Posts January Same-Store Sales Increase

By Home Furnishings Business in on February 2006 Fort Worth, Texas-based Pier 1 Imports reported a same-store sales increase of 8.2 percent during the four-week period in January.

Company sales for the month ended Jan. 28 hit $133.8 million, a 12.5 percent increase from last January's sales of $118.9 million. Year-to-date sales for the 11-month period totaled $1.7 billion, a 2.2 percent decline from $1.8 billion during last year's first 11 months. Same-store sales for the 11-month period declined 7 percent.

"We are pleased to report positive comp store sales in January," said Marvin Girouard, chairman and chief executive officer. "Sales throughout the month were highly promotional as planned, and store traffic and average ticket were both up during the month as customers responded favorably to our seasonal clearance event."

Girouard said he expects to see same-store sales in February to be in the negative single digits.

"Looking ahead, we are excited about the March launch of our new merchandise collections, our national spring catalog mailing in mid-March, as well as improved visual presentations in stores," he said.
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