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MGM Transport Mans Booth in Las Vegas

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 MGM Transport will host a booth in the retail resource center in the World Market Center during the Las Vegas Market later this month.

Representatives from the transportation and logistics company will be available throughout the market week to address needs and concerns of retailers.

"As manufacturing and supply chain fulfillment continue to evolve, we've stepped up to meet the industry demands by offering customized services," said Michael Caldiero, vice president of sales and marketing for MGM, in a company-issued statement. "With furniture imports on the rise, the need for warehousing and delivery has become a bit of a challenge for many retailers."

MGM has warehouse and distribution centers in Eden, N.C., and Ridgefield, N.J.

Lifestyle's Big Idea -- Minimarket A Hit

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 By Powell Slaughter

Gary Woodhouse needs another furniture market like he needs "a hole in the head."

The general manager of North Carolina's Colfax Furniture stated his feelings with a smile, though, as he settled in at a table during a Lifestyle Enterprise-sponsored dinner for buyers at the minimarket in High Point this week.

"I have to give Lifestyle credit for getting this going," Woodhouse said. "They did it right. They had some good specials, and we made orders. They gave us a reason to be here, and once we were here, they gave us a reason to buy."

Colfax Furniture also visited about a half-dozen other showrooms, where the retailer also put in some orders.

While some dealers getting comped from Lifestyle for attending minimarket preferred to limit their shopping to their host's showroom, Lifestyle's encouragement of other exhibitors to blow the horn for minimarket had others -- and plenty of walk-in retailers who showed up -- ranging further afield in downtown High Point.

Martin Golaj, president of Avanti Furniture in Sterling Heights, Mich., said he'll definitely return if Lifestyle holds another dealer show. Until now, he'd been attending April's High Point market, and went to last summer's Las Vegas market.

"If Lifestyle does this again, I'll come here for a day or two more, because I hadn't realized there'd be so many other exhibitors," he said.

Golaj also plans to attend Las Vegas later this month.

Lifestyle used the minimarket as a springboard to make it a more important source for its dealer base. National Home Centers of Springdale, Ark. and Dania Furniture in Seattle are two retailers who said they'd probably up their business with Lifestyle as a result of this week's event.

National Home Centers, which operates 12 building materials and home improvement stores in Northwest Arkansas, got into furniture about three years ago, said Dwain A. Newman, CEO. The company currently carries furniture at five operations where square footage averages 70,000, and in those locations, NHC has between 25,000 and 28,000 square feet dedicated to furniture.

"I think we'll probably buy 20 to 25 containers from Lifestyle coming out of this week. This event was just right for us because we'd been thinking about increasing our business with Lifestyle," Newman said. "We have a large distribution center so we can order and store a lot of containers. The timing was right. We've been working to refine our furniture lines and lower our number of SKUs, and some of Lifestyle's collections better fit our long-term plans."

Roy Swedstedt, a general manager with Dania Furniture, said minimarket could build Lifestyle's presence on its floors.

"We had only done a couple of containers with Lifestyle so far, but we found a number of items that will work for us," he said.

The original retailer comp list for minimarket was something more than 300, but other retailers decided to come on their own. Through Monday and Tuesday, Noe estimates Lifestyle had 450 buyers through the showroom, and planned on working a full day Wednesday, though Noe said traffic would be slower the last day, according to buyer travel plans he'd seen.

"We usually have 700 people during an entire High Point market, so we feel pretty good about what we've done in a couple of days," he said.

Lifestyle came loaded for bear in terms of new goods. There were seven new adult and seven youth groups ranging to $1,299 for five pieces, as well as 10 dining rooms in the starting price Lifestyle division. It also had a couple of full collections for the step-up Forbidden City case goods line retailing up to $2,999 for full suites; as well as new casual dining and leather.

"We started working on this event the day market stopped in October, and we didn't get going on product till mid-November," Noe said. "We were essentially three weeks in product development on everything we introduced this week."

There was a surprising amount of new product in other showrooms as well. Hooker, for example, took advantage of moving up its product-development cycle for spring introductions to give dealers this week a firm idea of where the company is going.

Hooker had traditionally held product development meetings for April introductions, which included consumers as well as retail customers, in late January to gather feedback on proposed introductions.

"This time we did it in early December," said Kim Shaver, vice president of marketing communications. "We're truly positioning this week as an April product preview since we'd already decided what we'd come forward with at market. We still need to round out some pieces, but we're 90 percent ready for April in terms of direction, as well as offering a look at actual pieces from the groups we'll bring."

Vaughan Furniture had three new bedrooms -- two domestic and one import.

"Our plans were to photograph them and bring them out in January, but we went ahead and showed the actual goods here," said CEO Bill Vaughan. "We'll bring out three more in mid-February. Our hope is to have all these bedrooms off the ground in time for April market so we can concentrate on dining."

The reaction of Vaughan, which had more than 10 customers through the showroom on Monday alone, to minimarket was typical of exhibitors who bought into Lifestyle's idea for a January showing.

"I think what (Lifestyle) did is phenomenal," Vaughan said. "I know it got retailers excited, and I know we are, too."

Lifestyle was happy to have other suppliers open their showrooms in conjunction with Lifestyle's invitation-only event, but Noe had particular praise for Tom Mitchell, senior vice president and general manager of Merchandise Mart properties, whom he credited for organizing transportation services and gift bags that included a portable DVD player.

"He's really been a huge help," Noe said, adding that reaction from other exhibitors has been very favorable. "Competitors have been calling me and asking to contribute money to what we did"

While minimarket cost Lifestyle more or less the same as it's participation in last summer's Las Vegas Furniture Show -- around $600,000 -- the company anticipates a much greater payoff from this week's event.

"We generated around $1 million in business from Las Vegas, but we believe this week could essentially double our business this year," Noe said. "We shipped around $300 million FOB last year, and after this week we believe we'll easily hit $500 million this year."

Noe went on record last week that he wants to keep High Point as the furniture industry's major marketing center, and is confident that Lifestyle's gambit soaked up a considerable amount of 2006's early open-to-buy capacity at retail.

To grab that business, Lifestyle put together an ambitious package of incentives. Those included floor sample discounts and volume rebates -- plus a price guarantee.

"We're locking prices for a year if a dealer orders by January 27," Noe said.

For those who are watching dates, that's the week before Las Vegas market.

"There are several retailers we saw who said they'd planned to go to Vegas, even made their bookings, but have decided they don't need to," he said.

Will Lifestyle put together another minimarket? Probably not this year, Noe said.

"I'd love to do an event like this all the time, but there are already too many markets," he said. "As far as next year, we'll look at it and see how successful this week ended up being after all's said and done. In this industry, everyone seems to wait for something to happen. In a $70 billion industry, we really aren't that large, and you have to wonder how we could influence 60 other people to show this week. It just shows that the industry is begging for leadership."

Lexington Plans Private Show in Vegas

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 Lexington Home Brands will capitalize on a critical mass of retailers already making plans to attend the Las Vegas market later this month with an invitation-only introduction of Jimbaran Bay, a new phase of its Tommy Bahama brand.

LHB will invite around 200 retailers to the Desert Pine Golf Club in Las Vegas for a preview of the new Tommy Bahama line, which is set for general introduction at April's market in High Point.

"Retailers purchasing the new collection at the private showing will have delivery on the goods by mid-year," said Lexington Home Brands CEO Bob Stec. "People who order it in April will receive it early in the fourth quarter."

Lexington will host dealers to examine Jimbaran Bay on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 29-30, and follow that up with a golf tournament on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Sealy Reshuffles Executive Positions

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 The world's largest bedding manufacturer underwent several top level changes this week, as a newly created executive post led to a promotion and a new hire.

Sealy Mattress Corp. named announced Wednesday the appointment of former Sealy Chief Financial Officer James B. Hirshorn, 39, to the new role of senior executive vice president, finance, operations and R&D for the bedding company.

"Jim's extensive experience throughout this organization in managing the growth Sealy has experienced over the past two years makes him an excellent choice for this position," Sealy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David J. McIlquham said in a release issued by the company.

Jeff Ackerman, formerly of Dade Behring Inc. and Frito-Lay, comes on board as Sealy's executive vice president and new chief financial officer.

Retailers Gain Seats On Market Authority Board

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 The High Point International Home Furnishings Market Authority is expanding its membership in the hopes of gaining greater input from retailers.

The group -- a non-profit organization created five years ago to oversee ancillary support for the biannual markets held in High Point, N.C. -- voted Wednesday to add new seats to their board of directors.

According to Thursday's edition of Greensboro, N.C.'s News & Record, the by-laws of the organization were changed to include two seats that will be filled by retailers and additional seats for an another independent showroom operator and officials with the High Point Chamber of Commerce and the High Point Convention & Visitor's Bureau. Those future board members have yet to named,

Since its inception, individual retailers were not included on the board, rather their concerns were represented by the National Home Furnishings Association, a trade organization devoted to the needs of retailers.
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