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Hooker Debuts Rattan Case Goods at Minimarket

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 Hooker Furniture entered a new category, rattan, at this week's minimarket in High Point with Sunset Key, a 35- to 40-piece collection of bedroom, dining and occasional.

Constructed in rattan, hardwoods and twill, the moderate-scale casual group has lines with an Art Deco feel that moves the look beyond the island/tropical themes typically associated with the category.

Of particular interest is a striking, angled rattan slat motif that adds motion to chairs tables and case fronts; and faux leather tops on many cases, occasional tables and dining table bases.

The collection includes two beds; single- and double-pedestal glass-top dining tables; and a variety of case pieces and occasional.

Sample retail price points for Sunset Key include platform bed with wrap headboard at $999; armoire, $1,649; and nightstand, $249.

Ethan Allen Profits Up

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 The second quarter for Ethan Allen turned out to be a rather profitable one for the veteran home furnishings company.

The oldest dedicated store network said in a report issued Wednesday that its earnings rose last quarter beyond previous estimates. Total sales rose to $276 million from $245 million from the previous year.

According to the statement, earnings per share increased to 77 cents a share. The number is a 22 percent increase for shareholders, when compared with 63 cents a share last year.

Farooq Kathwari, chairman and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc., said in the statement, that the company was "very pleased" with their results for the quarter.

"We believe that the structural changes undertaken within our business during the past three years, including initiatives to enhance our product offerings, our manufacturing, sourcing and logistics activities, our retail network, and our marketing efforts, played an important role in our ability to increase sales," he said.

J.C. Penney To Add Private-Label Line

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 The third-largest U.S. department-store company, J.C. Penney Co. Inc., announced Monday it plans on adding a private-label brand furniture sometime this spring.

According to J.C. Penney representatives, the new modern furniture collection, from the largest catalog merchant in the country, will be called Studio. It is expected to be sold at a price point that will attract middle-income shoppers.

It was not announced how many of the department store's more than 1,000 stores it will be available at.

In addition to the furniture line, the retailer announced it will also introduce a new line of a California lifestyle-inspired casual men's clothing from surfer Shaun Tomson and his wife, Carla. A new Miss Bisou clothing line for juniors is also planned for launch too.

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.

Trade Group Expects Subtle Growth For Furniture Retail

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 Despite a forecast predicting an increase of 4.7 percent in overall retail sales over last year, the National Retail Federation said this week that it expects furniture stores will lose some momentum in 2006.

A retail sales forecast released Monday by the NRF, the world's largest retail trade association, predicts home furnishings stores, along with building-related outlets, will see less demand for product as the housing market begins to soften in the coming year.

According to the quarterly report, higher energy costs will also lead to more conservative spending in the first quarter of the new year.

Last year, the NRF originally predicted a 5.6 percent jump in sales for 2005, when the actual increase hit 6.1 percent.
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