This double pedestal dining table is part of Hooker Furniture’s Cascade collection, which has now had multiple cuttings and is now shipping.
HIGH POINT — Participants in this past week’s Premarket relished the opportunity to once again see customers after so long a pause in the traditional market cycle that was interrupted this past spring due to COVID-19.
More importantly, they were glad to see dealers are once again coming to market and not only making commitments, but placing written orders to secure much-needed product.
The overall satisfaction with Premarket — perhaps the largest ever with 329 resources opening their doors — appeared universal across categories and price points, with participation from the lower-middle to luxury brands.
They included Standard Furniture, which showed about six new bedrooms as well as new home entertainment and new home office out of Mexico, a relatively new source country for the full-line resource.
“We’ve written a lot of business on our new Mexico product,” said Jay Peters, vice president, merchandising. “It is about what retailers can get their hands on (quickly) because business is so good.”
Some of the urgency has been to replace goods that have been moving from retail floors at a rapid pace as consumer demand has spiked in recent months. Some retailers are concerned they won’t be able to get replacement goods this fall due to challenges involving the supply chain.
“We’ve gotten commitments here,” said Neil McKenzie, director of product development at Hekman Furniture, noting that the company is about 88% in-stock on its line. “Even those who are not ready to put it on paper, when they go back to work with their rep, they now have seen two markets of material and will be more confident in their decision.
“Our dealers are asking us to show them what is in stock, and they also want to know some of the better sellers,” he added, noting that he has spent more time working with dealers on the in-stock offerings than ever.
The company also did well with proven bestsellers in new fresh finishes, allowing dealers to buy into different looks on tested product and avoid some risk on new collections.
For many companies, the event was spread out over more than the official two days, with some opening their doors Saturday and Sunday and staying open through Wednesday or Thursday.
AICO, which typically doesn’t show at Premarket, was open for about five days and was 100% market-ready, allowing dealers not only to see inline product but new product already in production.
“We have the inventory ready to deliver,” Michael Amini, CEO, said of both inline and new product, including new collections in AICO’s Michael Amini line and its licensed Michael Amini, Kathy Ireland and Michael Amini Jane Seymour lines. “We were one of the companies that did not stop the flow of goods.”
Magnussen Home also showcased new product but focused mostly on adding categories and items to proven bestsellers.
“We have seen a push for value, but the No. 1 question from customers is not price, but when can I get it?” said Josh Carter, vice president, sales. “We are focusing on product extensions. We have several new bedrooms and dining rooms, but four of the new additions are bedrooms or dining rooms that are product extensions.”
Most said attendance was extremely strong, with at least double the accounts they typically see. Hooker Furniture saw more than 100 accounts and typically sees half that, said Jeremy Hoff, president of Hooker Legacy Brands. It showed new product, including product originally planned for April, that has already gone into production based on reaction from dealers who have seen it virtually.
That product is now expected to hit retail as early as the fall vs. by the next spring market cycle, Hoff noted.
“Dealers are looking for new fresh collections they can get within a reasonable amount of time,” he said, noting that the company already has had multiple cuttings on all four collections shown here. “Having the new collections cut was definitely a big help. We didn’t wait.”
Legacy Classic saw about 100 dealers, well above its normal Premarket traffic, and it also has product in production at least since early summer, just after dealers saw it in person in June.
“They were here looking for new goods, and we actually wrote orders,” said Don Essenberg, president and CEO. “We were really very pleased.”
This season’s Premarket included an unprecedented number of first-time participants or vendors that hadn’t taken part in the event for years.
Taylor King, for example, was there for its first-ever Premarket, since the high-end upholstery maker had several customers who said they wanted to visit. The company ended up with more than 20 appointments, said President and COO Del Starnes.
“We did an e-mail blast to all our customers to let people know we had a fully set-up showroom,” he said. “We had a good mixture of large stores and boutique design-oriented accounts.”
Norwalk Furniture typically is in town during Premarket merchandising the showroom, but this was the first time the custom upholstery manufacturer actually participated.
“We thought, ‘why not open the doors?’ ” said CEO Caroline Hipple, noting the company had 20 firm appointments. Along with retailers, “we saw a fair amount of designer clients, and half were new ones who’d wanted to see us but didn’t have the time during their regular High Point Market schedule.”
High-end motion resource Ekornes came for the first time to show off its new Stressless motorized recliners combining its Norwegian design with Asian production. Hunter Bigham, regional sales manager, had expected drive-in participation, but a dozen appointments along with a couple of walk-ins included a California customer.
“We have a Top 100 prospect that’s committed to the new chairs,” he added. “I would have done Premarket for that one appointment.”
This was the first serious Premarket for high-end full-line manufacturer E.J. Victor in 20 years, said Director of Sales John H. Jokinen.
As of Tuesday morning, “we’ve had 12 groups in, mostly designers within driving distance of High Point, but we did have one who flew in from Florida and one who drove from there,” he said. “I also have a new rep for the Mid-Atlantic, and he brought in a customer we’d never seen who spent two hours in the showroom. That rep was here a day and a half, and that order will make his market.”
Flexsteel hadn’t had a real Premarket presence in around five years, according to Vice President of Home Furnishing Tim Newlin, but it wanted to get a jump on October.
“We had 40 to 45 appointments Monday and expect around 100 total for Premarket,” he said. “On a typical market day we see around 100, and this week there’s time to talk strategy with retailers about placements.”