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  • Jenny Heinzen York

Vendors excited about start of market

Though retail climate remains tough, vendors report solid business, upbeat start to market
As the High Point Market got unofficially under way on Friday, the halls and aisles were already beginning to fill, and vendors said they are anticipating a strong market season.
     Though some said they did feel a dip at the retail level over the summer, the dip was shallower than in years past, and the fourth quarter looks promising.
     Lendell Glassco, president of Paragon, said October is regularly his company's biggest product introduction, and 2012 was no different, with a "couple hundred" new items for Paragon, and about 50 wall décor and lamp designs for division Kinder Harris.
     While he said business has been largely flat for the year, he is optimistic about this market and the fourth quarter, particularly once the presidential election is out of the way.
     "Retail has been tough, but the design business is getting better," he said. "Hopefully, once we get through this election, we'll have a great fall season."

Paragon is offering a number of show specials, this week, to really give retailers a reason to attend the shows and buy.
     "We are trying to do everything we can to build market orders," he said. "We spend so much time, effot and money on these showrooms, so we need to give our customers reasons to come. We are offering these show specials to make it worthwhile to be here. ... We are doing our part to make market beneficial and encourage people to come and stay a little longer."
     Woven Workz is tracking well ahead of 2011 so far this year, due largely to success with online retailers, according to Wozen Workz President Raphael Wolf. 

     "Our business this year is considerably ahead of last year and the year before," Wolf said. "We're probably 70% ahead of last year. It's all due to considerable efforts on our part to do business with all the dot com/Internet guys, whether it's Overstock or Amazon or Fab. We now do business with all of them. That's where the lost volume from '09 and '10 has more than come back to us. The flash sales are driving a huge business."
     He said his product selection has helped rebuild his business. "A lot of people got out of chenille in the past few years," he said. "The very high-end guys stayed in it. We also got out of it, and about six months ago we got back into it. It's been huge for us, with our Susan range. So the plain boring chenille, which was hot hot hot as can be in the '90s died, and now it's coming back. Certainly for us it is." 

     At Ibolili, Michael Fisher said despite the economic situation, the company is having its best year to date. "We're having a record year," Fisher said. "It's the biggest year in the history of the (13-year-old) company. "There's no big number that's taken us over the top. It's just understanding our business and creating a lot of really cool niche product, and a new catalog."
     Avenue B, a new accent furniture source headed by former Bailey Street president Greg Waylock, is making its debut in High Point, on the second floor of the IHFC.
     Waylock said early response has been fantastic, and as the company just began shipping its products last month, very rewarding to see it all come together. The company made its industry debut last July in Atlanta, and he said the timing is just right for this new line.
     "It's really exciting - it's great to see so much energy back in the business," he said. "We're tapping into that. We're the new kid on the block, we have a new strategy and it's great to see the genuine excitement coming from the customers."
     Avenue B specializes in small accent furniture pieces with excellent design and function, at a value-sensitive price point.
     "Our customers like the fact that it's in stock, the like the value, but most of all the like to see the style," he said. "The overall sense from the customer is ‘yes, we love it.'"
     At Interlude, the showroom is all about the latest trends coming out of fashion, according to Creative Director Wendy Philips. The company is focusing this season on refreshed mid-century-inspired designs, mixed media pieces, metallic and cleaner lines.
     Carl Philips, company CEO, said business has remained steady, even as retail faltered somewhat over the summer.
     "There are fewer people buying, but the ones who are buying are buying more," he said, adding that the companies positioned in the middle to upper ends of the business are doing best. "People like us are going after better business and better merchandise."
     Wendy Philips agreed that statement-style, investment pieces are very important right now.
     "People are establishing a point of view more than they have in a while, and they are investing in it," she said.
High Point is Steven Shell's favorite market, and the owner of the eponymous company said he came to town ready for a great show.
     "We've redone the showroom, brought 95 new items, 15 new artworks, new finishes... I've done shows around the world, and I can truly say High Point is my favorite," Shell said. It's the only show we do here in the states. We've been going for 18 years in Europe and are in a lot of leading department stores, so we're pretty solid there. We've been showing in High Point for two and a half years and have doubled our business here every year. People love our product, what we do is truly unique, and people in America really appreciate it. And I love coming here. Everyone is so friendly and makes us feel so welcome. We went to the Corner Cafe last night... all the pennants, it was so American. We had a great time!"

Tracy Bulla, Alexa Boschini and Susan Dickenson contributed to this article.