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Jenny Heinzen York

Market vendors report improved first quarters

Home accents vendors are reporting a solid start to 2011.

"Our first quarter has been very strong," said David Gebhart, CEO of Global Views, reporting healthy double-digit increases over 2010 in orders and shipments. "It's all really good - I hope we can keep up the momentum."
Global Views acquired Studio A (formerly Eastern Breeze) last fall, and that new line, in addition to an increase in business has spurred new hiring.
"This new venture has forced us to add staff," he said. "Every aspect of our business is increasing."
Global Views also recently added the DwellStudio line, which it is now displaying, along with its Studio A and Barbara Barry lines in a new showroom space in the IHFC, around the corner from its existing location.
"It's young, it's hip, and it's appealing to someone completely different than we've ever had before," he said.
"We had a really good February that was catapulted from Las Vegas and the follow-up from there," said Brian Berk, president of Howard Elliott.
"I'm very optimistic for a strong market, but it's still difficult forecasting," he continued. "The supply chain - from fiber to paint - is somewhat difficult. Not only are the prices going up drastically, the lead times are longer than they've ever been. So we are working hard to stock more to deal with those longer lead times."
Howard Elliott is also making a concerted effort at the e-commerce channels. "We've had to change our business model," he said. "We've had to constantly adapt and change."
Sean McFadden, VP of sales for Interlude, said constant evolution and hard work are what drive success in this tough marketplace.
"The people that do the work and do it right and put together a compelling display - they will be rewarded," he said. "High Point is not a market where you can just show up and open the doors."
Malanta Knowles of Paragon said her company is investing in current and future opportunities. "You've got to have all the tools in place - new people, new products, new trends," she said. "You've got to motivate the reps and the consumers."
"I am cautiously optimistic," said Lite Source's Joel Kent. "In Dallas and Las Vegas, we saw more bodies, but the per ticket/per order was lower." He said in response to customer demand, Lite Source is adding more contemporary and transitional designs.
At Uttermost, the emphasis is on lighter finishes, more color and less brown overall, said CEO Mac Cooper.
"We took a really fresh approach to our introductions this time."
Cooper said his company is preparing for growth by significantly increasing its inventory position by about 80%.
"There have been sourcing challenges, so it was an intentional effort to stock up and be the kind of vendor that a store can shop and we will have everything available," Cooper said. "We increased our stocking levels because we're optimistic about business."
Josh Mandel, president of Majestic Mirror, also said his company has boosted its inventory position.
"We have increased our inventory in the last six months," he said. "Even though that represents a financial obligation, we think it's important."
At Rizzy Home, Vice President Mark Ferullo, said his company's strategy for long-term success is product, product, product.
"We haven't really waivered," he said. "We're continuing to offer a wide variety of product in a range of prices. This market, we've brought out a lot of new bedding, pillows, rugs, probably a couple hundred new SKUs in all, including a new line of $25 per square foot hand-knotted, hand-spun wool."
Mercana is also increasing its product mix, according to, Devon Smith, president.
"We're quite optimistic this market. We had a great Las Vegas Market, our sales were actually up 100%, which was fantastic," he said. "So coming down here, I don't know if the East is going to be quite as strong as the West, but we're pretty optimistic about our success. Our line has grown by about 40% in product offering just in the last two markets. We do lighting, we do accessories, we're a full offering now. We started out as wall décor, but if we look at our current offering we're about 30% in tabletop accessories, about 10% lighting, 15% mirror and then the rest is wall (décor)."
Smith said as an established provider in the Canadian market, Mercana wanted to be very well-prepared to do good business in the United States.
"Our target for the U.S. market is to increase business 50% this year, which I think we'll do," he said.
Peter Selmeci of Toucan Trading also reflected the general optimism about this week's market. "I think gas prices have affected consumer confidence a bit, but other than that we're feeling pretty good about it," he said. "What are we doing new? We're trying some lighter timbers, some painted woods, mixing it up a little. Unfortunately some of our samples didn't make it - they're stick in the port. But regardless of that, we're here to see people, and look forward to seeing old faces and new faces."
For Corky Baker, president and CEO of Stone County Ironworks, the challenge and the opportunity lie in its Made in America strategy and communicating it to customers.
"The question is how do American manufacturers compete in a global economy? So much of it is product innovation but the other side of it is marketing innovation," Baker said. "Our stuff is high-end and about 30% of it is custom - it's a heritage craft. About two years ago, we had a job for a firescreen and we videotaped the process. These are artisan blacksmiths hitting on red hot iron -- we've been there for 30 years in the hills of Arkansas. We have 80,000 square feet of forges right inside our building and second generation artisan blacksmiths. So how do we convince people to spend the kind of money that we charge when they can buy an imported imitation for less money? The final edited videotape showed the whole thing from beginning to end and the designer-retailer gave it to them as a gift, and over the holidays when they were entertaining friends around the new firescreen, guess what ended up on the big screen? - Stone County Ironworks. We're in the process now of hiring a videographer. We're really excited. There are a lot of other things we're planning to really drive awareness about our company and the story behind the product."

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