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Strength in lamp category leaves vendors poised for growth

Safavieh’sSafavieh’s new Amiliana Tassel lamp, one of 50 lamps debuting this month.
As the overall economy continues its gradual turnaround, lamps have proven to be one of the "brightest" performers, and vendors say 2012 holds great promise for the category.

Bryan Williams, executive vice president of Crestview Collection, said that while price point has become somewhat less important, value has not.

"The real strength in the category is value. People aren't just looking for a price point any more - they are looking for a value," Williams said. "You don't have to be at a magic price point - say $99 retail - any more. Even up to $200 retail is a good price point because people want it to last."

Joel Kent, vice president of Lite Source, agreed that value is key.

"The price point thing is just as important now as it was six months to a year ago," he said. "People are really looking for good value for the dollar. From what I'm witnessing and what we're selling, in terms of good price points for portables - we're looking anywhere from $99 to $149 is a good retail point - that's what we're hearing from furniture stores and what we call home accessory stores."

But style is also important, and transitional to contemporary looks are really driving the business.

"Fashion is more important than it was two years ago," Williams said.

The best-selling pieces are versatile, he said, noting that in the last six to nine months, floor lamps have picked up in sales.

"We are also getting more comments and directions into the shorter-lived trends," he said. "(Stores) don't want to buy deep, but they do want a few pieces. I take that as a sign that the economy is getting better - retailers are willing to go out a little on the edge. I think that most of them had a decent year so are willing to branch out a little more."

This is part of an overall trend to make their stores more distinguishable from the competitors, Kent agreed.

"(Retailers) are trying to set themselves apart. They're realizing we can't be like the people down the street - so to make them different from the people down the street, they are expanding and they are trying to be a little more edgy," he said. "What we are seeing right now is a resurgence in ‘sparkly' - we're back to the magpie theory - ‘ooohh, it's shiny.' Even in places that you wouldn't think would want sparkly."

As a strong category at retail over the past year, lamps are getting a second look, especially at the furniture stores where lamps have traditionally not been a high priority.

"Furniture stores as a whole have really realized that lamps are good business," Williams said. "For a long time, the furniture business had been so strong that lamps were overlooked as just another accessory," he continued, noting that the smaller chains - three to five stores - seem to really "get it" in terms of the importance of the add-on sales, margins and fashion that lamps can add to their operations.

"As lamps have gotten more fashionable, more people are selling them and it has strengthened the whole industry. There are more choices out there for the retailers," he continued. "With more choices come better choices, because it forces us to be stronger as suppliers."

Kent said retailers are also taking more interest in the visual appeal of their locations. "I will say that I had more interaction with our retailers from the standpoint that they wanted to improve themselves - visually improve themselves - and a lot of them know my background (in retail merchandising)," he said.

For Crestview, the best-selling designs are reclaimed wood-look and French-inspired pieces, especially with script and handwriting details. The most important materials are metal, glass and ceramic, and any use of mixed media or mixed looks and finishes are also selling well.

"Fashion color is coming next," he said. "The trendy color can't be the focus - it has to be an accent or a touch of color - people want the color but don't want it overpowering."

For Lite Source, the best performers are "primary colors, bright colors, anything that is bright, anything that's got LED. People are clamoring for LED," according to Kent.

"Once upon a time, with LED, the price points were so difficult that people really couldn't afford it," he said. "But now, the price point has come down dramatically, and the style has come up dramatically, so you've got a blending of price and style. And with that combination, you can't lose."

Newcomers join lamp game

As lamps look to be "the next big thing," there are some new faces entering the category.

Rug and furnishings producer Safavieh previews its first lighting collection this month at the Las Vegas Market.
Safavieh is marketing the line as Safavieh Lighting, and will display 50 SKUs this month, with an additional 70 designs scheduled for the official collection debut at the High Point Market in April.

"The decision to enter the lighting category is based on our long-term strategy to capitalize on the power of the Safavieh brand with line extensions that provide total home furnishings solutions for design-savvy consumers," said Jonathan Yaraghi, director of the company's wholesale furniture division.

The Safavieh Lighting collection is crafted in China and includes table and standing lamps made from a range of materials from porcelain to leather, capiz shell, wrought iron, crystal, resin and mirror mosaic. Shades are offered in silk, linen and satin fabrics. The line features designs from traditional to modern, though most are categorized as transitional and soft contemporary.

"We are filling a void in the lighting category for high-end design and materials at affordable prices. Most table lamps will be sold in sets of two at prices comparable to single-unit pricing for similar products currently on the market. Retailers will find real value in this new collection," said Yaraghi, who is responsible for product development and sales for Safavieh Lighting. Table lamp sets will retail from $209 to $399; floor lamps will retail at $159. All products are stocked for quick-ship delivery. A pendant collection will follow later in 2012.

Also new to the lamp category is textile industry veteran Stuart Miller. He and his wife Carole bought A Homestead Shoppe in late 2011, and the company made its debut under its new ownership during last month's Atlanta market.

Miller said he was interested in returning to the industry, and that lamps were a great category to get into, because they are both decorative and functional - a key selling point during challenging economic times.

"The lamp business has room for growth, and we think the company has a lot of opportunity for growth," he said. "But you have to have the right product, the right people selling it and you have to be able to ship it in time."

The target market for A Homestead Shoppe, which is now being marketed as AHS Home Décor to give it a fresher feel, Miller said, are the home accent and furniture stores, as well as interior designers, though the company can work on a direct-import basis for larger customers.

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