The Flex modular sectional is an RTA offering from Flexsteel.
HIGH POINT — At the recent High Point Market, upholstery manufacturers — mindful of consumers’ demand for new options — offered a range of products that would appeal to retailers looking for a fresh take on seating, as well as program and promotion options to help those still grappling with inventory issues coupled with inflationary pressures.
‘Innovation is our essence’
As the new president of American Leather, Veronica Schnitzius wasted no time in revamping the company’s showroom, starting in August to reconfigure the space in preparation for this October’s High Point Market. “We wanted to emphasize the company’s focus on speed, innovation and quality,” she said.
With two-to-three-week lead times, Schnitzius wanted to remind customers of that what the company offers doesn’t stop at leather. “People forget that we have more than 300 fabric choices as well,” she said, adding, “Innovation is our essence as a company. We bring endless possibilities to the table.”
The company featured the Matteo modular sectional, part of a collection which combines both fabric and leather and plays on 1970s-inspired design. American Leather also reintroduced the Emma swivel chair in a new Lebeco linen and wool boucle fabric, part of its stepped-up upholstery emphasis.
“We wanted to focus on showing our products in a different way, reimagining American Leather,” said Taylar Hoffman, director of merchandising. American Leather is focused on producing products that will become a future heirloom, she noted, adding that sustainability is top of mind for the company.
American Leather also introduced the Cirrus reclining chair with a two-part patented mechanism created in-house. The chair is available in multiple styles with various high legs, low legs and features. “We show that function doesn’t sacrifice style,” said Hoffman.
In addition, the company introduced a lower-priced alternate to its best-selling Comfort Sleeper and Comfort Sleeper Silver lines. The Today Sleeper offers fewer options in terms of mattress type. The company estimates that it supplies 60% of the current sleeper sofa market at retail, and the new addition is a means of going after additional market share.
Lively market, plenty of options
This market was a busy one for Ashley Home Furnishings. Kerry Lebensburger, chief sales officer noted at least 700 appointments as of the day Furniture Today visited the company’s showroom.
Ashley was debuting a host of new stationary offerings, and for this High Point Market the company was offering approximately a 50/50 mix of sofas to sectionals.
“We had to go to work on our sofas. We’re going bigger and deeper for our sofas and offering an oversized option,” said Lebensburger. The seats on these larger options are between 40 and 44 inches deep, depending on the group, and the fabrics used are softer and more lush.
In addition, he said, Ashely is re-merchandizing all sofas, to help freshen up sales floors.
In contrast to the current inflationary trends, Ashely was offering better pricing on its consumer choice sofas, which had been priced at $999 retail and are now retailing at $899, according to Lebensburger.
Ashley was also talking with retailers about greater display density through an innovative “sofa rack,” that looks like a wall-mounted bike rack. With upholstery collections having two color options, the wall frames showed stacked loveseats in both colors.
“This way, the customer isn’t getting a little swatch to try to make a decision, but can see a sofa, in real life, in that cover,” according to Lebensburger. This also helps retailers maximize retail square footage display productivity.
The company “is giving retailers an excuse to refresh their floors” with new covers on frames to go with a new look and a new “story,” he said.
Making motion magic
Best Home Furnishings was back to pre-COVID levels in terms of new market introductions.
“We bring retailers in for factory tours, conduct research and development, and get their feedback,” said Eric Vollmer, senior marketing strategist. “It helps us to target voids in our line ups for trends, styling and how we can best modify styles to fit with our manufacturing flow. We try to stay as efficient as possible and use common parts.”
Known for its motion recliners, swivel chairs and gliding chairs, Best Home introduced the Jelsea modular sofa in moss chenille. Using two SKUs, the upholstery has loose back cushions and an ottoman to create a “choffa,” or sofa with chaise lounge, according to Vollmer.
The company also introduced a long stationary sofa with deep seating and a twin sleeper capacity once the back cushions are removed.
Each market, the company introduces two to three new swivel chair styles, noted Vollmer. For this market, the company introduced the Ryberson, a swivel on high wood legs with a reversible seat cushion.
“Our biggest residential development is lift recliners. Now we offer products with three motors in six different styles in fabric and vinyl,” said Vollmer. The new lift chairs offer a Trendelenburg position, head tilt and factory presets for tv position and zero gravity. The new chairs come in all Best Home fabrics within two to three weeks.
Another important introduction for the company was the Adjusta-Pillow recliner built specifically for new mothers, a unique design in the industry, according to Vollmer, offering adjustable arms that can be raised and lowered independently of each other.
Expanding with ‘Charisma’
Looking to expand its customer base, Flexsteel launched its Charisma division, a new line going after the Millennial and Gen Z budget-conscious consumer, something it said had been missing in the company’s lineup.
Ranging at retail starting at $999 to $1,199 for a sofa and $2,499 to $2,999 for sectionals, the company “was looking to provide quality and the Flexsteel seat ‘pitch’ to even more entry-level buyers,” said David Crimmins, vice president, sales.
Flexsteel launched its first phase of the brand with this market and will be doing a second phase for April’s High Point Market, according to Crimmins.
The products are slated for production out of the company’s Juarez, Mexico, facility with a four-week production lead time starting in late October. According to Crimmins, customers can mix containers of the Charisma product with Flexsteel’s Southhaven products as well.
Doubling down on new product intros at this market, Flexsteel also debuted its Flex modular, an RTA option for modular sectionals that comes with three pieces that can be configured to the customer’s liking. According to Crimmins, Flex is geared toward competing in the deep seating, big sectional market with a drop ship fulfillment. “We can get this product to more than 80% of the country in two days,” he said.
A third introduction was Flexsteel’s Zecliner. The chair — designed with motion functionality like zero gravity recline, charging ports, app technology and a lift mechanism — has a Livesmart barrier and fabric. For the sleep component, it’s the only sleep solution that currently wide enough to allow for side-sleeping, according to Crimmins, plus it has a head pillow made out of Technogel to keep the sleeper cool.
“The Zecliner also has ambient lighting at night so getting up in the dark is aided,” noted Crimmins.
“Customers are buying this chair for their sleep stores and for sleep sections of our furniture retailers.”
Intent on opening doors
As Scott Hill, president of New Classic Furniture, said, “At retail, door swings are down.”
With that in mind, the company has been working on providing retailers with good value to bring in customers, as well as expanding its definition of what New Classic means in terms of product offerings.
“We have P2 power leather ranging from $1,299 to $1,599 at retail. We offer a manual leather reclining at $899 to $999. The retailer can flow this at $899. Our retailer understands the value of leather,” said Hill.
The company also introduced its 200-plus SKU program, Royal Classic, offering eight collections comprised of bedroom, living room and dining rooms with two additional sofa collections.
With Louis XIV’s Versailles as an inspiration, the collection took more than eight months to design, with some groups taking three redesigns to get it exactly right, according to Bill Dominguez, New Classic’s vice president, research, development and international operations.
He said the collection is a step up and is geared toward the mid-price point with features such as passementerie (elaborate trims in braiding, cords and tassels) and detailed wood carving and finishes that are found on higher-priced products.
“This has received excellent reception as a lot of companies are adding traditional back to their mix,” said Dominguez. “The quality and attention to detail aren’t available anymore, and we wanted to bring it back.”
The sofas can also serve as daybeds as they all have bench seats and back cushions that can be removed, if needed. A special feature for the upholstery products is that there are more than the normal amount of throw pillows included for each seat. Sofas have five pillows, there are three on loveseats and one on chairs. The pillows themselves are more elaborate than the norm- offering fabric and trim insets, round, gathered pillows and, in some cases, tasseled arm covers.
The backs come off every piece of upholstery in the collection, so it can be sold through e-commerce, brick-and-mortar stores and even white-glove delivery, per Dominguez.
Emphasis on cozy
Parker House Furniture expanded its product reach with its first-ever launch of 13 new frames in stationary upholstery, featuring sofas, loveseats, sectionals and occasional chairs. Retail prices range from $1,299 to $1,499 for sofas to $1,999 to $3,499 for modular sectionals, depending on the configuration.
“We picked up a lot of new customers during the pandemic when we were the only manufacturer shipping. We would’ve done these product introductions a year earlier but for pandemic,” said Roberta Woodard, vice president merchandising.
She indicated that retailers have enough inventory to carry them for six months, which is fine for Parker House. “When our upholstery intros are ready to ship in early spring, retailers will be in a better position to accept the products.”
Calling this the Cozy Living collection, the company is emphasizing the cozy factor in all the covers. “First the customer looks at the sofa, then sits in it, and then they touch the cover, and everything feels soft,” said Woodard. “We’ve taught our reps to have the customer sit on the sofa, then the rep is rubbing the back of the cushion, then the customer is rubbing it because the hand feel is so soft.”
The Big Chill sofa is a fully modular, five-piece group that retails for $1,999. This deep-seated sofa has an innovative upholstery covered board that slips between the back frame of the sofa and the back sofa cushion so if a customer wants a more traditional, firmer feel to the seat back, they can have it with the board in place.
If they want a slouchy feel, they can just remove the board. In addition, the depth of the sofa enables the customer to remove the back cushions, and the sofa is now a twin sleeper.
Going further after market share in the Baby Boomer demographic, Parker House has just entered the lift-chair segment, based on its best-selling recliner. The company took its Gemini and Radius recliners and added a lift mechanism specially made for these models, providing lift chairs that look like fashionable recliners and not like medical equipment.
“This has received a fantastic reception. Customers are giving us orders based on photos,” said Woodard.
Focused on its roots
A focus on returning to its roots as a traditional to transitional manufacturer is what drove Spectra Home’s introductions at the recent market.
After the company’s foray into California casual with its [email protected] line, Spectra Home is back to producing a more mainstream product for the rest of the country, according to Jim Tellysh, president. “Middle America wants a transitional/traditional look, and that’s in our lane,” he said, adding, “The Christina line set a new bar for us and our reps. They didn’t know they could sell a sofa at that more expensive price point, and they did and were successful at that.”
The company introduced a variety of frames including its Trinity sofa, a modified wing sofa slipcovered in a driftwood fabric. The special feature of Spectra Home’s slipcovers is that they are tailored specifically for each frame and do not use Velcro or zippers for an exact fit. The company does this with a serge/overlocking stitch on the interior seams, which keeps the fabric from fraying when its being cleaned and prevents seam slippage.
As for the company’s overall strategy, Tellysh said it is focused on expanding its customer base, adding that the company’s renewed focus on its successful styles will reach more customers with its blend of performance fabrics and transitional styles.