Furniture retailers reposition leather

United States
Published:  11 April, 2014

Industry B2B publication, Furniture Today has published an interesting article on the repositioning of leather as a material in the US.

In the face of steadily rising leather prices, most leather upholstery vendors appear to have succeeded in positioning their products as premium goods.

Exhibitors at High Point say they are getting limited resistance to new merchandising schemes, changes in leather covers, and even outright price hikes aimed at dealing with their cost increases. That strategy has enabled them price leather goods well above fabric upholstery, and position leather in the “better” and “best” product segments.

“As leather costs continue to rise, the gap between fabric and leather upholstery will continue to increase,” said Joe Mussallem, president of Man Wah USA. “And retailers will continue to struggle to hit the price points where they feel they need to be.”

At market, the $999 entry-level leather sofa is nowhere to be found, all-leather sofas with retail price points below $1,299 are rare, and it is difficult to find many models below $1,499. Exhibitors say they are taking the opportunity to unveil better grades of leather and other upgraded design features that position their products at the middle and upper end of the price spectrum.

“People are getting out of their safe zones and looking for upholstery with eye appeal,” said Dwight Hardison, vice president of merchandising at Simon Li. “We are really stepping up our (grades of) leather and paying a lot of attention to detail.”

He said the company is having particular success with an expanded Modern America collection, which features mid-century modern styling and is headlined by a sofa retailing for $2,499.

“Most of our top accounts have loved it,” Hardison said. “It has been major home run.”

Other success stories include American Leather’s American Walnut collection, which features sofas and chairs with solid walnut bases; Barcalounger’s Luxury Leather collection, headlined by recliners with traditional styling at $1,299 to $1,599; Nicoletti/Calia’s lineup of retro-styled sofas and sectionals at $2,499 to $2,999; and Craftmaster’s expansion of its Encore America collection, which features three-week shipping on domestically produced leather upholstery.

“We can react quicker to changes in the marketplace,” said Lance Foster, vice president of Craftmaster’s Encore Home Designs unit. “This gives us a great opportunity to take Craftmaster’s quality story in fabric and use it for leather.”

Barcalounger President Larry Smith said the new Luxury Leather collection puts the iconic brand back in familiar territory with a lineup of upper-end recliners with traditional and transitional styling.

“Our casual styles are still a very important part of our product line, but we needed to bring back the styles that Barcalounger was best known for,” said Smith. “With this new collection, we’re focusing on more artistic, pure aniline leathers and a higher-end product.”

Source: Furniture Today

Vincent Scocuzza, national sales manager for the Nicolletti/Calia brand, said his company is also enjoying success with its high-end Guiseppe & Guiseppe line, which is made entirely in Italy and features sofas and sectionals at $5,999 and up.

“We have found a great niche market for this line,” Scocuzza said. “People are beginning to appreciate and understand the quality of our made-in-Italy product.

Larry Crink, president of sales and product development for the year-old DeLandis leather upholstery brand, said he’s having success at market with a type of one-price -fits-all strategy. It involves pricing all of his company’s 20 motion sofas to retail at $1,199 to $1,299 with power mechanisms. Power sectionals, meanwhile, retail at $2,999.

“We take a little shorter margin on some of the pieces, but we wanted to make our line simple and easy to understand,” Crink said. “The dealers who have been through here have been very complimentary of what we’re doing.”

Additionally, Minhas Furniture, which markets the Flair upholstery brand, is having success with an expanded leather upholstery line featuring 13 new styles, while upper-end specialist Elite Leather has found winners with three new models featuring fashion leather colours such as burnt orange and purple.

Original article published by Furniture Today.

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