More and more, consumers are turning to accent furniture to freshen their living spaces with stylish functionality. Urbanites and suburbanites are using everything from drink tables and bar carts to consoles and room dividers to create impact, elevate their environs, and express their individuality.
For our annual accent furniture report, we asked manufacturers to weigh in on the state of business – how the category is performing, what’s trending at retail, operational challenges, and their outlook for the next twelve months. Top of mind are Coronavirus, trade tariffs and the upcoming election – weighty loads that, at press time, were lightened by a blockbuster 2019, healthy winter markets, and a still-confident consumer.
Unique designs and quality are keeping sales high, and several credit the category’s growing popularity to the ease with which individuals can purchase, move and replace pieces to keep their spaces current, and create visual and tactile interest with new styles, colors and finishes.
Here’s more of what manufacturers had to say about the accent furniture business, trending styles, and their outlook for the year ahead.
HOW IS THE ACCENT FURNITURE CATEGORY PERFORMING FOR YOUR COMPANY?
Jason Phillips, vice president, Phillips Collection: We are feeling optimistic about the uptick we experienced during the last few months of 2019 and into 2020. Strong January markets supported our accent furniture business as retailers responded enthusiastically to our new introductions. Accent furniture makes up a third of our product offerings, so we take it very seriously. Customers come to us for something fresh that stands on its own and is deliberately not part of a larger, matching collection.
Alejandro Miramontes, director of brand and marketing, Moe’s Home Collection: Accent furniture has always been a big part of our business, and it continues to be strong. We attribute this success to the fact that accents are part of our core offering; we provide exceptional value in this category and have excellent customer service. We have seen double-digit year-over-year growth as of the close of January, and we expect this growth to continue into 2020.
Cecil Adams, creative director, Currey & Company: Currey & Company has had a nice pattern of growth in the accent furniture category for the last three years. Several years ago we brought Aimee Kurzner on board to focus her design skills on our accent furniture category. Since then we have grown the product offering by around 60%, focusing especially on accent pieces that complement our lighting categories and style stories.
James Franks, vice president, Crestview Collection: Booming. The Las Vegas and Atlanta shows were our best shows ever at those markets. Consumer confidence is good, and the retailers were there for one reason — to buy.
Thomas Andonian, vice president of furniture, Classic Home: Our accent furniture business grew substantially in the last half of 2019 and gained momentum during the winter markets. We put a great deal of energy into developing sideboards, tables and chairs made with reclaimed and mixed materials like stone, hammered iron, elm, pine and oak. Our dealers love these pieces because they elevate the product selection and give them unique products their customers can’t find anywhere else.
Jason Mulvene, president, Blue Ocean Traders: The last two years have been great! 2019 was a record year, and 2020 is off to a good start. We attribute this success to our on-trend product, improved marketing and sales team and strong economy.
HOW IS CORONAVIRUS IMPACTING YOUR BUSINESS?
Phillips, Phillips Collection: What a scary time it is for our industry and, more importantly on a humanitarian level, for the people of that region. While we don’t produce in China and won’t feel the initial wave of this epidemic, we will, of course, be affected by the overall suffering of our industry. This is never good, but it is a moment for the global community to rally around a common goal of beating this disease. I truly hate an uneven playing field and hope for a speedy resolution not only to that virus but also to the tariffs that are affecting so many companies.
Miramontes, Moe’s Home Collection: Regarding the coronavirus, obviously our first concern is the worldwide health ramifications, and we hope that the situation will improve swiftly. From a business perspective, we are closely monitoring the situation. We have employees and partners in China, and we are concerned about their safety. We work closely with India and Vietnam as well, and, in general, we are anticipating that the industry will have supply issues from Asia.
Adams, Currey & Company: It is difficult to predict what effect the coronavirus may have on our business. At the moment our biggest concern is the safety of our employees throughout Asia and our teams who travel regularly for product development. Just keeping them stocked with face masks and hand sanitizer is a challenge.
Franks, Crestview Collection: The biggest element of the coronavirus is the human side of things. We want people to avoid getting it and those who have it to get well. Our company is Taiwanese-owned and has deep ties to China. We have an office in Dongguan with around 65 to 80 people working there on the ground as part of our team. Product is product, but we are far more concerned for people than production. The virus affects so much more than what you might see on the surface given that one element of production can subsequently affect every other element down the line. We’re providing our employees in China with supplies and relief as best we can.
Andonian, Classic Home: We have seen some delays from a few factories in China, but our heavy sourcing from factories in India and suppliers in Vietnam and Indonesia have offset any Chinese production delays.
Mulvene, Blue Ocean Traders: I think coronavirus will have a significant effect on the supply chain in the near term. However, the Chinese are resilient people, and the factories will rebound quickly. With regard to the market reaction to the virus, that is yet to be seen. As long as the bulk of the outbreak stays in China, I do not think the domestic economy will be affected much. Our company is better insulated than most, as we have a diversified source of supply. We import from over 15 countries, and China does not make up the majority of our product mix.
WHAT’S HOT AT RETAIL?
Phillips, Phillips Collection: We have seen strong sales in coffee, side and console tables, as these are easy ways to refresh a home with a lot of impact. Wood, stone and metal are all on trend right now. The race to the bottom in regard to pricing is something many of us have abandoned, relying instead on overall design and material quality to show the value in the product.
Adams, Currey & Company: Our sales tell us that our accent tables and chests are the best performing items, and those results are with both retailers and the interior design community. These items are easy to place in any interior and don’t represent as big of a commitment as sofas and case goods. They are very much like lamps and textiles in that you can change them out easily and refresh a room more often without changing everything.
Franks, Crestview Collection: All of our accent pieces are designed to coordinate with what people already have. We’ve seen colors and textures that have been more popular, such as lighter gray finishes and shades of blue and green, as well as black. For us it’s about creating that “wow” factor for retailers and buyers alike. Some of it comes from variations in finish, color and scale, and some of it comes from function. For example, we have flip-out console tables that serve multiple purposes, and we mix different materials to create interest and intrigue, whether that’s using wood, metal, stone, agate or quartz. The number one goal is to create something that’s visually unique and interesting, and the number two goal is to make it interesting and affordable. We want to create things that not only look incredible but are also incredibly light on the wallet.
Andonian, Classic Home: Sideboards, tall storage, accent tables and chairs are leading the way. Retailers continue to see consumers looking for pieces made with reclaimed materials that have a story behind them. These same customers are also looking for products that are eco-friendly. Our mixed media pieces meet that criteria and offer versatile styles that create complete spaces.
Mulvene, Blue Ocean Traders: Items of natural material and good hand-feel continue to perform. Items with “soul” are always a safe bet to provide value and interest at retail.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE YEAR AHEAD?
Phillips, Phillips Collection: Based on how the year started compared to last year, we are up and hope that continues. With such strong January markets, the buzz will make it to High Point, so we can expect a big turnout from those customers who didn’t make it to Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas.
Miramontes, Moe’s Home Collection: We have invested heavily in our warehousing infrastructure by adding a new facility in New Jersey, which allows us to increase our on-hand inventory. In April, our High Point showroom will increase in size by 50% as we move to a new 15,000-square-foot showroom (IHFC C302). We are also happy to announce that we are launching a new website in the second quarter with many more features for our retail partners that will continue to expand our brand footprint in the industry.
Franks, Crestview Collection: In general, I’m optimistic. We are in an election year, and people tend to not focus as much attention on buying products during an election year. With tax season coming up, people often purchase larger pieces of accent furniture and sprinkle in smaller items along with that. Right now it doesn’t appear that sales will go down, particularly since there is a pent-up demand for goods. The high demand could even spur sales on and keep things moving at a pretty good momentum. As far as the election goes, who knows? Sometimes an election has an impact, and sometimes it doesn’t. Hopefully people will keep making their homes beautiful, and we’ll keep making beautiful products.
Andonian, Classic Home: We had our best winter show season ever, so we are extremely optimistic about the marketplace in 2020. Retailers are looking for furniture accents that are on-trend and will separate them from the competition. Our mixed media pieces with iron, stone and reclaimed wood offer retailers eye-catching designs that attract shoppers. Our customers’ enthusiasm for these styles at Las Vegas Market gives us confidence in our continued success in 2020 and beyond.
Mulvene, Blue Ocean Traders: At Blue Ocean our outlook is optimistic. Although there is a lot of potential volatility in the market, the year has started off great, and customer reactions to our new products have been strong. Unless there are significant changes in macro forces, we expect another record selling year.