July at the Mart
It’s always a pleasure talking to Maxine Lauer; this is the fifth year we’ve had our annual conversation. Maxine is CEO of Sphere Trending; she and her team spend their time – and lives – tracking a huge variety of trends. Those trends will impact all of us, so it’s important to listen up when she speaks.
Her discussions with us focus primarily on current colors, patterns and textures, key elements in the selection of patio furniture, and necessary information for all buyers heading to Chicago for the Preview Show in July and the Casual Market in September.
How important is that information? Well, for buyers selecting fabric, it could mean the difference between a profitable year – or not. Make the wrong selection and product may just sit there until it’s time to blow it out at a loss.
But Maxine can talk about more than just fabrics and finishes. As the lead-in to her article in this issue, she talks about new housing, about the desires of the Millennials and the importance of outdoor living.
Maxine and her team undoubtedly lead interesting lives. Their mission is to watch what’s going on, to mentally chronicle the world around them, then gauge where it’s going. That has to be tough, challenging and rewarding work.
Makeover for the Mart
Speaking of work, the team that began running The Mart and, in particular the casual furnishings end of it, about a year ago is getting high marks from those who deal with them. It’s not just that they’re willing to hop a plane to personally visit a client, it’s also that they are actively trying to make the trade experience there better and more enjoyable.
When you arrive in July for the Preview Show, the first thing you’ll see will be a park-like setting where concrete and cabs used to be. An area 15-by-150 ft. next to the river is now reserved for grass and seating.
Major renovations that will dramatically change the main lobby area will not be ready until September 2016. They will include a bar, restaurant, performance area and a conference center on the second floor.
Hearth Guys & Gal
No one has done more to introduce North Americans to contemporary hearth product design than Alyce and Niels Wittus, owners of Wittus – Fire by Design in New York. During almost four decades they have refined their marketing techniques to drive customers to those retailers who carry their imported products. That’s not an easy task, but it should be getting easier as more and more manufacturers are creating products with a European style.
Up in New Hampshire, Pat Moynihan and his son are building the Sólas brand of wall-mounted gas fireplaces, all with contemporary styling. That’s a niche left open by others, but one that should appeal to most hearth retailers. To finally lift the hearth from the floor, and place it like a picture for all to see, also should be attractive to many consumers.
The third hearth company we profile in this issue is Ravelli, an Italian pellet stove company that sold more pellet stoves in Europe in 2014 than all 22 pellet stove manufacturers in the U.S.
The company made a few false starts in the U.S. market in the past, but now seems poised to build a solid foundation of business in North America.
See you in Chicago in July!