ATLANTA—Atlanta turned out a strong market last week.
Although traffic was down slightly, according to vendors, and expectations were tempered due to rising Omicron infections in the industry, impending bad weather and a few retail cancellations, most exhibitors said the market turned out better than they anticipated, with focused retailers and strong order writing.
“Traffic was down a little, but it has been a busy show,” said Sagebrook Home CEO Justin Kachan. “Business has been steady,” said designer Jamie Young, founder of her eponymous company. “The people who are here are ready to write orders.”
Accent Décor Marketing Director Allison Gjuka went a step further, describing the market as “amazing.” Because of the number of customers who pre-booked in December or chose to do video tours or view the new collections in alternative ways, Gjuka said she wasn’t sure what to expect in Atlanta, “but we’re doing stronger than we thought,” she said mid-market. “Right now, we’re up on last year.”
And Pam Cain, president of Chelsea House, called the market “record breaking” for her company. Customers have come to terms with shipping delays, she said, and some are still searching only for in-stock merchandise, “but they’re all optimistic, ordering and upbeat.”
Freight container cost remains stubbornly high and inventory woes have not subsided, but many vendors at expressed confidence with their in-stock levels; a few boasted levels of around 85%.
Robin Gordon, director of marketing for Elk Home, which offered more than 100 new home decor items here, said the company had 230 containers on the water and is placing new orders as soon as those come in. “The slowest part is port to warehouse,” she said. “The delay there is still three to four weeks. The trucking is really rough. It’s really frustrating when it’s here [on US shores] and you just have to get it in customers’ hands.”
The company is trying to be as transparent with customers as possible, she said, adding that ELK’s in-stock digital product brochure for January is such a big file that some people are having a hard time downloading it — a good problem to have.
Some of the larger vendors, such as Uttermost and Elk, came to market with more than 100 new SKUs, while others highlighted what was introduced in High Point in October but was new to retailers in Atlanta.
Several existing trends grew more entrenched here, such as a focus on mixed materials, texture and scale.
“We’re doubling down on large-scale items” because of an increase in customers catering to larger homes, said Napa Home & Garden President Michelle Gee.
Natural earth-tone hues were everywhere, offset by pops of color. Colored glass accent pieces proliferated here. Blue and white is perennial, though options within the blue family are shifting slightly, said one vendor, to those more associated with Danish modern looks or darker Prussian Blues. Black and white is making a strong statement. Shades of green, predicted to be the dominant hue for 2022, were here, but not dominant. Blush is still a strong color for this market, a few vendors said. Gold finishes, however, are gradually giving way to brass and oil-rubbed bronze.
Texture remains super important. Many products, whether upholstered chairs or ceramic vases, convey the handiwork of their makers through finishing details or hand applications. Tassel and pom-poms prevailed.
Zuo Modern has added more BoHo Chic items to its assortment as it transitions away from an all-modern lineup, said CEO Luis Ruesga. Highly textured accent chairs are an example. “In Atlanta, they are loving it; in Dallas they did not,” he said, referring to the Dallas show held the week before.
There were more reactive glazes in ceramic and porcelain vessels, as well as velvety smooth matte finishes on oversized white or black ceramic pieces, which were everywhere.
Performance fabrics have taken on greater importance for both indoor and outdoor use, vendors said, as consumers settle into their homes and use their furniture for its intended purpose. Three years ago, comfort was not a huge criteria, said Ruesga. “That has changed,” he said. “People have to sit on the furniture, work on the furniture, so it’s important.”
“People want to be comfortable on their furniture,” agreed Uttermost National Sales Manager Scott Doyle. “Performance fabrics increase the value and longevity and continue to look well while they’re living in it.”
Wall art remains a very strong category, several vendors said. Candles and candlesticks are another. But perhaps the biggest theme here was plants — live, faux or dried — and the vessels needed to show them off. There were bud vases for inside, and oversized planters for outside. Vendors presented everything from estate trees in the case of Napa Home & Garden to preserved moss, which was part of an expansive home décor launch by Mud Pie.
There has been a huge resurgence in anything plant-related, which is a sweet spot for Accent Decor, said Gjuka. The company has picked up more accounts with outdoor garden centers, floors and interior retailers looking for plants as accents. It is building on several of what Gjuka called sub-trends, including vessels that aid or highlight plant propagation, particularly root work; quirky colors and 80’s motifs in planters; and more depictions of snakes or serpents as a design motif. It has also started offering DIY embroidery kits for plant lovers.
Gjuka also noted a big demand for dried florals, a movement that played out in showrooms across AmericasMart. Many vendors are both selling dried flowers for end-users as well as to retailers for their merchandising displays.
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Success here in Atlanta has many vendors primed for the next show later this month in Las Vegas. Although one or two vendors expressed concern about the impact of Omicron on West Coast attendance, particularly visitors from California, a state significantly impacted by the coronavirus variant, others were more buoyant about their possibilities at the next market.
“You don’t need a whole lot of people, you just need buyers,” said Donna Territo, founder of the tabletop company Abbiamo Tutto, which had a “surprisingly good” show in Atlanta and has picked up new specialty accounts. “It’s encouraging. I’m really looking forward to Las Vegas.”