Atlanta Market delivers a good dose of home comfort

Americans are more focused than ever on family gatherings, “together time” with loved ones and their continued comfort and ease at home, and the accessories industry is responding in kind with home décor items designed to deliver that sense of well-being.

Last week’s Atlanta Market, which was marked by fluctuating waves of traffic but intentional, focused and optimistic retail buying, according to vendors, offered some newness — not a lot, but plenty of what consumers are craving.

That included super-soft weighted throws and blankets, oversized tabletop and yard games, candles in all shapes and sizes, thematic felt garlands, planters and plant stands, decorative kitchen décor, textural wall hangings, whimsical knickknacks, and decorative items that display a person’s individual spirituality. There were also scores of new fall holiday and Christmas collections that are ready to ship for this year’s fourth quarter celebrations.

Sales of core home accents, meanwhile, particularly lighting, wall décor and accessories, continue to be robust, according to three of Home Accent Today’s Retail Star panelists, who participated in a panel discussion at market. Several vendors, particularly those that cater to the design trade and the higher end of the retail market, noted the same.

“The design business continues to be strong,” said Kelley Ireland, sales director at Leftbank Art. “Some retail continues to be busy because foundational pieces [like sofas and casegoods] are in [stock], and they can complement with accessories.”

The same holds true on the tabletop and housewares segment. “Home entertaining is still big,” said Jonathan Pearson, principal of the rep firm Kitchen 2 Table, who said he had the best three consecutive days in Atlanta that he has ever had. “Consumers have made their homes more comfortable. Now they want to make them conducive to entertaining.”

Skyros Designs introduced two dinnerware patterns at market. Company owner Kathy Pitts described the market as “fabulous.” “We are thrilled,” she said. “Coming into this market, we weren’t sure what it would be. But we’re seeing a lot of smiling faces.

“I have not heard any talk of a recession, which is thrilling. The average order size is back to where it was, pre-COVID.”

Other vendors, noting the ever-climbing inflation rates, container rates that have come down considerably but are still pretty high, and other challenging economic factors, were more cautious.

“At retail, the impulse buy is not as impulsive as it used to be,” said Bryan Williams, executive vice president at Crestview Collection. “That’s where it becomes a planned purchase. That changes the way the retailer operates, and the way we operate.”

Buyers are purchasing “closer to the vest” because they are sitting on inventory, he said. But they have a good attitude about the marketplace and do not seem uncertain. “We’re running with that,” he said.

At Uttermost, sales on the company’s website have started to slow, and buyers at market were starting to pull back slightly on orders, according to Lori Fisher, who heads product development, marketing and advertising for the company. “There are so many issues out there,” she said.

And at Bassett Mirror, CEO Melissa Whitaker said although she was happy with the traffic in Atlanta, it is hard to predict what will come next. “It’s not all bad news,” she said. “People are still busy, designers still have projects on the water.”

On to Las Vegas.

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