ASFD creating Pinnacle Award for green design

February 10th, 2010

This year for the first time, the American Society of Furniture Designers will recognize sustainable furnishings with a Pinnacle Design Achievement Award for excellence in green home furnishings design.

Entries for the award will be vetted by the Sustainable Furnishings Council before they are presented to judges, said furniture designer and ASFD President Steve Hodges.

Pieces will be considered across a spectrum of categories. Sustainability benchmarks are likely to apply to product features such as wood, finish, cushioning, textile, leather, metal, glass and plastic content, Hodges said.

But the item also must be a good value and well designed, he said. The award has not yet been named, he added.

Hodges said last year’s Pinnacle judges were enthusiastic about a green design award.

“Everyone is very excited about it. It’s not just an adjunct award to be trendy. We see the category as becoming increasingly important,” he said. “It also helps the Pinnacle Awards widen its net.”

An entry deadline for this year’s ASFD Pinnacle Awards has not yet been set. Winners will be announced at the fall High Point Market. More formal criteria for entries will be announced over the next several weeks, Hodges said.

Retailer Andy Thornton of LaDifferénce in Richmond, Va., which touts its own green standards through its stores, said that green product is a good idea for the Pinnacle Awards. He said the winning product should be innovative, and “really needs to wow you.”

The Pinnacle Design Achievement Awards were created in April 1995 by the ASFD board to promote design quality and encourage the recognition of furniture designers within the retail home furnishings industry.

By Heath E. Combs — Furniture Today

2010 headed in right direction

February 10th, 2010

I don’t want to jinx things, but I’m seeing a number of signs that suggest that 2010 is headed in the right direction.

For openers, a number of retailers active in home furnishings are enjoying sales spikes. Pier 1 Imports, for example, announced that same-store sales for the five-week period ending Jan. 2 grew 8.5%, while Costco reported a rise in December same-store sales of 9%.

But there is another yardstick that I’ve used over the years to help me gauge how well the industry will fare. I listen to front-line reports from retailers and exhibitors who have attended the first two industry shows of the year — the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market and the Canadian Home Furnishings Market.

The good news: Based on everything I’ve heard, each of these shows knocked the ball out of the park.

Take the Atlanta show. A cold front that left much of the South shivering was unable to turn down the heat on the excitement in the aisles at AmericasMart as retailers aggressively shopped the Atlanta show.

Tom Russell, our case goods editor, was impressed by the volume of new product that vendors such as Four Hands, Palecek, Halo and Bailey Street introduced. Russell, who noted a big push in the area of sustainability, also saw a growing number of vendors offering custom options.

Of all that he shared, I was most optimistic about his sense of dealers breaking the tradition of shopping for best sellers in favor of gambling on more design-driven items as a means of livening up sales floors.

For its part, AmericasMart reported some of the busiest days in the history of the venue.

“The 2010 edition of (our) home, gift and rug shows was a great example of how important and transformational it is to work with exhibitors to promote and aggressively pursue buyers from all across the United States and all over the world. We are flattered and honored that so many retailers chose AmericasMart to spend their open-to-buy,” said Jeffrey Portman Sr., president and COO of AmericasMart.

The reports from the Toronto market were equally upbeat. Retailers used words like “busy, exciting and worthwhile” to describe the event.

And if there’s truth in the cliché about the third time being a charm, then Tupelo, set to welcome 40 new exhibitors, may be well on the way to helping make my perception a reality.

Ray Allegrezza, Editor in Chief — Furniture Today

Furniture Rep About to Change the Industry

February 10th, 2010

I just returned from Las Vegas where there are definitely some challenges in our industry. Amazingly there was some very upbeat feelings coming out of a pretty good January. I also found some furniture reps taking these challenging times and figuring out how to make something of it. What I plan to do with this blog is to highlight some cool things members of the rep community are doing. My inspiration came from seeing what Chris De Lisa was doing at market.

Chris is a sales executive at Home Line and manages a sales force for them. He is also very active in the Independent Home Furnishings Representative’s Association as the newest member of the IHFRA Executive Committee.

But what really caught my attention is seeing Chris in his own show space at the Las Vegas market. Chris was showing a patent pending electrical device that could change the way all upholstery functions. This device allows consumers to plug a power cord directly into the arm or side of an upholstered piece.

Chris has got his discovery story down about the “Ah-Ha” moment that he came up with the concept for the convenience of having an electrical outlet in the sofa. Just think, a consumer does not have to go looking for plugs behind sofas for the vacuum cleaner, or when a laptop, game boy or IPOD battery loses its charge. You just plug in the cord to the sofa.

The exciting thing about Chris is he didn’t just think it and forget it like most do. Chris thought it, went to work patenting it, hired Kurt Behm to sell it, and then started spending money promoting it. This could very well become the next must have thing that’s added to any upholstery piece and it was developed by a fellow furniture sales rep.

Congratulations Chris on having a great market and best of luck in rolling out the “De Lisa Power System”.

I want to feature as many innovative reps and members of IHFRA from around the country in this blog.

What I would really like is if you can send me innovative ideas you are using to help your retail and design customers or if you are developing a side business. Anything outside of just going in and selling a piece of furniture, I would like to feature.

So if you have a good idea that you are using or pursuing, please email me the idea at I will set up a phone call where we can discuss it. I really want to write about as many reps doing cool things as I can, so please get back to me at your earliest convenience. Thanks

Mike Root