HIGH POINT—Case goods vendors said 2016 remained another challenging year, particularly for bedroom, a category that continues to be a tough sell as it populates the least visible area of the home. Combine that with an migeof extremely negative election year, and it’s no small wonder that resources saw any growth at all. Still, some said they expect the year to be up, thanks to a stronger than expected second half that materialized In mid to late August, buoying their sales toward Labor Day and beyond. They expect some of this momentum to continue in 2017 as introductions begin to hit or gain traction on retail floors. Furniture Today projects 2.8% growth in the wood category that includes bedroom, dining—formal China office desk manufacturer and casual—and youth bedroom. This boosts the segment to about $29.1 billion in sales, or 28% of industry sales overall.
Among of the biggest news-makers of the year was Hooker Furniture, whose early January announcement it was buying Home Meridian International marked one of the biggest growth opportunities in its more than 91-year history. The purchase, China office partition manufacturer according to Hooker Chairman and CEO Paul Toms Jr., will afford the company growth outside Hooker’s realm of upper and upper middle price points.
“The acquisition of Home Meridian was very time1y,” he said. “It came at a point where we were seeing more pressure in case goods in the upper price points and more retailer attrition.” He said the Home Meridian purchase is getting the company into more diverse channels of distribution such as larger retailers including national department store chains and national wholesale clubs where Hooker has not done much business previously.
“Those channels seem to be growing more quickly than the traditional full line furniture store that has dominated Hooker’s distribution,” Toms noted. He said Hooker’s case goods business was down in first half, while Home Meridian’s was up. But he expects some improvements by calendar year end, particularly as the companies saw improvements during most recent quarter. “The second half I expect to be better than the first half,” Toms said, adding that he sees the opportunity for Hooker to grow at boutique types of retailers as well as designer channels.
“We believe we can grow Hooker Furniture,” he said. “We just don’t believe we will grow as fast as Home Meridian. He is also optimistic based on Hooker’s business with a number of large Top 100 accounts. “I think it varies by size of the retailer,” he said. “The single store independents have been under more pressure and where we have seen the most attrition.”