Optimistic outlook for growth for 2002 retail sales and beyond.
The comment, "Recession? What recession?" was heard frequently in the halls of the International Centre/Canada’s Furniture Mart and beyond at manufacturers’ showrooms dotted around the GTA during the January Market. Change was in the air. The Show itself, after 30 years, boasted the new name of "The Canadian Home Furnishings Market".
At age 28, the 2002 National Trillium Awards Gala kicked its heels in spectacular fashion. Many of the players were familiar, but the rejuvenated format complemented participants’ high spirits.
During the four days of Market there was much to see, including the Trends Display 2002, again a hit with both exhibitors and buyers.
All of this euphoria would appear to be based on facts, not fancy. Aktrin’s Stefan Wille predicts, "Next year’s growth may come in at 2.3 percent, and lower interest rates could lift the growth of business investments to the five percent mark."
"House prices will hold firm in 2002," says Royal LePage’s Angela Meyer. The company’s annual survey forecast a national average house price of $171,600 with an average of $255,400 in Toronto. Vancouver will continue to be the priciest city in Canada, with the average house costing $292,800. Toronto is second, Calgary third at $189,500 and Winnipeg $96,000. Low mortgage rates will continue to buoy the market, making houses more affordable for the average person than they’ve been in decades.
At Trillium, Bruce McPherson Senior was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Bruce’s optimism over the many years of his dedication to the industry has been expressed in his firm belief, often quoted, "there is a pent-up demand for home furnishings"! Twice President of the OFMA and President of the Canadian Council of Furniture Manufacturers, Bruce is known to many of his peers as "Mr. Furniture"
Pat Thody, Chairman and CEO of Simmons Canada, was also recognized for his many contributions over the years as President of the OFMA, two extended terms, and a decade’s service on the Board. It’s acknowledged by all that Pat has "the best golf swing in the Canadian industry".
Both men received their own star in the sky. OFMA arranged to have actual stars named after the two industry heroes. It was announced that they will also take their places in the upcoming OFMA Hall of Fame as will Orville Mead, named a "star" at the 2001 Awards.
The Trillium Jury is composed of 10 retailers of a variety of disciplines and origins. Giovanni Del Busso, La Pere du Meuble, Montreal, talked of trends viewed both during the competition and at Market. "Leather is still hot, growing more and more so throughout the years, and it’s coming from everywhere, Canada and overseas, even the Orient. They’ve done their homework and developed the right styling for us. It’s spurring Canadian manufacturers on, and they are adjusting themselves to come up with completely different designs and combinations of leather and fabric and leather and raffia. In fabric, many companies are now using microfibre, definitely on the upswing. There are dining chairs now covered in microfibre, very functional since you can stain it with anything and it comes right off. In casegoods, particularly dining, there is a lot more use of wood than melamine. We want the real thing now and a better quality product is being presented.
"The earth tones still predominate, especially in leathers, browns, tans and sand, light to dark. But there is also brilliant yellow, cheerful, lively, brightens up the room and it’s really selling well.
"In overview, it’s apparent that more people are turning to contemporary. People are becoming tired of the very ornate look. I think we are at a turning point from traditional to contemporary. That happens every seven or eight years and things always come back to the original!
"For the first time in years everyone I spoke with had a positive outlook! Retailers seemed to have had a great December, as we did. I predict that in 2002 the sun is going to shine for everyone!"
In Moncton, New Brunswick, Joel Barnaby, Barnaby Furniture, spoke first of Bruce McPherson Senior. "He is and always has been a great asset to the industry. Gibbard produces perhaps the best furniture in Canada. Bruce is a true gentleman."
In trends, Joel sees "overall movement to making the home more comfortable, large gathering tables, big sofas and really great home offices and home theatres. Imports seem very strong, and quality has been upscaled."
He agrees with Giovanni about leather’s popularity. "There are two or three new manufacturers who are making their mark. The settee has made an interesting comeback. And faux suede/mircrofibre is in demand.
"In upholstery we have some wonderful, bold colours, bright reds. The Grand Trillium Award this year went to Kingsdown, a great mattress with a truly innovative marking concept! Home offices are sharper, a much warmer look to fit with our lifestyles.
"For Canadians, the economy, along with consumer spending, has been very strong in the last quarter of 2001. People are certainly travelling less and since we have such a cold climate, many of them are cocooning. I see no change in the marketplace coming up in the next half year. Interest rates are low and there’s not been too much change in employment. The half year after that? We’ll have to see, but I’m hoping for a strong fall."
John Barr has been with DeBoer’s in Toronto for a decade now and he sees a continuing trend in both the loft look and European modern in big city homes. He defines "loft", as the "softer, American look, light and dark wood with dark the more popular of the two, a rich chocolate brown tone. Barbara Barry who designed for Baker Furniture really originated this styling and its been well interpreted by Korson and Vogel in strong occasional and bedroom furniture. And there’s a new ‘country’ that has a clean architectural look, not cute! We’re also seeing an attractive paint look, again very clean, white or off-white and, in direct contrast, black. In fabrics, blue is making a comeback, and ticking stripes and checks in black and beige or reds. Red itself is very strong, historically an assertive colour. It’s been important for two Markets now and there’ll be more of it in the spring. Canadians tend more to the clarets and burgundies.
"We always look at accessories first as the first indicators of trends, then upholstery and finally casegoods.
"Toile is coming back in red, white and blue, black and white and, softer, in beige and white.
"There’s some exciting contemporary, more and more colour, even an almost reflective lime green that looked great with orange and yellow.
"There are still huge, carved dining and bedrooms offered and there will be a backlash because many of the new condos can’t take the size.
"Things seem optimistic and buoyant. The U. S. is beginning to turn around and that bodes well for all of us. Sales have been strong and we’re looking forward to a good year. The Toronto Show was interesting and some exciting product lines were shown there."
Carol Weir, Tuggs Furniture, Cobourg, Ontario, saw "A lot of colour! Very refreshing. In the last few years, colours have been muted and I’m tired of looking at neutrals." Carol also noted the quantity and quality of imported goods and added, "the pricing is good. Some consumers out there can’t afford the more expensive lines. Cobourg is 70 miles east of Toronto and more and more people want to get out of the city. They are downsizing, possibly retiring, and they are looking for smaller furniture, particularly sofas.
"We’re looking forward to a pretty good year. People are spending their money on a new sofa or bedroom rather than a trip overseas. At Market, retailers were feeling optimistic, and I am not the least bit negative!"
A dynamite father and daughter team, Liz and Claude Wilson, are at the helm of one of the most attractive and interesting stores in town, right in the heart of the western city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Both attended Trillium, then scrutinized every meaningful inch of Market. Liz said, "The best of styling this January is very simple, both upholstery and casegoods. Nice colours, pinks, reds, light blues, some pleasant little patterns and Oriental influences." She also talked about microfibres in "almost every showroom and, of course, all solid colours. It certainly offers durability for today’s lifestyles, a popular choice with a soft hand, a very nice texture. And we saw plenty of nubucks and chenilles.
"We’re cautiously optimistic. People at Market were looking and buying and so were we. Everyone was a bit tucked in after September 11. But we had a very good year since consumers are focusing more on family and planning to spend more time at home, even those people who usually take a winter holiday away from our snow and ice here in Winnipeg. Yes, we’re quite optimistic for 2002!" And Claude agrees with Liz wholeheartedly!
All our industry gurus spoke highly of changes made to the Trillium Awards format. Laine Reynolds, Chairman of the hardworking Trillium Steering Committee and, in real life, Vice President Sales, Superstyle, opened the festivities. The Awards, he said, were "designed to recognize and congratulate the Masters of Our Craft". And he began with Bogdon and Gross, celebrating their 75th anniversary.
Gerry Cockerill, OFMA President, introduced the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, television personality Kimberley Seldon. One of Canada’s foremost design, decorating and lifestyle experts, Kimberley’s "Design for Living" is now in its fourth season. "Her performance was stellar!" one retailer later enthused.
The Grand Trillium Award went, for the second time, to Kingsdown Canada, for their masterful marketing concepts promoting "Dormo Diagnostics", a system that enables consumers "to buy the best bed based on their personal body profile".
The prestigious Summit Award for Canadian Content and Design was presented to West Brothers for the handsome "Rudyard Kipling Dining Room", the design based on the life, times and travels of the British poet.
General Manager of the OFMA, Kathryn MacGregor said, "Years from now when people look back on the Canadian Home Furnishings Market and the Trillium Awards and they compare the way it was and the way it is ... they will say the year 2002 was a turning point. The Trillium Steering Committee realized that dramatic changes were needed to bring back credibility and integrity to the Trilliums and the manner in which the competition was structured. And, as well, they knew the evening ceremonies had to be entertaining and polished. Plans to improve this truly national Canadian Award are in the works for 2003. I predict there will be more entries and a greater representation of Canadian Furniture from across Canada in all product categories."
At Market, the Trends Display 2002 was again designed by André Caron and Pierre D’Anjou. There were 18 new displays, featuring more than 60 products clustered under new themes in a new modular structure. Lighting, materials and colour were used to place emphasis on transparency and lightness. Jean Francois Michaud, Executive Vice President of the Quebec Furniture Manufacturers’ Association and general manager of the show was also the originator of the Trends Display project. "It was designed to attract retailers attention and give them fresh ideas and inspirational ways to showcase their products in-store." Energetic Jean Francois is also a member of the Trillium Steering Committee.
Orville Mead, President, then Chairman of Durham Furniture until December 31, 2001, a 42-1/2 year history with the company, was amongst the revelers at the Trillium Gala, together with his wife, Dorothy. Two years running, 2000 and 2001, Durham was voted one of the best-run private companies in Canada. Durham’s near demise in 1992, then dramatic resurgence under Orville’s leadership, is a legend in the industry, a true phoenix from the ashes story. Orville served as OFMA’s President 1988-1989, 1989-1990 and 1990-1991, and also headed the Canadian Council. Durham will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year, and newly retired Orville, with his fresh perspective, is still very proud of the Durham product. "We had six or seven very good years," he told us. "Sweat, determination and a little good luck along the way, good people here in Canada and a good U.S. team made it all happen."
His thoughts for the future? Only blue skies. "I think Canada’s going to be OK during the first half of this year. The U.S. has a piece to go but, by the second half, they’ll get things turned around." Orville has always agreed with his old friend Bruce McPherson about "pent-up demand. "Retail has been doing well, and just look at the hundreds of new houses springing up! They all have to be furnished."
Gerry Cockerill Jr., OFMA President, announced another key addition to the Trillium Gala’s festivities, the addition of an exciting door prize. Lubo Gall, Designer/Sales Manager for Engelite Lighting, won two Delta Airline tickets, a $250 Vision 2000 Travel Gift Certificate and, best of all, and close to Gerry’s heart, an all expense week’s trip out of Nassau, Bahamas, sailing the tranquil waters of the Bahamas Bank aboard "Bliss", a 52 foot Loa Hans Christian sailboat. Bon voyage, Lubo!
Only hours after talking with our good friend Orville Mead, he passed away in his sleep. He had been battling cancer for almost two years. Orville will take his special talents of laughter, hard work, integrity and straight talk to his new environment. The heavenly artisans are lucky to have him, but he’ll be sorely missed on Planet Earth.
Orville G. Mead
Born on March 10, 1938 in Durham, Ontario, Mr. Mead grew up on a farm just east of Durham with his parents, sister and two brothers. Married to Dorothy; he has four children and eleven grandchildren.
Orville was associated with Durham Furniture Inc. for approximately 42 1/2 years. He joined the facility April 1959, assumed the position of production manager in 1965, Plant Manager in 1968, and Vice President and General Manager of the Case Goods division of Kroehler Furniture Company ("Kroehler") in 1979. In 1983, Orville was appointed President of the entire Canadian Division of Kroehler, which broadened his responsibility to encompass eight furniture-manufacturing facilities, including the Durham facility. In February 1992, Kroehler’s parent company, Strathearn House Group Ltd., went into receivership and the Durham facility temporarily closed. In June 1992, Orville and several other investors acquired the Durham facility from the receiver and the facility resumed operations, with Mr. Mead as President. He became Chairman of the Board & CEO on September 6, 2000, and retired on January 1, 2002.
Mr. Mead held a Certified Industrial Manager diploma from the University of Waterloo (Ontario). He was actively involved in industry associations during his career, as President of the Ontario Furniture Manufacturers Association (the "OFMA") and President of the Canadian Council of Furniture Manufacturers.
Orville was in the office almost every day, even while battling the cancer over the last year and a half. He could often be found in the office on the weekend, answering the phones and working.