Gourmet food and tabletop serveware, along with vases and decorative boxes, have been among the products selling well at Elkhart, Ind.-based Garber’s Interior Design.
Sales of decorative accessories — those small, often unique items that can pull a room together or convey a homeowner’s personality — have thrived so far this year, and manufacturers and retailers alike said they believe that trend will continue into 2021.
Popular items range from wall art and mirrors to decorative storage boxes, outdoor pieces and tabletop serveware, according to the handful of those surveyed.
“It’s not the $5 trinket dish, it’s the piece that can alter your space,” said Garry Schermann, senior vice president of sales at Creative Co-Op, where “easy additions to the home” like mirrors, accent tables, lighting and area rugs have been performing well. Consumers seem willing to invest in home furnishings for the foreseeable future, Schermann said. Accessories purchased for home offices that soften the line between work and home are also selling well. Meanwhile, “every family member is looking to carve their own niche. Decorative accessories play a role in that.”
“People bring these unique objects into their home so that when they sit down, it’s a conversation piece,” agreed Satya Tiwari, president of Surya. It could be the finish, the scale, or the design of the piece, or perhaps it is something that completes a room or makes a statement. He echoed Schermann’s theory that consumers are looking for longer-term investments when it comes to decorative accessories for their home. Tiwari noted rising interest in textured art for the walls, and in mirrors that are as decorative as they are functional, with unique glazing or shapes.
Creative Co-Op, noting consumer demand for eclectic, nontraditional pieces, is currently working on a lot of mixed material collections that blend vintage and current looks, as well as modern, clean-lined products and plenty of color. It has launched about 1,000 items this summer and has an even larger launch planned for January, Schermann said.
A&B Home has seen a wide range of accessories capture consumers’ attention, said Dana French, designer and marketing sales executive. Mom-and-pop stores have been selling a lot of its storage and organization pieces such as melamine trays that serve a place for keys and loose change, as well as a variety of lidded boxes. One of its particularly popular SKUs is a lidded marble box. “The aesthetics are very sleek, very clean. I think it’s the organic concept of the marble,” French said. Another storage box that is selling well is made from a lightly washed wood that resembles rattan. French attributed its popularity to its woven look and casual vibe, and “that’s a movement we see going into 2021.” Blue and white porcelain jars are strong sellers across all retail channels, she added. “In 2021, we should see an everyday traditional look and a blue movement, so these should be high up on our sales list.” Also, “everything we have with a bird does well—all the time.”
In its e-commerce and key accounts, A&B Home has had a lot of success with its hourglass sand timers, which come in two different shapes, one with a wooden or metal cage around it, and one without. Teak bowls and wall mirrors have also sold well in these channels, French said.
At Sagebrook Home, “our decorative accessories and decorative objects categories seem to be the biggest selling trend right now,” said Senior Buyer Kelli Cohen. “As we are all spending more time indoors, decorative pieces that enhance your home in unique ways help everyone to personalize and enhance their space.” Outdoor décor and planters have been its fastest growing categories during the lockdown, she said.
Renwil President Jonathan Wilner also noted consumers’ increased attention on their immediate surroundings at home. “A bit of redesign is a positive action we can take during a scary time. Entertainment and travel is limited so people are augmenting their living spaces instead,” he said. At Renwil, desk lighting and small area rugs are selling “extremely well,” Wilner said. “So are our small functional and decorative products such as sculptural bookends and designer desktop organizers.”
“Anything that would go inside a home office” is performing well for Crestview Collection, including storage, bookends and organization tools like boxes or trays, said David Lee, director of business development. Like French, he noted the popularity of functional pieces like trays and chargers for holding keys and other items. But its number one performing category has been decorative tabletop, which includes the aforementioned chargers and trays as well as things like decanters and candleholders. It is a growth opportunity for Crestview, which started placing a greater focus on decorative accessories about three years ago, said Lee. The company saw increases in January — sales were up 200% in Atlanta and 200% in Vegas — and during lockdown, its in-stock sale continued to thrive. “We sold five times the number of units that we would sell at a trade show,” Lee said.
Local business strength
E-commerce was the only game in town at the beginning of the pandemic, but as stores gradually reopened later in the spring, the strength of mom-and-pop businesses did not go unnoticed.
“E-commerce is killing it, but not in every product category,” noted Surya’s Tiwari. “They can only sell the price point consumers are willing to [spend] online.” For higher-end goods, the interior design business is a draw for Surya. “Our design business has been good during COVID,” Tiwari said.
“We’re bullish on the independent retailer,” said Creative Co-Op’s Schermann. “The retailers that understand their niche and know their neighbors really well have done extremely well for us.”
Lee, of Crestview, observed some pent-up consumer demand that went to independent retailers in the early part of the summer as consumers shopped on Main Street to show their solidarity with small businesses. “I think there is a big push in supporting local, which is great,” Lee said.
“We’ve been blessed with really good clients” who believe in the local community, said Brad Priest, co-owner with Jonathan Tuff of Garber’s Interior Design in Elkhart, Ind., which has 7,000 square feet of selling space, split between home furnishings retail and its design center, and another 3,000 square feet of warehouse space. When the store was closed, customers ordered products by phone or online and took advantage of curbside pickup. He has also sold plenty of goods via social media, such as live chats on Facebook Live. “I’ve sold a whole [decorated] Christmas tree over text message,” said Priest.
Sales have been surprisingly strong this year so far, he added. Between January and May, they were “way above” last year’s numbers during the same time frame. “I added the numbers twice to make sure I didn’t make a mistake,” he said.
Since reopening, and during the summer, customers have been dropping by throughout the day, rather than coming clustered together, which is a good thing since they can spread out and feel at ease socially distancing, Priest said. “It’s more of a calming, ‘you can be relaxed’ vibe. You’re not surrounded by people.” Garber’s has been selling a lot of small items such as vases and decorative boxes. Tabletop serveware items like melamine trays and serving bowls, which didn’t move much before, have suddenly started selling well, Priest said. The same holds true for gourmet food items and cocktail napkins.
“We’ve sold a good bit of wall art,” said interior designer Susan Hoechner, owner of Barbara Stewart Interiors in Bowling Green, Ky., which reopened in late May. “I think people were sick of what they were looking at and needed a change.” Containers with florals, bookends and frames have been popular, she said, and more customers came in interested in custom framing and window treatments.
Christy Brant, owner of Lulu’s Furniture outside Denver, personally delivered plenty of puzzles to customers’ homes when the store was closed. Since it reopened in early May, Brant said she has sold a lot of candles.
Hoechner, Brant and Priest were nonetheless approaching the fall markets cautiously.
“I’m really, really scared,” said Brant. “June and July were pretty good. After July Fourth things [got quiet]. There are so many unknowns.” Brant is not going to any shows for the rest of the year. “I don’t even know about January,” she said. But supplier representatives have been calling on her, she has been ordering online, and she has been rethinking some of the orders she placed in as Vegas in January and later canceled by tweaking them to bring in a few new lines. “You still want to have new stuff,” she said. “You don’t want to have the same stuff you had in February.”
Hoechner plans to spend three, rather than her customary five, days at the Atlanta Market. She had already made many appointments by mid-July and planned to visit showrooms with multiple lines. She had visited virtual product showrooms offered by vendors, and had several “mask to mask” rather than face-to-face meetings. “We’re going to High Point, if they have it. But I will be very cautious about buying stock for the floor because we don’t know what’s going to happen.” She has mostly been replenishing best-selling products and is anxious to keep her floor looking fresh. Nonetheless, “I won’t be reaching out to try anything too new — it’s too risky right now. I will be very careful about what I spend.”
She also wondered aloud what the Christmas selling season, for which she purchased goods in January, will be like. “Will people be embracing it? That’s what I’m hoping.”
Priest, who is reordering product but not taking on new lines, and who is not attending shows because they will lack the opportunity to truly interact with vendors and touch and feel the merchandise, is moving full steam ahead on Christmas, which for Garber’s starts in October and runs strong until Thanksgiving. “People will need the mental relief,” he predicted. “We’re being optimistic by being realistic at the same time. If we started changing things, it would be detrimental to Garber’s.”