Spotlight hits housewares; casual explodes in lieu of lawn, garden lines

Spotlight hits housewares CHICAGO–With the growing midsummer International Power Equipment Show in Louisville stealing away many makers of big-ticket lawn and garden products, housewares exhibitors enjoyed a more prominent position among the 75,000 visitors to the National Hardware Show here.

There was an explosion of casual furniture, most of it for patios, while energy savings and security products made their mark. Vendors of electronic set-back thermostats and infrared floodlights reported strong interest as prices continue to decline.

Amid reports of healthy sell-through this year, retailers also demonstrated rising interest in barbecue grills, ceiling fans and fan-heaters.

On the home security front, First Alert believes its two Halon fire extinguishers unveiled at the show will help boost retail sales by 40 percent in the next five years.

A major housewares introduction at the show was Tucker Housewares’ new line of under-the-cabinet plastic storage products. Available initially in almond-hue and four-color packaging, the line includes such items as bread boxes and drawers with inserts.

An impressive 10-SKU line of gas grills from Nordic Ware and a first-ever collection of casual furniture from Rubbermaid headed the list of buyer favorites at the show. The Nordic products are self-cleaning and will feature mahogany side shelves. “It’s product that clearly puts Nordic a step ahead,” asserted William Marcil of Nordic. Rubbermaid’s collection, meantime, is named Sundial, and its tough-polypropylene material is advertised as being virtually maintenance-free.


“Rubbermaid’s white resin furniture is very impressive,” said Ed Lanctot, vice president and general merchandise manager at Cotter & Co., the nation’s biggest hardware cooperative. “We also think Nordic Ware has made a fine looking barbecue grill.”

Another influential buyer, Donald Bratt of K mart Corp., echoed Lanctot’s views on the Nordic line, though the big mass merchant will limit all gas placement to models under $200 in price. “In gas models we’re making an effort to step up our customers from $97 single-burner products,” Bratt said. “By promoting effective good volume in the $149 to $169 range.”

Like other shoppers at the show, however, he admitted the proliferation of home centers and big hardware warehouse chains–including K mart’s own Builder’s Square-have had an impact on some categories of home goods. “Grill sales have been rather flat for us the last couple of years,” said Tom Heying, another K mart buyer. “We’re not getting the yearly gains in gas grills that we enjoyed at one time. The increasing competition has been a factor in that.”

The new McCormick Place annex wasn’t open in time for the hardware show, leaving many exhibitors with smaller booths than they’d planned. But attendance was healthy, and organizers allowed main floor vendors to open on Sunday, a day reserved in the past for McCormick West exhibitors only.

“If the annex had been ready we were due for a booth 40 percent bigger than what we have,” said Marshall Bedol, president of Marshallan Industries, the Cleveland-based producer of grills. “But traffic has been very good for us in the main building and all the right buyers are here, so we have to be happy.”

At McCormick West, though, the mood was markedly different. “This show’s been a disappointment for us,” said Cort Clark, president of Los Angeles-based Keroheat, the importer of heaters. “It used to be that we had our own one-day show on Sunday, but that was taken away from us and traffic has been poor.”

In programmable thermostats, Honeywell was in the spotlight at the show. The company has hired a new management team for its retail division, headed by Dennis Gambiana, and said that it will continue to market the three-SKU Quad Six line it acquired last December under Quad Six’s old Magic Stat brand name. On the Honeywell side, a new mechanical model, the CT-150, was introduced at a $69 price point, pre-empting to some extent the old CT-200 at $89.

Jameson Home Products will offer $5 rebates on its two new electronic models under the Ener-Genius label this fall. Prices will be $69 and $89–low enough to persuade many consumers to step up from mechanical units, it was said. Jameson calculates about a half million electronic units were sold in the U.S. last season, not far behind the 600,000 total for mechanical at retail.

“The price spread between the two is closing, and in time there won’t be any reason to buy electromechanical,” said Robert Bukowsky, vice president of sales and marketing at Jameson.

The category leader may well be Hunter, which weighed in at the show with a new generation of electronic units called Energy Monitor II. So far, there are just two SKUs, at $49 and $59, down about $10 from previous electronic editions.

There is, moreover, a new line of mechanicals ranging from $12 to $19 at retail. Shipment will commence in September.

Another hot new category at the show was security lights. It is coming of age as prices settle below $100 after being as high as $300 several years ago when passive infrared technology was new. Tahoe Products has four new models that detect heat and/or the motion of a person within 75 feet and turn on automatically. Prices range from $79 to $99 at retail.

James Wimsatt, president of Tahoe, forecasts sales of 500,000 security lights at retail in the coming year. “They’re perfect for home improvement centers and the hardware co ops, and Sears and Wards are good candidates,” he says.

Rather than infrared, Timely Products had developed security light incorporating the same Doppler radar system that airliners use to detect wind shear. Timely contends the units achieve wider coverage, though that comes at a premium: prices range from $139 to $159.

Hot, wet weather over much of the country this summer contributed to a banner bug killer season, with over 1.6 million units shipped to retailers. Merchants report virtually no carry-over inventory, which should be good news for the profit-pressed survivors in the category. There were once 30 bug killer producers, but a shake out over the past two years has left four or five major companies to split up the business.

Flowtron remains a strong No. 1, supplying all of Sears’ product (accounting for almost one-third of the market) and controlling, overall, more than 50 percent of sales. Stinger has roughly 25 percent, according to sources, while Klenatron and Sunbeam each counts on some 10 percent.

Even Flowtron hasn’t been immune from the pricing battles that have plagued the industry. The company will discontinue its original line of metal units in 1987. They will be supplanted by lower-cost plastic models which retail at $29.95.

Stinger has downsized its 40-watt unit and the price is expected to come as low as $29 next season on promotion, not far above the everyday price of its 15-watt model. Stephen Sadler, a Stinger executive said, “Margin pressure is still intense–bug killers only sell on promotion–yet I think pricing has bottomed out at this point.”

In other product areas, Robertshaw introduced a line of range-top knobs in white, black and chrome colors. Mostly a replacement business, oven knobs have been dominated by commercial suppliers until now, but Robertshaw is confident it can interest retailers in the category.

Caframo Ltd. unveiled its Executive, a combination humidifier and air cleaner. With a list price of $129, the 4-gallon unit is billed as quieter than ultrasonic with an enclosed motor that is resistant to calcium build up and white dust emissions.

Friberg of Motif: motivating coordination

NEW YORK — Karl Friberg strolled through the Ralph Lauren showroom in the J.P. Stevens tower here like a proud host showing a guest his manor.

The fabrics and wallcoverings that his company, Motif Designs, produces for the Lauren home furnishings program have been a surprising success after an initial reluctance by some department stores to carry the products.

At first, according to Friberg, department stores participating in the Lauren program had reservations about taking the wallpapers and fabrics, while licensees for other collection elements were “fighting the buyers off.”

He added, “Every store in the country wanted to order $10 million in sheets and we were out there pleading for a buyer. We had to teach the whole store from the president on down about our products.”

Seventy-five percent of the Lauren home shops now carry the Motif fabrics and wallcoverings, as department store managers realize the items offer an important link to other products in the Lauren Lifestyles collections. A key sales link

“A Denver store sold $4,000 worth of fabric in one day and that led to $2,000 more in related sales. A New York store had a single order of $7,000 based on the linen products,” Friberg said.

He hopes the surprise success of the fabrics and wallcoverings for Lauren may help him convince department stores to carry Motif products in a similar presentation.

“People don’t think first of their sheets when they’re redoing a bedroom,” he said. “They think first of the color and the fabrics and the walls, so if you sell them wallpaper and fabric, you’re almost guaranteed to sell them something else. That’s the key link that exists.”

With the new 1984 Lauren Lifestyles, the size of Motif’s display will triple in some stores, and many will be carrying stock as well as offering custom order facilities. Motif has 35 wallcovering SKUs and 24 in fabric in the new line.

“A catalog and stock together create more sales than just a catalog by itself,” Friberg asserted.

Salespeople in many Lauren home shops are especially trained to sell the wallcoverings. In addition, an 800 telephone number has been established for customers installing their own wallpaper and for untrained salespeople trying to advise customers on wallpaper purchases. Lauren in their corner

Although fabrics and wallcoverings for the Lauren Lifestyles collection have been available only through the 30 department stores carrying the collection, Motif Design’s own store in Larchmont, N.Y., has just opened its own Ralph Lauren corner, showing the entire range of fabrics and wallcoverings in special displays or vignettes.

Friberg and his wife, Lyn Peterson, opened the Larchmont store in 1975 with an initial investment of $9,000 and went into wallpaper production two years later. The company now does $6 million annually and has become what chairman Frieberg believes is one of the most innovative houses in the wallpaper industry. He sees its future in product design and marketing rather than at retail, believing there are greater opportunities for growth and profit for him on the production end.

The small retail outlet first ventured into wallpaper production in 1977, seeing a lack in the marketplace of papers with a “clean Scandinavian look.” Motif proposed to Ristomatti Ratia that it produce a line of wallcoverings for Marimekko just as the Finnish company was launching its sheet company.

After this first joint venture, coordination of sheets and wallcoverings as a concept approach later was used by Gear and Laura Ashley. Three collections of Marimekko wallpapers are offered at locations across the country.

Collaboration with Marimekko gave Motif an unusual product and a production base for its next line, Whimsical Walls, which Friberg said re-invented the children’s segment. Opposite approach

“Everybody told us, ‘you can’t make money in the children’s segment; it’s too small,’ So we took the opposite approach and looked for high penetration into a small market. At $18 to $19 a roll, Whimsical Walls was one of the top-selling collections in the country when it was first introduced. Now everybody and his brother has followed us.”

Motif has licensed production of coordinating lamps, sheets, stationery, toys, blinds and sleepwear for the Whimsical line.

In an area of heavier competition, Motif then introduced the Rosie collection, a “new, traditional style,” designed to appeal to a market segment that included both older and younger women. Friberg sees presentation of the papers through a catalog as an essential factor in sales. With the Rosie catalog, he combines clean graphics with an image of a leisurely, family-oriented mode of living. A second Rosie collection came out in November as an addition to what is Motif’s top-selling line.

His company’s most recent success, Friberg believes, has been in the high quality and on-time delivery of its segment of the Ralph Lauren program.

Motif was granted the license four years ago, after it approached the Polo organization. Polo’s management was, according to Friberg, in the beginning stages of putting an entire package together and hadn’t considered the fabric and wallpaper angle. Polo later came back to Motif after it had considered a number of other resources. Smallness an asset

Friberg attributes Polo’s interest to the small size of his company. “If you get in with too large a company, it doesn’t have the adaptability that a company our size does. Because we’re small, we had to try harder to be better than other people.”

Motif fabrics come from a number of resources. Some are woven in India, paisleys are printed in Italy, where linens also orginate, wools and tweeds are woven in Ireland and the rest are printed domestically.

Motif fabrics printed in Italy

All of Motif’s wallpapers are handprinted in the United States and finished at three plants in the Northeast before they hit the retail market.

Motif’s introduction for fall market was 62 papers and borders and 42 fabrics in a program totaling 2,500 SKUs.

Friberg is not considering any other licensing programs with designers. He prefers to stick with a few well-known names and support them heavily.

“Our expansion plans are to build up elements of our program. Right now, wallpaper is a heavier percentage of sales than fabric.

We’re doing a major expansion of our fabric lines and possibly will expand laterally into other areas of home furnishings.”

Motif’s ratio of wallpaper to fabrics is about 100 to 40. Friberg hopes it will eventually even out at about 50-50.

“If you look at the marketplace, there are fabric jobbers like Robert Allen who are very good in fabrics and who do nothing in wallpaper. Other people in wallpaper do nothing in fabric, and yet the two are totally related and linked. There are only a few companies that do a good job at both.”

Retail prices for Motif’s wallpapers range from $16 to $24 for the Rosie line, $18 for Whimsical Walls, $21 to $36 for Marimekko and $20 to $75 for Ralph Lauren. Fabrics begin at $20 per yard in all lines, go to $95 for Lauren linens and as high as $145 for a few select items in other lines.

Make an inexpensive decorator floor with wallpaper!

Image result for wallpapered kitchen floor

About 20 years ago, when I was a young remodeling contractor, I had a customer who wanted an old mansion remodeled. This old house was from the turn of the century and had servants’ quarters, five bathrooms, six or seven bedrooms, several fireplaces, etc. The owner, although a little eccentric, knew what she wanted and was willing to pay whatever was needed to get it.

To my extreme surprise, one of the things she wanted was a wallpapered kitchen floor. When I questioned her she told me that her father had done it in her childhood home years earlier, and it had held up as well as linoleum. She said he had put several coats of spar varnish on it for durability. Of course, years had changed the finishing technology and we used a polyurethane for the coating, but the rest was still the same. The pattern she picked matched the wall and was very striking.

After removing two layers of old linoleum, we put down a quarter-inch layer of plywood to even out the rough surface that remained. Then the seams had to be filled and sanded smooth. (Any good lap and leveling compound will do.) Once the floor was perfectly smooth we had to prime it.

There are several good products on the market today that we didn’t have then. One is a wall prep that is almost clear, dries quickly and can be rolled or brushed on. This will make the surface suitable for wallpaper.

A Fabric Backed Vinyl Wallpaper wall decor

Your selection of wallpaper is important. The most durable is a fabric-backed vinyl, however any vinyl-coated paper can be used. Prepasted papers are not recommended. It is very hard to control the water and sometimes there is too much paste on it, other times there is not enough. I find that a good premixed paste works best. Ask your wallpaper store clerk for a recommendation on which one to use for your particular paper.

Try to visualize your pattern on the floor. Center the first strip so that the last strip at the wall on each side will be about the same. Nothing looks worse than a pattern that doesn’t match the walls. Borders can be added at the edges or cut into the center. Place the pasted border over the wallpaper where you want it and very carefully cut through both layers–both border and wallpaper. Then remove the excess wallpaper from under the border. Repaste and smooth the border in place using a seam roller. (Remember a seam roller should be used on all seams to set them properly.)

Sponges or squeegees can be used to smooth the paper onto the floor. After the floor is completely dry (this may take more than one day), apply your first coat of urethane. Allow this coat to dry before applying your second coat. The more coats you apply, the more durable the finish and the longer your floor will last.

Then tackle the ceiling

Prepare the ceiling as you would a wall. To mark off the first plumb line, measure 1/2-inch less than the width of your paper to create a half-inch overhang on the wall to prevent gaps. Cut each strip of paper four inches longer than needed, so it will overlap onto the walls.

Mark plumb lines as you go. Using a chalk line may be easier than holding a level upside down and drawing a pencil line along it. However, you will need a yardstick to make sure the line is plumb.

Apply paste and fold the paper accordian-style. Line up the first strip with the plumb line and smooth down the first section along the line, gently pushing paper into the corner and edges of the ceiling. Have a friend hold the remaining folds of paper up with a broom while you work your way across the ceiling.

More wallpapering hints are available from Storey’s Basic Country Skills, by John and Martha Storey, available from the Countryside Bookstore, W11564 Hwy. 64, Withee, WI 54498; 800-551-5691. $24.95 plus $2.50 P&H.

Measuring tips

Image result for wallpapering the floor

Measuring for wall paper quantity can be done by multiplying the length by the width of your floor and dividing by 24 or 36. Twenty-four square feet is the amount in a single roll of vinyl coated paper, 36 sq. ft. in a fabric backed vinyl paper. Depending on the type you select, the quantity will be very low. Allow a little extra if the pattern you choose is a drop match; an extra roll or two is a good idea anyway. Flaws are prevalent in wallpaper, so check each roll before you start–you may save yourself a headache. Wallpaper stores will replace rolls that haven’t been used, but you’re out of luck if you already pasted it.