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A New Generation of Youth Furnishings Boosts Industry


Looking around at the International Home Furnishings Market this year in High Point, N.C., it was hard to miss the growing importance of kids furniture to the furnishings industry.

Whether traditional nursery furnishings or upholstery and other furnishings plastered with Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse, baby boomers are spending a lot of money on their children's rooms.

The baby boomers have more money to spend on their children and grandchildren than any previous generation, said industry analyst Jerry Epperson, managing partner of Mann, Armistead & Epperson of Richmond, Va.

An increasing amount of that money is going toward higher-end licensed furnishings, such as casegoods, upholstery, bedspreads and accessories, which are expected to be both stylish and grow up with the child. "We're the first generation to have most households with two incomes," Epperson said.

"That has helped make youth furniture the hottest group of all out there because the boomers are spending money on their kids in many different ways. The leaders in youth furniture just can't make enough right now.

Tammy Anderson, president of High Point-based Sidney Arthur, said youth furniture has grown from 10% to 35% of her company's business.

"We're getting a lot of grandmothers into our store who are wanting to buy traditional nursery products and are willing to spend the sky as the limit," Anderson said.

"The older baby boomers are also willing to spend a lot more on furnishings for their children, and they expect the furnishings to grow up with the child."

Alexander Malamud, president of Brooklyn-based Retro Bedspreads in New York, said his business concentrates on bedding and individual pieces for kids 5 to 15 that feature popular cartoon characters and sports teams.

"The kids like happy, bright colors, and that's the way a kid's room should be," Malamud said. "Sports are really big, and we'll customize a child's name onto a bedspread or pillow with his or her favorite sport on it."

The growth in youth furniture convinced Wingate-Monday Co. at the time of its merger to focus on licensed products such as Pooh and Mickey Mouse, according to Bill Balatow, vice president of marketing.

"What we sell toward is impulse buying, particularly by grandparents, with endearing characters from their own youths," Balatow said. "It's nice to be trendy, but you can't really gear yourselves toward fads in youth furniture. What happens when you spend a lot on furnishings and the child doesn't like that character next year? You're stuck."

Balatow said parents tend to be very comfortable buying Pooh and Mickey Mouse products for their younger ones.

Once the children get older, such as 5 or 6, they begin to buy Warner Bros. furnishings, which tend to be a little edgier in style and bigger in size, he said.

"The next big goal is to find just as popular characters to merchandise for when these youths begin to age out of Bugs and Pooh, which is about age 8 for boys and 11 to 12 for girls," Balatow said.

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