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Making Lemonade

April 25, 2014

The youth furniture industry has been handed more than its fair share of lemons lately with the recent announcements that Stanley is halting production of its Young America youth line and La-Z-Boy’s plans to sell off its Lea youth business.

The announcements have saddened most in the industry, and left many retailers scrambling to find replacements to fill the floor space these brands will vacate. Licensing partnerships have ended, and the business is losing two of its biggest names in the span of a month.

On the surface, it seems pretty dire.

But talking to both manufacturers and retailers, it’s clear that while there’s concern about what this means for the industry, there also are new opportunities arising for others.

“Stanley offered so much, and those galleries were so big, so there’s opportunity, in a way, for everybody,” said Doug Devine, president of NE Kids. “I think the inventory will dry up fairly quickly and the retailers will need us really quickly. The needs are immediate, and it’s based on who is positioned to fill those immediate needs with looks retailers want.”

NE Kids was one of a number of manufacturers that reported an increase in traffic and interest during Market. Many received interest from retailers and buyers they’d never done business with, along with regular clients, some of whom rearranged their plans to attend or spend more time at Market. And to meet the needs of these retailers, some manufacturers are expanding their lines, such as Universal, which will add cribs to its Smartstuff youth collection this year, and Delta Children, which made its Market debut with new youth options to go along with its nursery program.

On the retail side, the transition may be a bit more complicated, but several retailers have expressed an excitement about having floor space to try new brands they’d had an eye on.

While no one likes to see major brands leave the marketplace, the youth furniture industry is definitely working hard to make the proverbial lemonade in the wake of this bad situation. This isn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last that this industry has weathered a storm. And judging from the sense of optimism and determination that still pervades, I believe the youth furniture business will handle this challenge just as well.