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Expectations great for Yule: merchants pick hottest products for the season.

MERCHANTS PICK HOTTEST PRODUCTS FOR THE SEASON

HFN Report

NEW YORK -- There's no place like home for the holidays. That's the tune many retailers are humming this week as they head into the 1996 selling season.

Consumers intend to spend 12 to 20 percent more this year than last, based on surveys by the National Retail Federation and the International Mass Retail Association, respectively. And these consumer plans should translate to retail sales increases of 5 to 6 percent over 1995, the organizations reported.

Retailers are confident home furnishings -- ranging from digital satellite systems and fleece throws to bread machines and bakers' racks -- will top many shoppers lists. Here HFN presents a special report on the hottest holiday home furnishings.

Guy DuVall

Housewares department manager

Ace Hardware

"We expect bread machines to be strong sellers. Sales of bread machines have been soft so far this year, but they always do best in the fourth quarter.

"The vacuum business has been real strong this year -- up 10 percent over last year. So we hope this will carry over into the holiday season. The category has had some pretty heavy television advertising and we've bought enough of them. We are looking especially at Royal's Vac Broom, Eureka's Super Broom and Bissell's Little Green Machine."

Denis Lemire

Executive VP

Ames

"One hot item is the T-Fal fryer. Its everyday price point is $59.99, on sale it's $49.99. It's selling really well right now, and if it's selling now, it will do well for Christmas. It's been one of the biggest surprises for us. And it's not a cheap price point for us."

Bob Davidow

Teacher/leader

Benchmark Express

"RTA computer workstations priced at $299 to $399 will be our best-selling items for the Christmas season. This is the year for everyone to get a computer, so it's a natural and relatively low-cost adjunct purchase. The cost of a work station is only about 10 percent of the cost of the computer hardware. Most people don't have a sufficient or satisfactory workstation, so there is a real need for this product."

Phil Schoonover

Senior VP of marketing

Best Buy Co.

"We think it will be DSS because of the increased number of models and the price reductions."

William Gallagher

GMM for hard lines

Boscov's

"Hot products are breadmakers and T-Fal cookware. No particular brand or type of breadmaker; the entire line of T-Fal is expected to be a best seller."

Jack Reeves

Assistant to the chairman

Bradlees

"I think cookware is going to do very well for the holidays, particularly T-Fal cookware sets and frying pans. They've been huge for fall, and they're going to keep the momentum going for the holiday shopping season."

Mike Lubka

Director of merchandising

Chef's Catalog

The Gaggia espresso machine from Italy should be a bestseller, despite its retail price of $999.99.

"The Gaggia transcends most espresso machines. This grinds the coffee beans, clamps the cup, brews the coffee and throws away the used beans -- even for one cup. The frothing function is one of the best I've ever seen. People who are really stepping out can get it for their house, or as a nice addition to the office. We were lucky enough to get it."

Frank Rothing

DMM

Cotter & Co.

"Based on our experience, power tools are always our biggest sellers at Christmas time. They make great gifts for Dad. Especially brand names like Dewalt from Black & Decker."

Con Maloney

President

Cowboy Maloney's Electric City

"We're going to sell VCRs and TVs and speakers for home theater, and we're looking for satellites [Digital Broadcasting Systems] to be out of this world. For the consumer, satellite systems are different and many of them have just been exposed to them at a neighbor's house."

Rick Lamb

VP of merchandising

Home Express

"One of the biggest categories in the fourth quarter is flannel bedding -- sheets, comforters, duvets. It's a huge category, a very large percent of the company's business in the third and fourth quarters. We offer all imports, in solids, patterns, Christmas motifs starting at $7.99."

Tammi Wolf

DMM

J.C. Penney

"The biggest things in bedding for us will be the Pacific Coast down comforter program. It's just been very well received by stores and customers, and it's just a super gift-giving item as well. Our 230 sateen sheet is a great sheet at a fabulous price. It's a real luxury sheet. In towels, the Martex Grand Patrician is certainly going to be great, and so will Royal Velvet. Luxury type towels are going to be big sellers."

Ed Hearne

Divisional VP

Kmart

"In the area of small appliances, we expect breadmakers, coffeemakers, cappuccino machines and toaster ovens to drive holiday sales for the category. Other popular holiday purchases will be wafflemakers, sandwichmakers and rotisseries which are a new product offering for us this year."

Linda Quirk

DMM

Lee Jay Bed & Bath

"Our hottest category has been fleece, including throws, blankets and top of the bed. Brands such as Berkshire, Biederlack, Crown Crafts and Indoor Outfitters have been great and we expect that they will do extremely well for Christmas.

"The price points on a Biederlack throw, for example, are $19.99, and on Berkshire, $29.99. Other fleece-related items that will do well include Pillow Buddies from Crown Crafts."

David Hochberg

Vice president

Lillian Vernon

"We think our bestseller for the holidays will be personalized bean bag chairs for children. They have a suggested retail of $49.99. This year we have an entire line of the personalized bean bags and extended it to a lot of different decor motifs and for both genders."

Bob Ciarrocchi

DMM

Macy's East

"Anything nonstick is doing well right now. Farberware nonstick aluminum we expect to do well and our exclusive Vanguard line of Farberware has been very good."

Robert Christnacht

Home furnishings merchandise manager

Mercantile Stores

Bread machines "and all the bread extensions that go with it, whether they be bread knives, bread boards, bread mixes."

In soft home, there are two hot areas: "down products, the better, the hotter" and "anything denim."

Mike Searles

President

Montgomery Ward Merchandising

"We have exciting hot sellers that include WebTV, which allows you to access the Internet without a computer, selling at $329.99; DSS systems selling at $199.99 after rebate; LCD camcorders ranging from $599 to $899; an exciting lineup of tabletop homewares, name-brand kitchen electrics and cookware; and a great selection of recliners from $299 to $499."

Robert Batt

Vice president

Nebraska Furniture Mart

"From Thanksgiving until Dec. 26, the best selling rug item is a Santa Claus rug. Then it's dead. We bring in several sizes and patterns from various manufacturers. They sell for as little as $19 for small mats to $300 for some Milliken area rugs. Most are accent rugs under $100. I also predict General Industries' Looney Tunes rugs will be a very hot gift item this season. They're different, they're colorful. It's the ultimate cash-and-carry rug."

George Schwartz

Vice president, GMM

Pergament Home Centers

"This may sound a bit strange coming from a home center, but our hottest product this holiday season is an ab toner. We put up large, 4-foot signs with the 'As Seen On TV' logo. We've tagged them at $39.99, and are selling them like crazy.

"We have also done unexpectedly well with desks. As an classification, during the first two weeks of November, desk sales were up by 68 percent. Everyone is buying computers."

Steve Woodward

Divisional VP of merchandising

Pier 1

"Rattan and wicker are by far our best sellers. Metal and rattan combinations sell extremely well. Interestingly, our customer is really trading up. Our old best sellers at the lower prices are taking a seat behind slightly higher price points, $145 to $200 for a chair, for example. The customer is attracted to quality.."

Margaret Bonham

Divisional VP, merchandise manager, soft home

Popular Club

Hot products are scented candles in frosted glass with holiday type fragrances such as evergreen and needlepoint holiday pillows. "I think it's price points. Both of them are under $15, and they're great gifts if you want to get something for someone, but you just don't know what. I think the candles fit into the spa-type experience that's quick and simple and easy to do, as well."

Lance Graves

VP, home merchandising

QVC

Hot products are Hamilton Beach Steam Grill, Breadman Plus bread machine ("The Baby Boomer wants to pretend to do all those homemade things, but they want to do it in three and a half minutes."), Sony WebTV, Boyd's Christmas collectible bear and a turbo torque gadget for corkscrews.

Rick Borinstein

VP, merchandise marketing

Radio Shack

"Direct-to-home will be the No. 1 family gift. The whole family benefits. It has great popularity especially since it has become more affordable. The programming is the No. 1 reason why people buy DBS.

"Also wireless -- both cellular and PCS where available -- will be strong again this year. We are promoting cellular phones for Christmas by offering $50 free airtime with phones sold in most markets during November and December."

Pat Stagner

DMM

Rich's

"Pillow Buddies, a fleece animal-shaped pillow for children, priced at $24.99, is already selling at a phenomenal rate. We're blowing them out. They come in the shape of dinosaurs, dalmatians, cats and rabbits.

"Also, our luxury business has been on fire. We're running high double digit increases in luxury and the phones are ringing off the hooks for Larry Laslo Silk Pajamas [from WestPoint Stevens]."

Charles Domingue

DMM

Sears

"Two categories that are going to be hot in textiles for Christmas are fleece throws and coordinate products between bed and bath. Fleece throws are a great gift item as well as functional. People are spending more time in their home now and they want to be comfortable. This item affords them the opportunity to do that.

"Secondly, we've begun to coordinate a lot of our product between bed and bath at Sears. People decorating for the holidays want to re-dress their bed and bathroom in anticipation of the holidays and for family coming in."

Jill Nance

Buyer

The Container Store

"It's called a photo mouse pad, and its made by Click Products Inc. The product's really cool. It's a mouse pad, but it has a space to insert up to a 4-by 6-inch photo. You can also keep a phone list or a list of computer commands there.

"We think its' going to be really hot because personal computers are so hot right now, and this is an inexpensive accessory at $9.99."

Robert Gunst

President and CEO

The Good Guys!

"The WebTV product will be hot from Sony and Philips, and the DSS product will continue to be hot at Christmas. I think we'll start to see some interest in the Internet surfing phone from Intelifone for $299. It's the size of a normal telephone, but it has a panel that flips out for a keyboard and you can send electronic mail, get the weather, stock quotes and your horoscope on the screen."

Sydney Klevapt

Senior VP of marketing

The Sharper Image

The best-selling item in both dollar volume and profitability is the $2,795 exclusive getaway roller massage chair; and the best-selling home-related item in terms of units is a 10-motor back massage pad for $150. "It's all about relaxing tension from everyday life." Massage items account for three of the top 10 items (including non-home) in early Christmas sales.

Rick Jones

Senior VP, GMM

Tops Appliance City

"From all indications, it'll be big-screen television. It's been real good going down the stretch and we project it will continue to do well."

Bill Bennett

DMM

Waccamaw Corp.

"For us, our hottest and best overall home furnishings product this holiday season has been our assortment of bakers' racks. To be even more specific, our black wrought iron bakers' racks have done the best within our assortment. From my perspective, black wrought iron certainly appears to be a motif that is central throughout all home furnishings."
COPYRIGHT 1996 MacFadden Communications Group LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Retail Pulse
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Nov 25, 1996
Words:2010
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