At an average High Point Market, to-the-trade furniture company Caracole usually debuts 200 to 300 new SKUs. This season, with Market canceled and the world shaken by the coronavirus, the Greensboro, North Carolina–based brand decided to whittle down that number, editing its spring collection to just 80 items.
“We know that our customers still want new and exciting pieces from us, but we also felt that, right now, it was important to give them a more manageable assortment to choose from,” says Charley Holt, the company’s senior vice president of marketing and brand experience. “Even in the best of times, retailers can only absorb so much inventory, and we know that we’re not our customers’ only source. This is us doing our due diligence and making things easier for them.”
In deciding which products to move forward with, the company gathered members from all corners of the business—which meant not just representatives from the product development and sales teams, but also from departments like logistics. “We looked at every factor,” says Holt. “We [considered] design and what we needed to offer to make a room feel intact. We looked at price points and production costs, but we didn’t make a play for low quality or low prices—we just kept the best of the best.”
This exercise in moderation proved to be something of a teachable moment for the company, Holt says, illuminating the fact that the brand may have been introducing too many SKUs all along. While that may not mean a new standard cap of a hundred SKUs for every new collection, the company does plan to take a more thoughtful approach moving forward. “There’s so much out there, and we want to home in on what is true to the brand and right-size our product count going forward.”
After making its selections, Caracole chose to precut those 80 pieces, meaning they’re already in production, a move that will expedite the shipping process. Normally, the company waits until after Market to decide which pieces to produce, opting not to manufacture many of the hundreds of SKUs [that showed less potential]. “It’s a huge financial investment to precut these pieces,” says Holt. “But it means that we will be able to have these products stateside a lot quicker and get them into stores sooner. We wanted to position this collection in a manner that is well-styled, well-priced, and delivered well in advance of our typical delivery cycle. This edited and highly focused collection supports retailers’ need for fresh, new styles, while creating retail velocity to make the most of their open-to-buy in 2020.”