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Larry Thomas

Power a game changer in motion showrooms

Franklin’s MatrixFranklin’s Matrix motion sectional includes two seats and a chaise that recline to a full layout position. The power reclining mechanisms, reading lights, and other features are controlled by a keypad (inset) that folds into one of the arm storage units.
HIGH POINT - Motion furniture and recliners had a powerful presence at the market here - pun intended - as exhibitors ramped up their offerings with power reclining mechanisms amid greater consumer acceptance of the product.
     With retailers now displaying as many as two-thirds of their motion frames with power mechanisms, exhibitors said it was essential to make power widely available throughout their product lines.
     "The power mechanism is changing the face of the whole category," said Penny Eudy, upholstery product manager at La-Z-Boy. "It's definitely here to stay."
     Flexsteel made the same point by stringing real power lines across portions of its showroom (minus live electricity) and adorning two showroom walls with murals of transmission line towers.
     And Catnapper, the motion furniture brand from Jackson Furniture, developed a kiosk for retail stores that demonstrates the ease using power mechanisms.
     "Our power program has been a huge success," said Anthony Teague, Jackson's senior vice president of sales and merchandising. "And I don't see that going away."
     Executives said power mechanisms resonate with consumers accustomed to power seats and power windows in their cars, and also are a hit with older baby boomers who may have difficulty opening and closing standard mechanisms.
     "It was all about power, power power," said Roberta Woodard, vice president of merchandising at Parker House, which added three motion groups to its Parker Living line. "Nobody was looking for anything in manual."
     Several exhibitors unveiled second-generation power mechanisms they believe will further increase their penetration on retail floors.
The NorfolkThe Norfolk recliner from Mac Motion Chairs features an adjustable air bladder in the back of the chair that provides lumbar support.

     La-Z-Boy, for example, introduced a mechanism that also adjusts the headrest and provides lumbar support, while Palliser had a power mechanism that allows the chair to rock and swivel.
     "It was the hit of the market," said Cary Benson, Palliser's president of sales and marketing. Initially, the new mechanism is available on four recliners, and also is battery powered, which eliminates the need to place the furniture near an electrical outlet. The battery will last about a month and can be easily removed and recharged, Benson said.
     A few other exhibitors, including Flexsteel, also offered batteries in certain models.
     For consumers who like to sleep while reclining, several producers unveiled seats that recline a full 180 degrees to the so-called lay-flat position.
     Franklin, for example, incorporated no fewer than three lay-flat seats in its new Matrix sectional, and Catnapper had a new lay-flat recliner featuring gel-infused foam in the seat cushion.
     In addition, Mac Motion Chairs introduced a contemporary reclining chair that lies flat when used with a matching ottoman that can be raised to the same level as the chair.
     The new entry also featured an air bladder in the back of the chair that can be adjusted to provide varying levels of lumbar support.
     Mac Motion Chairs President Butch McCracken said the dual air bladders, which are controlled by a button on the side of the chair, come from the same company that supplies a similar product for Mercedes-Benz and BMW automobile seats.
     "This had a very positive reception," McCracken said. "It gives a whole new perspective to the reclining chair market."
     Home theater seating also remained popular in motion furniture showrooms, with Lane's new Dream Machine seating group heading the hit list. The new group has a reclining seat on each end of the unit, and a loveseat in the middle that contains a queen size sleeper mattress.
     "This is all part of the fusion of home theater and motion," said Bo Morrison, Lane's director of home theater merchandising. "The reaction was tremendous."
     Others enjoying success in home theater included Canadian producers Palliser and El Ran, both of which specialize in leather covers.
     El Ran was also one of several motion producers reporting success with high-leg designs, which is gaining in popularity because it brings the look of stationary upholstery to motion pieces.
     "Our high-leg groups are really cooking," said Sheldon Lubin, president of El Ran. "It's all about options and delivery."

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