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Larry Thomas

Power, quick-ship program fuel motion sales

HIGH POINT - A heavy dose of power mechanisms, a quick-shipping program and several splashes of color created a recipe for a successful market in motion upholstery showrooms.
     Vendors said the vast majority of their product introductions did well here, although sectionals, console loveseats and just about anything with a power reclining mechanism appeared to lead the pack.
     And they said it was no coincidence that their most popular intros were not necessarily the items with the lowest price - a power mechanism alone will add about $100 at retail. Instead, those that delivered the most value were the biggest winners.
     "If it comes down to just price, we're not going to win," said Chuck Tidwell, vice president of merchandising and product development at Franklin. "People will pay more for a product that offers good value, if it makes sense for them."
     Besides power mechanisms, enhancements such as iPod docks, improved foam cushioning, hidden storage

A drop-down tableA drop-down table with an iPod dock and two speakers are among the features of the Chastain sectional from Catnapper.
units, cupholders with chiller units, built-in reading lights and articulating headrests were among the goodies available on a number of products - not to mention the fashion-forward cover choices that eschew the so-called "commercial" looks that often dominate motion displays.
     "This is where motion needs to go if we're going to continue to grow the category," said Don Hunter, senior vice president of major accounts at Catnapper. "The low end commercial customer is out of the market."
     Added Lee Fautsch, vice president of sales for home furnishings at Flexsteel, "The motion category continues to be the dominant category in terms of growth."
     The fashion-forward elements give many motion intros the look of stationary upholstery, which executives said appeals to female consumers who are still skittish about having motion furniture in their homes.
     "We wanted to provide the look of stationary and the comfort of motion," said Greg Morgan, vice president of merchandising at Lane. "And the things we have done in this area were very well received."
     Among Lane's biggest new product hits were three motion groups with high-leg designs and optional power mechanisms. Catnapper, meanwhile, enjoyed success with a pair of sectionals that accommodate iPods and Bluetooth technology, while La-Z-Boy received positive response to a new power mechanism that allows the back and the footrest to operate independently with a remote control unit.
     The new La-Z-Boy mechanism initially is available on 10 recliner models - including four that were new at market - and may be expanded given the positive feedback it received, Paula Hoyas, vice president of upholstery merchandising.
     "It was a very exciting market for us," Hoyas said. "People loved the new mechanism and all the point-of-purchase material that we have to go with it."
     Klaussner also unveiled a new power mechanism with an improved motor and a fiveyear warranty, while Barcalounger introduced a lineup of vintage recliners equipped with power mechanisms.
     Klaussner and La-Z-Boy were among the half-dozen vendors that also had major recliner rollouts at market. Flexsteel, for example, had eight new recliners available with a leather-like fabric cover called Nuvo Leather, while Lane introduced 16 domestically produced recliners retailing for $599 to $999.
     Franklin, meanwhile, introduced new foam cushioning for its recliners featuring a layer of memory foam blended with high-density foam that is chamber cut, while Klaussner added more than a dozen domestically produced recliners to a special order program.
     Klaussner promises 21-day delivery and allows the consumer to choose from among six mechanisms and dozens of covers.
     "We think there is still room on the sales floor for a recliner department," said Len Burke, vice president of marketing. "And we think our special order capabilities will be a very attractive option."
     Palliser, meanwhile, reported a successful market in home theater, a category that is fueling growth in the company's upholstery business.
     "Mainstream furniture retailers are starting to add this category because it provides them with an opportunity for incremental business," said Lorri Kelley, vice president of sales for the western U.S.
     She and several other executives said power mechanisms continue to be important not only in home theater but throughout the motion category.
     "Power is outselling manual by four to one," said Roberta Woodard, vice president of merchandising at Parker House, whose Parker Living division introduced several motion pieces with power. "It enables the dealer to raise his average ticket ... and the consumer is happier."

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