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Ashley to revive Berkline/BenchCraft furniture brands

Will begin rollout in October, with major push in next 12 months

Gary Evans -- Furniture Today, August 22, 2011

ARCADIA, Wis. — Ashley Furniture says it plans to resurrect the Berkline/BenchCraft line of furniture products, reintroducing it under its current name but as a member of the Ashley stable of companies.

"Our intention is to really enhance both those brands over time and make those brands what they once were - which was distinctive brands in the furniture industry," said Ashley President and CEO Todd Wanek.

Ashley acquired the intellectual properties of Berkline/BenchCraft earlier this month for $6.07 million in a bankruptcy court bidding process. The company's bid topped those from others, including Best Home Furnishings and Li & Fung, an international development and distribution company based in Hong Kong.

Ashley's initial "stalking horse" bid for Berkline/BenchCraft was $850,000.

A rollout of product will begin in October, with a major expansion over the next 12 months, the company said.

Wanek said Ashley will not open plants for the manufacturing and distribution of the former company's products but will produce them out of current plants in Asia and the U.S.

"Obviously, the Berkline and BenchCraft names have been very important names over the last 30-plus years in the furniture industry. We felt like the IP for designs, patents as well as brand names were important for our organization," he said.

He said the brands will be sold through their previous channels of distribution, including traditional furniture stores, mass merchants and other outlets.

Berkline, for years one of the dominant players in the motion furniture category, ceased operations three days before the start of the spring High Point Market after several failed attempts to find a buyer or secure additional financing. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 2.

"Over time, we plan to make them what they once were," Wanek said. "We're pretty excited about this acquisition and how they fit into the Ashley family of brands and the opportunities they offer the company."

Staff Writer Heath E. Combs contributed to this story.