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Larry Thomas

Features, power, style keep motion going

United Furniture’s newUnited Furniture’s new Options collection includes this motion sectional with a storage drawer, reading lights, cup holders and a USB port, among other features.
LAS VEGAS - Hoping to maintain the sales momentum that has driven the category throughout the recession, producers of motion furniture and recliners are using the Las Vegas Market to fill style and product niches and show off marketing materials.
     Producers say the category is continuing to grow even though flat-screen television sales - the key sales driver during the depths of the recession - have cooled a bit.
     Many executives believe recent improvements in styling, as well as the popularity of power reclining mechanisms, will keep sales trends moving upward regardless of the number of TVs that are sold.
     "Motion just continues to drive our business," said Lee Fautsch, vice president of residential furniture sales at Flexsteel. "Years ago, it started out as a ‘bubba' category, but it's far from that today."
     Fautsch and others said both the styling improvements and power mechanisms make motion furniture more acceptable to women - many of whom wouldn't have considered the product previously.
     "Now, it's used as much in the living room as the family room," said Fautsch. "That wasn't always the case."
Flexsteel, like most other motion resources at market, is keeping its product rollouts modest with just two new motion groups, but that doesn't mean they're backing off their pump-priming efforts to drive business.
     "We are balancing out our product assortment by focusing on motion and recliners this market," said Greg Morgan, director of merchandising at promotional powerhouse United Furniture.
     "The majority of the product retails at $699 (for a sofa) and goes up to $999 with power."
     New products include four motion groups and a half dozen recliners. Morgan said some are being shown with velvet covers, which he believes are poised for a comeback. "Velvets have a strong history in motion and recliners, so the timing is perfect," he said.
     Also emphasizing recliners at market is Best Home Furnishings, which is adding a pair of contemporary models to a product line dominated by transitional and traditional designs.
     "Most recliners are traditional, frumpy designs. These two recliners are very sleek and stylish," said Eric Vollmer, sales and marketing specialist. "Many of today's consumers, especially women, love the comfort a recliner can provide, but dislike the styling."
     The new recliners are available with bonded leather or leather/vinyl covers, as well as six mechanism and base configurations.
     Other key product introductions can be found at Lane, which is offering a high-leg wingback recliner; Mac Motion Chairs, which is unveiling a lineup of swivel recliners with matching ottomans retailing for $399; and Parker House, which is expanding the motion offering in its popular Parker Living line of leather upholstery.
     In addition to high-leg recliners, Lane is showcasing a motion seating group designed for big and tall consumers that utilizes the Comfort King mechanism found in some existing recliners.
     The group will accommodate consumers weighing up to 350 pounds, and its sofa is the length of a king-sized mattress when fully reclined. Mac Motion's swivel recliners and ottomans feature all-steel construction and are available in four bonded leather colors. Select colors will be added to the company's popular quick-ship program, and will be displayed in its newly expanded World Market Center showroom in A-1040 and A-1038, said Butch McCracken, president.
     "The opportunity to keep the high-profile position at the entrance between buildings A and B ... will allow the company to increase its footprint by adding approximately 27 chair and ottoman combinations," said McCracken.
     Parker House, meanwhile, is emphasizing power mechanisms with its product introductions, which include a pair of power recliners and a power motion seating group.
     In addition, AC Pacific is unveiling two motion seating groups that also feature power mechanisms. The new models also have chrome-plated legs, and some pieces are equipped with USB ports and charging units for personal electronics.
     Power also is a focal point at UltraComfort America, which is spotlighting its Au-toLounger collection of power recliners. The company said the mechanism moves the chair into several reclining positions, including zero-gravity.
     The Au-toLounger collection consists of five models in three sizes, and each model is available in at least one fabric that is part of the company's quick-ship program.

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