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Thomas Russell

Home office vendors tap core strengths

AT THE MARKET — Many home office vendors here are sticking to their core strengths in order to offer buyers the greatest values in the category.

The result is a mix that offers something for nearly every consumer, ranging from executives who like large-scale office setups in their home to younger professionals who rely on smaller, laptop-friendly desks or work stations.

Bush Furniture Kathy Ireland collections even have configurations for working moms and their children to work side by side. These include a child's desk and chair that can be perched next to small desk and hutch combinations for moms, offering plenty of storage space and work surfaces.

Dealers like the style and finish combinations, all of which coordinate with Kathy Ireland's lifestyle-themed style influences, according to Bush. They also like the fact that work areas have added safety features ranging from slow-close hinges on hutch doors to rounded corners on desks and tempered glass desk tops.

Bush also is showing dealers how to take well established professional workplace configurations offered in its Workplace Solutions by Bush Furniture into the home. A kiosk in the showroom educates dealers about the program, including finish options and various configurations.

Taking a cue from its popular modular library wall systems, Parker House is receiving strong dealer response on new soft contemporary wall units each available in one of three finishes.

Priced at about 25% below its more traditional library walls, a 10-piece unit, including a corner block that allows it to fit along an L-shaped corner, retails at $4,000. A companion 60-inch writing desk is also available.

Dealers like the multitude of storage options and the mix of finishes including merlot, burnished cherry and cottage white.

"We try to put every piece in those library walls that a customer would need," said Roberta Woodard, vice president of merchandising. "This is a style departure from anything we or other wholesalers have to offer. It will appeal to a more youthful consumer."

Golden Oak by Whalen is showing a host of new and existing home office SKUs ranging from L-desk and hutch configurations to its Space Saver Suites that offer pieces such as single ped desks with mini hutch units and companion bookcases.

Dealers like the variety of options in the line as well as the mix of styles ranging from the more traditional Breckenridge collection to the more transitional, soft contemporary Cappuccino collection, both of which offer desk and hutch units and companion bookcases, officials said.

Also receiving attention in the showroom are smaller scale laptop-friendly units, including drop lid desks with hidden storage, pullout work surfaces and built-in data ports. The contemporary Montreal computer desk and return, with companion bookshelf and rolling file units, also is doing well.

AICO Office Systems is revamping its lineup this market with 28 SKUs of smaller scale product aimed at the work-at-home professional.

"We are trying to make dual use furniture, commercial grade office furniture that looks like residential," said Joe Mathieu, national sales manager for AICO Office Systems. He said a key goal is to appeal to work-at-home professionals in areas from sales to information management and information technology.

"Everyone is more tech savvy now and we are trying to reduce (scale), streamline and make it look cool at the same time," he said.

Dealers like the clean contemporary looks and variety of the line, which includes desks, meeting tables and credenza hutch units made with walnut veneers and contrasting metal bases.

They also are responding well to eight new adjustable-height, ergonomic office chairs, many of which are available in a variety of bright colors.

Kurio King, which is making its debut here this week, is receiving strong response to its solid wood bookcases, including a new line of contemporary cube footprints that retail from $189 to $499. Dealers like the flexibility of the program, which allows them to select varying sizes and finish options.

"Buyers tell me it is going to work because of the flexibility, the quality and the price," said Sergio Zorio, marketing director.

The company also is receiving strong response to its new rustic/Mission inspired JR collection, which offers a 60-inch writing desk, rolling file cabinet and two hutch units, including a bookcase and two-door version. Dealers like the solid oak construction and features such as dovetail drawers and full extension drawer glides.

Aspenhome continues to receive dealer interest and orders on its Workspace Furniture Solution merchandising program, which offers home office solutions for various areas of the home where people work, ranging from the living room or family room to the bedroom. Popular items include peninsula configurations, writing desks and small desk hutch workstations.

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