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Larry Thomas

Motion appeals to increasing range of buyers

Stylish ElliottThe stylish Elliott motion sectional was a market winner for Flexsteel.
HIGH POINT - A renewed focus on style, quality and product features kept motion furniture showrooms busy at market as buyers eagerly shopped for the latest product introductions.
     Producers said that while price was still an important part of the buying decision, it generally was not the key driver. They said dealers were seeking styles that eschew the "bubba" stereotype and appeal to a wider range of consumers.
     "People are looking for motion product that appeals to the female consumer, and we think power mechanisms and better styling will address that," said Lee Fautsch, senior vice president of sales for home furnishings at Flexsteel.
     Fautsch said the company, which unveiled a dozen new motion groups in its market showroom, had success with items that had upgraded fabric and leather covers, as well as add-on features such as power mechanisms.
     Similar success was reported at Best Home Furnishings, which rolled out its Next Generation collection of small-scaled, contemporary and transitional recliners.
      The new chairs feature an array of leather covers in lighter hues such as blue, yellow and white.
     "The response was great," said Eric Vollmer, the company's advertising director. "We saw double-digit attendance increases (the first two days of market) and that pattern continued."
     Recliners were also a big part of the market success story at Home Stretch, which significantly expanded its lineup of freestanding recliners.
     The new models, which generally retail for $399 to $599, feature the same quality construction and quick delivery stories as the rest of the line, but also include styles and features that aren't commonly found in the marketplace, said Home Stretch Vice President Gentry Long.
     "If you can create a style that's not the same as everybody else, but can be competitive on price, you will do well with it," Long said. "We had good placement on all of our new chairs."
     Chuck Tidwell, vice president of merchandising and product development at Franklin, agreed that product differentiation is critical, and said it can be established in the eyes of female consumers with right combination of fabric, design and comfort.
     "It must have eye appeal. It has to be inviting," Tidwell said. "Motion is all about comfort, but it has to be inviting to sit down in it."
Franklin’sFranklin’s new 445 sofa features a curved front seat design and a breathable polyurethane cover.

     He said Franklin had success at market with a motion sofa retailing for about $799 with an innovative seat design using a curved front, as well as a sectional with a queen-sized sleeper and two reclining seats at $1,999.
"It was our busiest show in the last four or five markets," said Tidwell. "We were very pleased."
     Tidwell and other executives said the availability of domestic production also played a key role in buying decisions.
     "A lot of dealers told us they're looking to get their motion domestically ... since they're already getting their stationary here," said Randy Spak, vice president of sales at American Furniture Mfg., which introduced three motion groups. "We haven't been known as a motion house, but there's no reason why we can't be."
     Peter Bjerregaard, president of the U.S. subsidiary of Norwegian motion producer Ekornes, said dealers at market were enthusiastic about his company's first U.S. factory, which opened early last year and has resulted in a 20% increase in sales of the upper-end Stressless sofa.
     "We have been able to achieve a 60% to 70% reduction in delivery time by using our North Carolina factory," Bjerregaard said. "We're expanding our program from that factory."
     Also pleased with market were executives at Jackson/Catnapper, which scored a hit with the launch of Custom Creations, a program offering three cover choices for every stationary and motion frame in the line.
     Anthony Teague, the company's senior vice president of sales and merchandising, said about half the product line will become part of Custom Creations in the first quarter of next year, with product shipped in seven to 10 working days.
     "Dealers who already carry our line are excited about the possibility of increasing sales per square foot ... and those who haven't carried us because of the lack of special-order capability are now interested in adding us," Teague said.
     The company also had a winner with its licensed Duck Dynasty line of camouflage-themed upholstery. Motion sofas in the collection retail for $799 to $999.
     Competitor Prime Designs reported similar success with its licensed line of Duck Commander furniture, which includes 10 recliners as well as several sofas and sectionals.
     "The feedback was tremendous," said Jerry Marlin, vice president of merchandising. "I don't think any major (retailer) who was in our showroom refused to buy it."
     Duck Commander is a producer of duck calls and other hunting paraphernalia that is owned by the family who stars in the "Duck Dynasty" reality show.
     "They have a very successful business, and on top of that, the TV show has made them celebrities," Marlin said. "We feel like we're getting a double shot."

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