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  • Larry Thomas

Motion upholstery remains a proven seller

The Prime motionThe Prime motion sofa from Lane includes a drop-down table with options such as Bluetooth and iPod docking stations and a USB port.
HIGH POINT - Despite light to moderate showroom traffic, motion upholstery vendors wrapped up another successful market as buyers continued to capitalize on the category's almost recession-proof popularity.
     Executives said most retailers were optimistic about business conditions, and appeared willing to break away from "safe" colors and styles to merchandise their floors.
     "During the past couple of years, nobody wanted to make a mistake. They couldn't afford to," said Bruce Sinning, vice president of merchandising for motion upholstery at Klaussner. "But now, I think a lot of people are considering making major changes to their floor."
     Sinning and other executives said that means buyers no longer choose various shades of brown for all of their top cover choices, and they're looking for styles that are slightly less "commercial" (aka Bubba).
     Even plaids and stripes were shown on a few pieces - a rarity for motion furniture.
     Klaussner and La-Z-Boy were among the vendors that added large splashes of color to their motion floor samples, and many of the new colors appeared to be well-received by buyers.
     "We can't abandon the high-volume, mainstream looks ... but there has to be some eye candy there, too," said Mark Wagner, La-Z-Boy's vice president of brand and retail marketing.
     Wagner said La-Z-Boy customers have been especially interested in fabrics and leathers in the blue and gray families, while officials at Lane and Palliser, among others, said lighter colors such as whites, yellows and reds also attracted considerable attention.
     "Color has always been a big part of our story in leather, and this market, we added 74 new fabrics as well," said Cary Benson, president of sales at Palliser. "Since we're not importing from Asia, our color selection has never been limited to just a few choices."
     Benson said Palliser had success with a motion program that included six sofa frames at the same price, while one of La-Z-Boy's biggest market hits was the addition of memory foam as an optional seat cushioning material in its recliners and sofa-sleeper mattresses.
     "Introducing these innovative upgrades and options to our La-Z-Boy recliners and mattresses helps take the comfort experience to a whole new level," said Paula Hoyas, vice president of merchandising.
     Officials at Lane said they were pleased with the response to the expansion of its large-scale Comfort King line into motion furniture (it previously was limited to recliners), while chair resource Mac Motion Chairs had a winner with its new Comfort Chair line of contemporary reclining chairs and ottomans that retail for $399 to $499.
     "We hit it out of the park with everybody," said Tony McCracken, vice president of sales at Mac Motion.
     Other popular market introductions included a motion sectional with four reclining seats at Parker House, a high end robotic massage chair at Cozzia and a new leather-like fabric called Leath-Aire at motion furniture powerhouse Man Wah.
     Steve Barr, president of Man Wah USA, said the new fabric was extremely well received because it has the look and feel of leather, but helps alleviate the confusion between bonded leather and genuine leather covers because the product is clearly marketed as a fabric.
     "Bonded leather wasn't consumer-driven. It was driven by retailers looking for a lower price point," said Barr. "I believe our product is consumer-driven."

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