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Larry Thomas

Motion vendors reach for broader audience at High Point Market

Innovations, better style keep category marching

HIGH POINT - Amid signs of gradually improving business conditions, motion furniture and recliner resources are launching an aggressive round of product introductions at the High Point Market as they try to reach a broader range of consumers with the right blend of style and comfort.
Most producers say business was brisk in the first quarter, despite some indications that television sales - long a driver of motion sales - are growing at a slower rate. However, most say innovations such as power reclining mechanisms, built-in charging stations and other technological advances should keep driving furniture sales.
"Our business hasn't slowed down at all," said Anthony Teague, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at Jackson Furniture, which makes the Catnapper motion brand. "Our factories are working six days just about every week to keep up."
But neither Teague nor any other executives are complaining. They're just hopeful the first-quarter momentum will continue throughout the year.
"With the tax refund season getting off to a late start, you just don't know how that's going to affect business for the rest of the year," said Chuck Tidwell, vice president of merchandising and product development at Franklin.
Tax refunds are often a key sales driver for first-quarter business - especially for more promotionally priced lines such as Franklin - but since refunds didn't start landing in consumers' bank accounts until early February this year, sales patterns could be affected positively or negatively, Tidwell said.
But in keeping with the glass-half-full attitude, Franklin and most producers are rolling out an array of new products at market, emphasizing innovations such as power mechanisms, as well as design elements that give motion furniture the look of stationary upholstery.
Catnapper, for example, is unveiling no fewer than six motion seating groups - including one with gel-infused foam seat cushioning - while category stalwart Lane is adding five seating groups and six recliners.
In addition, several companies not well known as motion furniture resources are jumping into the category head-first.
England, for example, also has a half-dozen motion seating groups, while Broyhill is rolling out its first significant motion program in nearly a decade.
And LaCrosse Furniture, which hasn't had a High Point showroom since 2006, is returning to the market with an emphasis on its expanded motion furniture and recliner lineup.
"We're excited about it," said LaCrosse President Chris Podschun. "We want to expand our presence with Top 100 stores and mid-major accounts, especially with motion."
The company is showcasing a new pair of motion seating groups with sofa price

from p162
points of $1,299 to $1,599 in power, an expanded lineup of push-back recliners retailing for $799, and a line of high-leg recliners that was a hit at the Las Vegas Market in January.
"Our freestanding recliners have really helped us add a lot of (retail) floor space," Podschun said. "We're trying to keep everything in stock so we can have backup inventory for our direct container program."
Broyhill's new program, meanwhile, includes six motion seating groups with power reclining mechanisms. One of the new entries has gel-infused foam cushioning, and another group features a four-piece reclining conversation sectional.
And Franklin's new product lineup is centered on a motion sectional retailing for $1,599 to $2,299 in fabric and $1,699 to $2,399 in bonded leather.
Plus, Emerald Home, which is expanding its Center Point showroom, is adding to its motion lineup with an ultra-contemporary group and second new group with a Bluetooth console that allows for wireless music play from smartphones and tablet computers.
Other key introductions can be found at HomeStretch, which is unveiling three motion sofas at $799 and $899 and three recliners at $399 to $599 in its expanded showroom; and La-Z-Boy, which is adding several recliners to its popular Designer's Choice collection.
Palliser also is expanding its recliner lineup with six new models retailing for $699 in fabric and $899 in leather, while Prestige Motion has a new lineup of motion sectionals with power mechanisms at $1,799.
Prestige Motion's product rollout includes five new power lift chairs, four leather motion groups, and six fabric motion groups.
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