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Price, function, scale key to chairside tables

HIGH POINT - One might think the chairside table a promising candidate for a furniture inferiority complex.
     But that would be wrong. These little guys have begun to sport more stylish looks and are often among the most popular sellers in occasional product offerings.
     Their small scale offers a handy option for storage and versatility in homes, and they're a popular add on sales piece with recliners.
     Chip Piekenbrock, director of marketing for Flexsteel, said his company offers 27 chairside tables with retail pricing ranging from $199 to $299, and they're among the best-selling SKUs.
     The keys to sales are price, function and scale, he said.
     "Most people who purchase chairside tables are putting them between two recliners or chairs," Piekenbrock said. "They are small but yet serve a function - a place to put a drink or if they have a drawer, a place to store all your remote controls."
     Jofran President Joff Roy said many consumers in the promotional and popular price segment don't have enough space to fit two full size end tables, which has helped make some chairside tables best sellers.
     Two types of consumers that buy chairside tables, he said: those looking to complement their upholstery and those using them as storage-based accent pieces, just about anywhere in the home.
     "For the latter, they stretch us out of the living room and den and into bedrooms, bathrooms and home offices," Roy said.
     Tom Daley, vice president of marketing and western region sales for American Drew, Lea and Hammary Furniture, said the chairside table business has been a fast-growing category - in tandem with motion furniture, home theater and recliners.
     The company has more than 50 chairside tables in its lineup, he said. Anyone who buys a chair or recliner is a potential customer, no matter the style or price point they are shopping in, Daley said.
     The primary motivator to purchase a chairside is the size, he said. An occasional chair or recliner usually floats in a room, making a larger end table impractical.
     "Many homes simply don't have the space to add an end table next to their recliner or lounge chair," Daley said.
     He added that about 75% of the chairside tables his companies sell are an impulse buy, when consumers plan to just buy a recliner. The companies' top 10 tables in the category retail from $99 to $299, with $199 the most popular price.
     "When retailers add chairsides throughout their recliner department and next to stationary chairs in their upholstery settings, their return on investment is fantastic," Daley said.
     He said some tables now include features such as power bars, under a lift top, with wire management holes on the sides.
     Standard Furniture offers eight chairside pieces, according to Debbie Dilbeck, sales and merchandising executive assistant. She said one reason for the chairside's popularity is upholstery design - like the trim-line modern or transitional sofas with lower arm heights, or chair-sofa configurations that require narrower tables.
     While Gus Design Group is known more for its upholstery, chairside tables are an important business, said Jon Isaak, marketing manager.
     Gus aims to design tables that are simple, unique and versatile, he said, adding that customers choose side tables that can be easily moved from one setting to another or combined with each other to create a variety of decorating options.
     "Many of our customers live in downtown lofts, condos and apartments. Their space is more limited and as a result they often choose fewer pieces of furniture that each serve more than one purpose," Isaak said.
     The company has nearly 20 chairside tables in its collection. While some of its chairside tables are part of larger collections of accents, some of its most popular are stylish standalone pieces, like the Acrylic I-Beam Table that uses acrylic panels in a sculptural design.
     Chairside tables are popular with online retailers, Isaak added, because they ship easily and consumers have a greater degree of confidence ordering the category, which is more about style and finish than comfort.
     In the chairside realm, Sunny Designs does mostly smaller versions of end tables to match a collection, but it also offers wedge-shaped tables in any of its popular woods and finishes, said West Allen, vice president of merchandising. They're designed to hit promotional price points at about $99 or less and are used by many dealers as doorbusters, Allen said.
     Sunny Designs also offers smaller "sofa mate" tables, frequently promoted at $59. These include magazine racks and are designed to sit next to a sofa or chair.
     At Powell, chairside tables are a "first thought" accent piece, said John Conrad, senior vice president of merchandising.
     "We look at what is selling in stationary and motion upholstery and exposed wood accent seating, sizes, finishes, and cover colors and patterns. The product has to offer functional storage and a great complementary look to whatever seating it is next to," Conrad said.
     He said that in size, the tables shouldn't overpower the seating yet should be the correct heights for lamps and access.
     One thing that has changed in recent years is that chairside tables are marketed more for use in various rooms of the home, and as storage for electronic remotes and devices rather than magazines and printed literature, Conrad added.
     At Lane, chairside tables are developed as a program called Recliner Accents, closely aligned to the recliner business, according to Bruce Frenzel, vice president of merchandising, case goods and occasional at Lane and Broyhill. One sales opportunity for the category is suggestive selling, he said, which packages Recliner Accents with Lane Recliners to create a compelling value story.
     "By showing recliner accents in the recliner department, alongside of recliners, the consumer can understand the merits of the product, thus leading to greater sales," Frenzel said. "To the retailer, it is not an item purchase, but rather a program purchase offering diversity in style and design."

This Structure collection wedge table from Hammary comes in a dark silver finish with metal and wood combination, contemporary style and castered feet.
Standard Furniture’s mirrored Parisian chairside chest is a popular standalone seller. It comes fully assembled.
Standard Furniture’s
Sunny Designs
Sunny Designs Rustic Oak “sofa mate” table line includes this design, which has a magazine rack and is designed to stand next to a sofa.
This No. 1034-7 chairside table from Jofran comes in an antique black with rub-through finish. Company officials said medium-toned browns, merlots, espressos and antique finishes sell well.
Jofran comes
This Benjamin
This Benjamin chairside table from Powell has a reclaimed driftwood look, industrial style metal base and a neutral finish.
This recently introduced Saluda chairside table from Broyhill features casual lodge styling, handle pull hardware in a gunmetal finish, and a slightly distressed warm oak finish.
Saluda chairside
Chairside tables
Chairside tables like this Pawn Stool in walnut from Gus Design Group highlight a contemporary style and design focus in the occasional category.

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