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Larry Thomas

Motion intros aggressive at High Point Market

Vendors emphasize price, value in hot category

HIGH POINT - An aggressive round of product introductions and innovations at this High Point Market has kept motion furniture showrooms busy as buyers seek ways to keep the category's sales humming.
Many showrooms have been seeing buyers since the middle of last week - well before the official Saturday opening - and exhibitors say showroom traffic has remained steady throughout the first few days of market.
Buyers are, as usual, looking for motion products at hot price points that can be promoted, but exhibitors said they're also seeing increased interest in higher-priced goods that offer high perceived value and deliver better margins.
"There really is no bottom to the marketplace, so we have to make sure our story is all about comfort," said Anthony Teague, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at Jackson Furniture. "We want to sell comfort instead of price."
To that end, Jackson's Catnapper motion division is touting a new gel-infused foam called Comfort Gel that will soon be in every seat cushion the company makes, while category stalwart La-Z-Boy is broadening the memory foam offerings throughout its motion lineup and its iconic recliner line.
"Consumers understand the concept of memory foam, and we think we'll continue to do well with it," said Penny Eudy, La-Z-Boy's product manager for upholstery.
In addition to comfort, motion and recliners resources are emphasizing style at market, trying to wipe out the notion that motion and style don't belong in the same sentence.
Broyhill is marking its return to the motion category with a lineup that has stationary-like designs and hidden mechanism releases, while resources such as Southern Motion and Flexsteel are emphasizing colors other than brown.
"We've had a lot more interest in color," said Lee Fautsch, vice president of sales for residential furniture at Flexsteel, which is unveiling 15 motion groups at market. "It certainly gives the category more appeal and higher styling."
The widest variety of colors is at the showroom of Southern Motion, which is unveiling a colorful lineup of motion furniture and recliners with Solarium, the weather- and fade-resistant fabric line from Richloom. The new line isn't designed to be used outdoors, but is aimed at bringing the look of outdoor furniture to the interior, said Jennifer Davis, Southern Motion's director of merchandising.
"This takes the motion category to a whole new level," Davis said. "We've had excellent feedback thus far."
Exhibitors said leather continues to be a popular cover choice for motion, and several executives said they are seeing increase demand for top-grain leather instead of bonded leather or similar faux leather products.
"We're finding a tremendous void in the marketplace for better leathers, and we need to give the consumer a reason to step up," said Chuck Tidwell, vice president of merchandising and product development at Franklin.
Tidwell's company is showing new motion sofas retailing for about $1,199 in leather, while Flexsteel and La-Z-Boy have new models in the $1,799 range.
Executives at Kuka Home, meanwhile, are enthusiastic about response to the company's debut in motion, which is the centerpiece of the leather upholstery producer's major showroom expansion.
"We're starting off with a bang," Brian Parker, president of Kuka's U.S. division, said of the motion debut. "Retailers don't change vendors just for fun, but we hope we've given them a good reason to consider making a change."
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