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Larry Thomas

Motion designs now appeal to everyone

Flexsteel’s ElliottFlexsteel’s Elliott sectional includes a clean contemporary design and styling details on the arms.
High Point - Conventional "wisdom" says that women will tolerate motion furniture in their homes as long as it in the basement, den or some other low-profile location.
     They traditionally have been turned off by the bulky, overstuffed designs that, as one astute observer described it, "look like two one-armed recliners bolted together."
     But Bubba and his design brethren - whose three favorite colors are brown, brown and more brown - are gradually being pushed aside by styles that are more appealing to women.
     "The motion customer has become more sophisticated," said Chuck Tidwell, vice president of merchandising and product development at Franklin. "Their focus is more on style. They're not as interested in the big, clunky designs."
     Granted, there are still plenty of the so-called "commercial looks" in the marketplace, but Tidwell and other upholstery executives say they're seeing increased demand for more sophisticated styles, fashion-forward covers and smaller-scaled pieces.
     "We have worked very hard over the last several (High Point) markets to ensure we have motion designs that appeal to women and those who are style conscious, yet insist on the ultimate reclining comfort," said Paula Hoyas, vice president of merchandising at La-Z-Boy.
Marcus Motion SofaThe contemporary Marcus motion sofa has been a winner for Klaussner.

     Delivering better styling as well as the comfort that motion furniture purchasers have come to expect has proven to be challenging from a design standpoint, but executives say better mechanism designs and the widespread acceptance of power mechanisms have enabled manufacturers to legitimately use "style" and "motion furniture" in the same sentence.
     "Since women are often the ultimate decision makers when it comes to furniture purchases, the goal is to provide something that she would be proud to have in her home," said Lee Fautsch, senior vice president of sales for home furnishings at Flexsteel.
     Sheldon Lubin, president of El Ran Furniture, agreed, noting that virtually all of his company's motion groups are intended for the "front room," not a basement or hideaway.
     "We have found that quick delivery, custom order capabilities and extensive library of covers has been the driving force in the growth of this category," Lubin said.
El Ran FeatureThe Colton loveseat from El Ran features distinctive stitching and a sleek arm design.

     In addition to improved styling, executives said power mechanisms have been critical to increasing the category's appeal to women, who often struggle with opening and closing a traditional, handle-activated manual mechanism.
"We believe that upgrades like power have added additional to the category and will continue to be a key driver of motion purchases," Hoyas said. "Comfort can be achieved at the touch of a sleek button."
     Tidwell said roughly one-third of Franklin's motion sofas are now sold with power mechanisms, and said the percentage is "growing every day" thanks to improvements in mechanism design and activation methods.
     "The retail acceptance has been overwhelming so far," he said of power mechanisms. "Comfort is still the key ingredient, and power just adds to the whole comfort story."
Simon Li’s popular Motion MaxSimon Li’s popular Motion Max collection includes this model with a leather cover called blackberry.

     Fautsch agreed, and said he believes it's one of the reasons the category will continue to grow even if sales of flatscreen televisions level off.
     "We are now making the category appeal to 100% of the population," he said. "Women are drawn to the more fashionable colors and smaller scale designs."
     Fautsch said "fashionable neutrals" such as gray and off-w hite are popular cover choices, as are brighter colors such as red and yellow.
      Pantone's two most recent "color of the year" choices - emerald green and orchid - haven't found their way onto motion sofas yet, but colors such as tangerine and butterscotch have popped up. And executives say that's merely a preview of things to come.
     "For the upcoming April market, we will showcase additional product that evokes cleaner lines and incredible shape, which we are confident consumers will love," Hoyas said.

This contemporary seating group from Best Home Furnishings includes sleek buttons to activate the mechanisms.
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