• Cindy W. Hodnett

Motion furniture now satisfying both genders

Cindy HodnettCindy Hodnett - Upholstery Editor
North Lima, Ohio - Think of it as the battle between Bubba and Barbie.
     On one side of the motion coin, there are big, brown, overstuffed upholstery pieces. Built for comfort and not necessarily for style, "Bubba" motion upholstery is a bestseller for many retailers and a favorite with the guys, perfect for watching the game or giving in to an impromptu nap.
     At the other end of the spectrum, legs that go on forever and slender, simple frames adorn the "new" motion category, a design concept that underscores the premise of creating motion that appeals to female consumers. And just like Barbie - the lean, long-legged doll adored by billions of little girls - updated motion pieces are prompting a second look from ladies who've eschewed the motion category in the past, much to the delight of retailers and manufacturers.
     Ohio-based Sheely's Furniture dedicates one-third of the store's upholstery slots to motion, and manufacturers represented in the store include Flexsteel, Klaussner Home Furnishings, Best Home Furnishings, Southern Motion and Cheers/Man-Wah USA. Upholstery Buyer Marge Slavik said that qualifying exactly what the customer is looking for in a motion product is imperative.
Sheely’s FurnitureSheely’s Furniture shows this Klaussner motion group in a room setting.
a customer is always important, but in the motion category, it is vital!" Slavik said. "The first thing you need to find out is if they have had motion furniture - not a recliner - in the past. Most people have owned a recliner, but motion furniture is different."
     Slavik said Sheely's motion business has grown 18% over the past five years, and she adds that power motion has been one of the most significant developments to the category. Price points for Sheely's motion product ranges from $649 to $1,799, offering various styles, materials and functions.
     "You need to ask where the furniture will be placed in the home," Slavik said. "If the customer has a home with an open floor plan, then usually the back of the motion pieces will be exposed. If it is power motion, which is about 65% of our business, then power cords or the battery pack will also be exposed."
A motion group from Best ChairA motion group from Best Chair is also on the floor at Sheelys.

     She said manufacturers have recognized the need to provide a variety of designs in motion.
     "High-leg recliners sell very well," she said. "Also, most manufacturers have some motion furniture that has sleeker lines rather than the Bubba styles, although the Bubba styles sell better."
     At La Difference in Richmond, Va., Sarah Paxton, vice president of sales and finance, said that pieces like Domicil's Lucca sectional attract women who are looking for function and nontraditional motion form.
     "Both the ratchet headrests and hidden footrests are controlled electronically," Paxton said. "When not in use, they are tucked neatly away to return to the minimalist, modern design. Women like the Lucca because it's a reclining sofa disguised like a beautiful, modern sectional."
     Jaime Wasser, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Wasser's Exclusive Furniture & Interiors in Hallandale, Fla., said she has seen significant interest in motion designed to appeal to women.
Difference in RichmondDomicil’s Lucca features electronically controlled headrests and hidden footrests. It’s popular with female consumers at La Difference in Richmond, Va.

     "There is a huge need for more sleek and contemporary designed motion pieces," Wasser said. "A lot of times the man of the household wants a recliner and the woman of the household doesn't particularly like the recliner look. Products like American Leather's Odyssey are a very happy medium and serve the male's need to have a recliner and the woman's need of being comfortable and functional without being an eyesore in the home. It is our number one selling recliner."
     Jeff Selik, president of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based retailer Hillside Furniture, said electric motion recliners are popular with female consumers.
     "Once you put an electric motor in a recliner, you are making it so much easier for everybody to open and close," Selik said. "These chairs can also be quite slim and slender, which is also very appealing."

Jaime Wasser of Wasser’s Furniture in Florida said she has seen significant interest in motion designed for women, like this recliner from American Leather.
Jaime Wasser
Cindy HodnettCindy W. Hodnett | Upholstery/Style Editor

As the Upholstery/Style Editor for Furniture/Today, I spend my work hours studying the sloping curves of sofa frames, the intricacies of fabric and the nail head trim and button accents that function as jewelry on a piece of upholstery. I research the companies that bring these things together for retailers, and ultimately consumers, and interview industry leaders about their business strategies and where they think furniture is heading in the future. And when traveling, I provide a sneak peek at what I'm seeing, whether at international markets or in High Point or Las Vegas.

I look forward to sharing what I see and I hope you'll feel free to do the same. Email me at chodnett@furnituretoday.com or follow me on Twitter @CynthiaWHodnett.

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