Ashley Furniture to launch New Millennium contemporary line
Company will invest $40 million to create, introduce new product
Thomas Russell -- Furniture Today, October 12, 2011
ARCADIA, Wis. — Ashley Furniture is planning to invest $40 million in a major product launch that begins the next chapter of one of the most successful lines in the company's history.
At the October 22-27 High Point Market, the company will unveil the New Millennium, a follow-up to its original contemporary Millennium collection, which was in the line from 1987 to around 2000.
Taking a page from the original, the New Millennium will offer contemporary, fashion-forward designs. It will include two new, mostly U.S.-made, case goods collections and one collection of imported and domestic leather upholstery.
Three new domestic youth groups also are planned, each offering three styles of beds and some corresponding case pieces.
"We feel the market is ready for it and is hungry for this look," said Ashley Chairman Ron Wanek. "Contemporary is coming on strong."
When it was launched, the original Millennium stood out in the marketplace due largely to its use of high-gloss black and colored finishes as seen on more expensive European-made product, company officials said. Ashley said it brought those looks to the U.S. market at affordable price points.
"It was a tremendously exciting product line that put us on the map," Wanek said. "We feel that this rebirth of Millennium is right on for the market."
Kerry Lebensburger, Ashley's president of sales, said the original Millennium was "a trendsetter" and that the timing is right for a new version in a marketplace that is seeing a return to true contemporary looks.
"This is where the rest of the world is going and America needs to lead it again.... The industry has seen enough Louis (Philippe) and rustic," he said.
The new collection will have a broad color palette that also will incorporate two-tone finishes, the company said. Many pieces also have mixed media elements aimed at a softer contemporary design footprint.
"It's very livable for today," Lebensburger said. "It's not retro."
He added that prices on the New Millennium will be in line with Ashley's current pricing structure.
"It's got to be affordable," he said. "Anyone can bring in new and exciting things, but it has to be affordable for Americans in this economy."
The case goods include bedroom, dining room and living room furniture. Each of the groups will have two to three beds and corresponding case pieces. Each will also have two dining tables.
With the exception of two dining chairs, the wood portion will all be domestically produced with much of the production planned at its Arcadia, Wis., plant.
"We are trying to do everything we can do here because it makes it easier for our customers," Lebensburger said.
The New Millennium also will have 12 to 16 upholstery groups, some of which will be made domestically, Lebensburger said.
The $40 million investment represents spending on various aspects of the line ranging from manufacturing and product development to the marketing and merchandising.
The company also is retrofitting its High Point showroom in the International Home Furnishings Center, H-900, to showcase the line. To get to the 5,000-square-foot display, visitors will walk through a shipping container that will lead to the upholstery. Beyond that will be living room, bedroom and dining room vignettes as well as a revamped youth section of the showroom.
In recent weeks, the company has shown product sketches to dealers around the country. Based on early positive feedback, it is expecting a strong reaction at market.
"The reaction across the country has been, ‘Thank goodness someone is doing something different,'" Lebensburger said. "We want to set the trend for the next 10 years."