Motion furnishings cozy up to electronics
Larry Thomas -- Furniture Today, March 4, 2013
HIGH POINT - Motion furniture and electronics have been soulmates since the advent of the flat-screen television a decade ago, but a number of furniture resources are taking that partnership a step further.
A full-fledged marriage hasn't transpired yet - mainly because no one is brave enough to market a sofa with a built-in TV. However, furniture producers increasingly are incorporating smaller personal electronics into their products, which allows today's multi-tasking consumer to use high-tech gadgets while relaxing in their furniture and watching television.
Everything from phone chargers to iPod docking stations to reading lights to USB ports to stereo speakers have appeared on recliners, motion sofas and motion sectionals of late, and there's no indication these gadget-enablers are going away anytime soon.
"You can already use a lot of these devices in your car, so why not make your furniture adaptable to it?" said Chuck Tidwell, vice president of merchandising and product development at Franklin. "Now, consumers can sit in their furniture, be comfortable, and enjoy the technology at the same time."
And let's not forget how they get comfortable in the first place - by activating their power reclining mechanism.
"These are not gimmicks. We'll add any gadget that is beneficial and meaningful," Tidwell said.
Bryan Rach, vice president for product development at Palliser, said that more than half the company's home theater groups are now sold with some type of add-on, such as LED-lit cup holders, ground lighting, or a "bass shaker" that links the seat to a subwoofer and vibrates in synch with music or a movie.
"We have seen a huge demand for gadgets consumers can add," Rach said. "I think consumers like to personalize the product based on their preference."
He said most purchasers are used to personalizing the options when they buy a car, so it makes perfect sense to develop similar customization programs for furniture buyers.
"This has been happening forever in the auto industry," Rach said. "People decide on a custom (options) package - either an updated sound system all the way to heated seats."
Tidwell said the most popular electronic gadget by far, however, is the cell phone charger. It was an instant hit when first offered one Franklin sectional more than a year ago and is now available on numerous motion sectionals and sofas.
"One of the first things people do when they get home from work is hunt for the (phone) charger," he said. "Now, you can have it built into the furniture and you will never lose it."
A recent online survey conducted by Furniture/Today and the popular website Apartment Therapy echoed Franklin's experiences.
Of the 775 consumers who responded, the most popular electronic feature they identified was a docking station for cell phones, laptop and tablet computers, and iPods. And the survey showed that consumers under 25 were twice as likely to want a docking station as those age 45 and up.
The second most popular electronics feature, according to the survey, was heated seats. That was followed, in order, by massage, reading lights and audio speakers.
Producers typically include a docking station in a console that separates the seats in a loveseat or sectional, and it's not unusual to include a storage unit, cup holders or other features as well.
Anthony Teague, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at Jackson Furniture, said a console with a docking station has been so popular that is it now available with all modular sectionals in the company's Catnapper motion line as well as the Jackson stationary upholstery line.
"That has been the secret to our success in this category," he said of the console/docking station.
Next on the horizon, according to Teague, is the addition of USB ports and power outlets. That way, consumers don't have to drain the batteries of their favorite devices.
"We know the family today enjoys their time lounging in front of the television with each person having their own device in their hands," Teague said. "All of them fight for nearby power outlets when needed, and they are never close enough."
He said the company plans to launch those items later this year.
|Button-activated power mechanisms have been extremely
popular at Klaussner and are now available all motion pieces
including the Carmen sofa, shown here in bonded leather.|
|Palliser’s popular Infineon
sectional includes lighted cup
holders, a docking station with
USB ports and a removable
table that supports a laptop or
|One of Franklin’s best-selling sectionals includes reading lights and four seats that have heat and massage units — all of which
are operated by a control pad in the console.|
|The Everest sectional from Catnapper now includes an iPod docking station, stereo speakers and a storage unit.|
Catnapper's Trent recliner features an iPad "claw" that holds the device.