Entertainment walls making a comeback at High Point Market
New pieces also geared for ever-growing TV screens
Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, April 19, 2013
HIGH POINT - Home entertainment furniture is making a bigger splash with new product at this week's High Point Market week than at recent markets.
Topping the list are pieces that can accommodate larger new televisions in the 60- to 70-inch range, and the return of entertainment walls. Suppliers are also honing in on key retail price points.
West Port Home is refocusing on entertainment walls with five units.
For many manufacturers, walls went out of favor when consoles became the category's focus, according to Albert Lin, president of West Port Home. High-definition flat screen televisions once commanded a high price, helping to do the same for entertainment walls.
"Because before everyone was paying so much money for a television they wanted a nice wall unit with it. But you know, once furniture (exceeded) the cost of a television, it changed the market," Lin said. "Now that you can get a 60-inch TV for so cheap, no one wants to pay more money to get a wall unit."
Lin said wall units - either traditional configurations or console bridge setups - are most competitive under $2,000 at retail. It helps to be closer to $1,500 or at the key $999 price, he said.
"The problem with wall units is if you have to hit a certain price range and if you're not hitting that price range it's not going to work," Lin said.
Mercatus, a Hamburg, Germany-based supplier, will devote special attention to entertainment walls, selling contemporary high-end looks for a target $999 retail price, according to Hagen Rickers, CEO.
Rickers said Americans' taste for contemporary style is growing. Its two entertainment walls come in white and other colors aiming for high style, but don't include features like gas lifts and soft-close shutters that that pricier entertainment consoles offer.
"It's special, it's different, the price is good and we see a chance for the product in the American market," Rickers said. "People are looking for good looks - but not so expensive."
Hooker Furniture has a more aggressive assortment of entertainment pieces here than in recent markets, according to Hank Long, senior vice president of marketing.
"The thing about entertainment is, right now, it's either very low... or you've got to play the style game and hit the upper-end consumer," he said. "We've got a lot of better-end consoles where we are going more for style and the better stores. Then we do have a little promotional program that we're working on that we hope to sell to some of the bigger customers that are focused on price."
The promotionally priced program aims for volume retailers with several consoles that fit 60-inch televisions and aim for a $599 to $699 retail.
"You can go into Costco today and buy a 55-to-60-inch TV for five or six hundred dollars. We think our console will retail for around the price of the TV that takes them," Long said.
In walls, Hooker is offering smaller versions in a casual style and two big walls that can fit 70-inch televisions. Looks are accent-influenced and paired with a high-quality finish story, with retail price points from $1,199 to $1,999, Long said.
Back by popular demand, he said, are television lifts with a center unit, finished back and optional piers. A center television unit will retail for about $2,500.
"Ten years ago this was a huge business for us. It died out to some degree. People tried to take it to the bottom. But we're coming with a real premium lift with safety features and warranty," Long said.
Contemporary offerings are a big push at Martin Home Furnishings, which is offering four new walls this market, according to Gil Martin, CEO.
"A few years ago all everyone was saying is ‘all we can sell is TV consoles,' but walls that complement a flat screen TV seem to be growing stronger and stronger again," Martin said. "What we're doing that seems to be well received is we're not just making it a rectangular box, we're either putting an arch in the front or a breakfront so that it breaks up the plane in the front edge of it and we're doing more decorative doors."
Martin said most of entertainment's color story continues to center on medium to warm brown and mocha finishes, in addition to black and a little white.
"There's no light maple or light cherry that seem to be working these days, although people keep wondering whether it will work again," Martin said.
Standard Furniture is continuing to emphasize the entertainment story with 14 new entertainment units here in addition to the 14 it introduced at the recent Las Vegas Market, according to Debbie Dilbeck, sales and merchandising executive assistant.
Previously, Standard's entertainment line offered only the Transitions and Paramount units, plus small television chests coordinating with bedroom suites and units that were a part of occasional table collections. The company is now expanding in the category with three dedicated price points and selling features within each group.
Introduced first in January were starting 48- and 54-inch Icon units, with retail price points around $149 and offered in several finishes with open adjustable shelves. Also shown were Premier units mid-priced at $249, which will now be offered in a full range of sizes in 48- to 72-inch lengths.
These units have various door, drawer and shelf configurations as well as various designs in four finishes.
New in High Point are Bravo units that start at $349 and are available in 54-, 60- and 72-inch lengths to accommodate the largest size flat screen televisions. The units use a press technology that greatly increases surface durability, Dilbeck said.
This technology also makes possible new edge profiles that are continuously wrapped, as well as progressive finishes in 3-D wood grains, metal and stone looks and high gloss surfaces, she said.
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