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From Home Furnishing Business

What Sells: Where Style and Comfort Meet

Motion furniture is addressing consumers’ desire for sleeker designs and more conveniences.


Luxurious … stylish ... elegant—words you might not expect to hear when talking about recliners and motion furniture.

But times have changed.

Comfort and style have converged to create motion furniture that fits almost any lifestyle and décor.

“The large, bulky frames are losing their place,” says Bobby Gantt, director of research and development for Southern Furniture Company. “Better styling is taking over. Companies are making sleeker units to hide in frames better.”

Power play

“Comfort is always key … but power continues to grow and remains a demand of customers. Additionally, technology enhancements like USB charging are strong added features,” says Penny Eudy, product manager of upholstery, merchandising and TLA. “For La-Z-Boy, our Duo line has been a big hit. It offers the stylish look of stationary, but the comfort of reclining—so it’s the best of both worlds.”

USB ports are standard on Duo, and there’s an optional battery pack to provide power, cord-free.

Also gaining momentum in the category, says Craig Young, president of Bradington-Young, are new mechanisms that deliver a variety of design options. “Power recline and power headrests remain appealing features for our motion consumers,” he adds.

“As motion furniture continues to grow at an increasing rate, we continue to offer more innovation and increasing functionality with our products. Power headrests have become a must-have in motion products and offering power lumbar support has also proven to be the perfect touch to add to our product,” says Rodd Rafieha, senior vice president of Abbyson.

“We also have more versatile features we are including, such as drop-down consoles with pull-up headrests that include lighting as well as lighted cup holders, power and USB ports,” he adds.

“Connectivity is important these days—USB ports and charging stations,” says Gantt, adding that simple but effective power mechanisms are gaining popularity. “It allows for more comfort options as opposed to just three positions.”

Scaling down

While comfort is king and technology is the icing on the cake, manufacturers are finding success with scaled-down versions that have the look of stationary furniture.

“Consumers crave the comfort of motion furniture, and we find a strong appetite for motion designs that don’t look like the category’s traditional silhouettes. We continue to innovate our designs so that they look like stationary designs, but offer a comforting surprise,” says Young. “Our smaller-scale, stylish designs with an optional lumbar support are also capturing the attention of motion-savvy consumers.”

An example is Bradington-Young’s bestseller, the Newman Luxury Motion sofa. “The sofa, which falls into our luxury motion segment, offers a sophisticated design that incorporates the functionality and comfort consumers want in motion upholstery,” says Young. “Newman allows comfort and incredible design to coexist in one great sofa.”

One trend that Gantt has seen in motion furniture is “frames aimed for women … smaller, curvier, and a larger array of fabric and leather options,” he says. “A large number of consumers look for motion furniture that resembles traditional stationary seating.”

“Consumers’ taste in motion furniture has shifted from the bulky, oversized products to focusing on a more transitional look that still focuses on comfort and style,” says Rafieha. “Our bestsellers are the sleek and slender styles that mirror the look consumers are aiming for.”

Strong performers

So what makes a bestseller a bestseller?

“Bestsellers for us is what sells the most volume for our partners and provides our partners with the best gross dollars profit,” says Rafieha. “We also monitor customer reviews and their experience with our products so that we can continue to develop products that consumers are looking for to complete their homes.”

The motion category continues to be one of the industry’s stronger performers, says Young. “We are selling at all price points in the category,” he adds.

La-Z-Boy, says Eudy, has always been known for comfort. “When you add in the quality of our products and the overall value and sheer number of scaling options, there is a great fit for everyone,” she says. “Additionally, the fact that our furniture is fully customizable makes each piece truly unique.”

Larry Smith, CEO of Barcalounger, says their Seymour Collection is a top seller because of its "clean modern design and the trend-forward white leather with gray undertones. The pieces are highly functional as well, with both power headrest and power recline, USB ports, and personal memory position." The color, Dove, has proven so popular, he adds, that it’s been requested on other pieces manufactured by the company.

Motion forward

Innovation, manufacturers say, continues to attract consumers.

“Innovation will be critical as the category moves forward,” says Eudy. “Consumers want function and comfort. It’s bringing the two worlds together to give them everything they need and want.”

Part of that innovation is making the pieces more comfortable and convenient. “We see a number of newly engineered mechanisms coming into the category that accommodate longer legs, a deeper seat, and a taller power headrest,” says Young.

Another area of the market that continues to see solid growth, says Gantt, is stylish lift chairs. “The aging population is into technology,” he says.

“Looking forward, the motion furniture industry will continue to add more functionality to every piece that is being offered,” says Rafieha. “The time is coming when every piece in retail stores will include power features.”

What the data shows

Research by Impact Consulting Services, parent company of Home Furnishings Business, sheds light on some of the amenities consumers seek in motion furniture.

When asked about the top four items they have now or would want to have in reclining furniture, in the fabric category 59.38% chose automated adjustable headrest and lumbar supports; 53.13% chose a storage drawer; 50% chose heat/massage; and 43.75% chose a docking station for telephone.

Rounding out the list were a hidden tabletop and built-in remote, both at 34.38%; surround sound system, 21.88%; and built-in beverage cooler, 18.75%.

In the leather category, the top choice was heat/massage at 63.33%. Both a telephone docking station and automated adjustable headrest and lumbar supports came in at 53.33%, and at 40% was a hidden tabletop.

Thirty percent chose a built-in remote; a storage drawer, 26.67%; and at 23.33% each, a built-in beverage cooler and surround sound system.

When it comes to reclining mechanisms, for fabric recliners, 62.5% preferred a hand-operated mechanism vs. 25% who preferred power. Just over 12% preferred a body pressure mechanism. However, power mechanisms were the winner for leather recliners, at 50%, with hand-operated and body pressure coming in at 26.67% and 23.33%, respectively.

Style is a factor as well when choosing motion pieces. When asked, “Is the style of reclining furniture an inhibitor to your purchase of this type of furniture?”, in the fabric category 52.94% responded “yes” and in the leather category, 60% responded in the affirmative.

How does price factor in consumer decisions? When asked, “What would you expect to pay for a good quality fabric reclining chair?”, 52.94% responded with $300 to $599, and 29.41% with $600 to $999. Just over 11% considered $1,000 to $1,999 to be a fair price, and 5.88% in the less than $300 price range.

Cost expectations were just slightly higher for leather, with 46.67% expecting to pay $600 to $999 for a reclining chair and 26.67% in the $300 to $599 range. Just over 13% would pay less than $300, and 6.67% were in the $1,000 to $1,999 price range. The same percentage—6.67%—expected to pay more than $2,000 for a quality leather recliner.

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