By Nancy Meyer
NEW YORK–If it’s anything like last year, 2008 could be a tough year for the ready-to-assemble furniture business, but vendors expect growth from new products presented at the recent Las Vegas Market.
About midyear 2007, sales of RTA stalled, mirroring the difficulties in traditional furniture and in mass retailing, sources told HFN. Distribution channels didn’t shift much. Mass merchants, office superstores and electronics chains continued to command the lion’s share of the business.
RTA executives remain cautiously hopeful for 2008, and said they’re working at gaining market share.
“Our business at Linon has always been specialty stores, big-box retailers, Internet and catalog,” said Jim Ziozis, president of Linon Home Decor. “At the end of the day, there’s still a lot of replacement furniture business, and a lot of functional furniture needs. The stool, the seating, kitchen, storage and entertainment businesses are all solid businesses,” Ziozis said. “It’s not like selling leather sectionals or sofas. People are living in their kitchens, great rooms, entertainment rooms and dens, and are going to continue to spend where they live.”
Indeed, TV unit sales, which drive the entertainment RTA segment, are expected to remain strong as the country moves from analog to digital format in 2009.
“TV units are going up, and we’re really excited about that,” said Jim Schmidt, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Bush Industries.
Bush is targeting furniture dealers with its eZone merchandising, which he said is “getting a lot of traction,” and its eClass good, better, best strategy, rolled out in Las Vegas.
“The good, better, best scenario helps retailers trade up consumers and justifies the price points to consumers,” Schmidt said.
New designs include Bush’s Noir Select console geared toward the female shopper, with brocade pattern tops and curved legs; the contemporary Arc Premier console, with built-in levelers in the feet, a level bubble and zipped fabric backside for cord management. A patent-pending anchor bar on Bush’s Chamber Premier TV console mounts to the back of the TV to create a wall-less, wall-mount look. Other features in the better and best goods include docking stations to charge phones and MP3 players, and all manner of hidden storage for media, gaming and other gadgets.
Better designs and functionality were also priorities at Sauder Woodworking, the leader in RTA furniture, in its Las Vegas introductions. Sauder has developed products for every channel of distribution and geared to fill a wide array of consumer needs. For 2008, the company has engineered solutions-oriented items for TVs and laptop use in many areas of the home. TV solutions include corner units, 2-in-1 coffee table/TV stands, TV-mounted hutches with storage, consoles without storage and other flexible configurations that emphasize multiple uses in the home. Dark finishes are still selling well, officials said. One paisley-patterned Neo Vintage bedroom storage unit with a sliding door could as easily serve as a wardrobe, book case, TV unit or any combination thereof.
Sauder’s laptop solutions were equally adaptable and flexible, mirroring consumer preferences for working throughout the home. These include the Carriage House flip-down desk with drawers and glass storage display space, a vanity table with pull-out laptop tray and storage, and the Katrina dining table with a laptop workspace concealed and stowed away under the table. These complement the new seating line Sauder gained through its acquisition of Gruga last year. Indeed, Sauder is looking at other new categories, including dining tables, with the introduction of a bistro set with table and four chairs.