By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The look of consumer electronics display furniture — and just how well and where these pieces can be used — are critical factors concerning the makers of home entertainment and small office/home office products.
With the 2001 spring market at the International Home Furnishings Center about to open at full throttle this week in High Point, N.C., retailers can expect to view a range of items geared toward utility first, then innovation and the unusual concomitance of real woods, metal and frosted glass.
"Form and function are what consumers are looking for to display their home entertainment electronics, speakers and video components," said Jerry Bashin, national sales manager for Placentia, Calif.-based Lovan.
Looking at the direction of the business, "one of the hottest trends we're seeing in home entertainment furniture is one we've already seen in the home furnishings industry — namely the need for units that function beyond the aesthetic viewpoint," said Bill Becker, president of Chantilly, Va.-based BDI.
These are mainly "multifunctional units that can be used by the consumer to fill a variety of needs" — a trend Becker sees becoming more important as consumers move televisions from their family rooms and living rooms to other areas of their homes, particularly bedrooms.
"Although most [consumers] don't set up full entertainment systems in the bedroom, they are adding VCRs or DVDs to their set-up and require units that are more versatile, that can be incorporated into their bedroom without overwhelming the space," Becker said. "This trend is also driving the design of new units, since those used in bedrooms must generally be taller, so people can lay on their beds [to see the TV screen]," he said.
Becker also said he feels there is a need for furniture that can accommodate larger consumer electronics components and flatter screen TVs. At the same time, he said there is a comeback of darker color finishes, such as cherry and espresso.
Although widescreen TVs have been available for a number of years, more furniture makers are finding there is an ongoing trend in entertainment products for this CE type. "The proliferation of high-definition televisions in the last year has made 16:9 TVs more of a norm, rather than an exception," said David Hartfelder, partner at Yorba Linda, Calif.-based Diamond Case Designs.
The company's professional series, called Theater-Tech, is equipped to house any 4:3 television, up to 36 inches, as well as 34- to 38-inch (even 46-inch) widescreen TVs. A new system, called the Visalia Plus Jr., is tailored to frame the screen of any 50- to 65-inch widescreen HDTV. The system is made to order, allowing consumers the flexibility of choosing wood, finish and style.
"We have also noticed an increasing number of customers requesting more flexible media storage solutions that can accommodate all sizes of media, including DVDs, Disney videos or game cartridges," said Hartfelder. In response, Diamond Case has designed a drawer system standard in all its furniture that utilizes adjustable row dividers to fit any size media. One drawer, which occupies about the same space as a receiver, will fit 120 CDs, 60 DVDs or 30 VHS tapes, said Hartfelder.
"Digital television is forcing greater size and weight capability," said Keith Pribyl, national sales manager at St. Paul, Minn.-based Sanus Systems, with the customer's taste becoming more sophisticated.
"Simple black or oak stands just don't cut it anymore," said Pribyl, "while people are looking for true designer styling that often mixes materials such as steel, wood and glass. Chrome and maple are very hot this year — for example, our Accurate Furniture features steel pillars with a smooth chrome finish."
Audiophile equipment cabinets that ensure a proper fit for "oversized," sophisticated components are the fastest selling items at Terre Haute, Ind.-based American Wood Furniture. "Last year, this type of item was third in sales, and this year, it has surpassed all other items," said Brad Miller, president. This trend is caused by the lack of furniture that will house these larger CE units, Miller said.
Many new products for 2001 are expected to benefit from the high volume of buyers visiting the furniture show here this week, which runs April 19-26. The following is a sampling of the newest in home entertainment furniture from a variety of vendors.
Altra Furniture is introducing its Metro line of entertainment furniture. Made of sculpted metal and glass and finished with high-tech paint, Metro is specifically designed for use with large, flat-screen TVs and associated gear. Stands accommodate screen sizes up to 42 inches. The Mount Laurel, N.J.-based company is offering its Metro Series MTV 4890 at a suggested $249.99 retail. Availability is projected for May.
The company also is offering its new Galaxy Series, which is shipping in April. It features TV stands that match the size and cosmetics of popular flat-screen TVs, including the Sony Wega series. A matching audio stand also is available. Suggested retails range from $79.99 to $129.99.
The Galaxy Mini Audio Rack is designed for use with shelf systems, mini components and portable systems. It comes with CD storage and assembles in 15 minutes, said Altra. Galaxy is created from sculpted wood and is finished with a scratch-resistant textured paint. Suggested retail is $99.99.
Audiophiles are being treated to a number of features in the Tall Equipment Cabinet, model 9802, from American Wood Furniture. These include double vented and removable back panels, four oversized capacity compartments with adjustable shelves, load levelers in the cabinet base for oversized and overweight components, bronze glass doors and room for running cables with 2 inches at the rear of each shelf. At a suggested $899 retail, the unit is available now in natural cherry and dark cherry finishes.
The Callisto Plasma TV stand from BDI is designed in response to a trend for home entertainment furniture that functions beyond the aesthetic viewpoint. The unit, at a suggested $1,650 retail, is ideal for consumers looking for unique pieces to accommodate expensive systems and who want a furniture look with the features of an open-rack system. The Callisto can hold larger components and provide ample ventilation and wire management systems.
Scheduled for shipping in May, the Callisto offers an adjustable flat-panel display for the plasma monitor and a wire management system that runs wires through the steel panel supports down to components housed inside the casing below. A tempered glass shelf places the center channel speaker for maximum effectiveness and the open wood casing is designed to house a receiver and DVD or VCR.
The WU-2100 Home Theater System from Morganville, N.J.-based Bell'O International combines metal and glass with real wood trim. The beginning of the company's line that melds metal and wood furniture, the unit combines two ATC-2101 audio towers that can accommodate at least 10 A/V components and the AVSC-2102 A/V system. The WU-2100, at a suggested $2,800 retail, can be a companion piece for the ATC-2101 or a stand-alone. Availability is immediate.
Three Birmingham Entertainment Centers are available from Bush Industries. Each unit accommodates most 32-inch TVs and features sturdy, solid wood feet, adjustable shelves that provide flexible storage options and concealed storage for videos, DVDs, CDs and gaming accessories.
The AV26755 from the Jamestown, N.Y., maker offers miter-framed glass doors, conveniently lighted curio compartments and five adjustable shelves. Suggested retail is $449.99 and the piece is available in a cherry finish.
A Series Seven desk and hutch combination from Creative Interiors, a division of Thomasville Furniture, blends traditional style with a contemporary spin. The series incorporates a mix of design elements to achieve a transitional appearance. These include brushed stainless steel hardware, framed panel doors and drawers, stainless steel leg accents and two rich cherry wood finishes.
The Series Seven 107-600/700 from the Appomattox, Va.-based maker, at a $299 suggested retail, offers a large work surface and can accommodate up to a 21-inch computer monitor. It has a pullout keyboard and mousepad tray, CPU and printer storage, wire management and file box, and closed shelf storage.
Theater-Tech home theater furniture from Diamond Case is designed to organize large TVs, multiple components and high-capacity media storage. Units have adjustable high-capacity media drawers that, like adjustable shelves, can be moved to any location in the system. This gives users the flexibility to arrange both components and software storage according to their own needs.
The Theater-Tech System One can house as many as 18 components or 1,760 CDs, depending on the number of shelves and drawers. In addition, sliding row dividers with backstops allow the drawers to be segmented into rows of any width to organize any size media, including oversize VHS and DVDs.
The company's TT300 in a cherry finish has a suggested $3,499 retail and is currently available.
A new pricing strategy for home theater furniture will go into action for Chino, Calif.-based Great American Oak at this week's market. The company will place its emphasis on $999 and $1,499 price points in Casual Oak and Transitional step-ups.
The company is featuring its new, step-up contemporary Eastchester projection TV wall, which is designed to retail for $1,499. This price point helps the company bridge its $999 and $1,999 price points for PTV walls. The unit can accommodate most PTVs up to 64.25 inches wide.
Great American Oak also is offering an armoire for tabletop TVs. It is 75 inches tall and nearly 24 inches deep, offering radius glass and oak doors. It also easily holds A/V components. The curio sections are lighted for display purposes, and there is a single-button lighting system for all three lights, including the expandable bridge. Each pier cabinet has an adjustable media storage tray, wood shelf and glass shelf. The piece is assembled with solid oak and oak veneers.
Leather Center has added three new styles to its home theater seating, including the Broadway, Hollywood and Sahara. All feature an exclusive new option — a built-in massage and heating unit for the ultimate in home movie-watching comfort.
The Carrollton, Texas, manufacturer's Broadway offers full-body comfort with piped edging on the front of the arms and a two-tiered backrest design. Rounded wood feet add an extra bit of flair. It carries a suggested $1,902 retail.
The Hollywood, at a suggested $2,002, offers a double-rolled footrest and a cushion-in-cushion design for the backrest. Pillow-top arms and sturdy wood feet complete a chair designed to communicate class and luxury.
The Sahara, at a suggested $1,802 retail, offers a classic seat, a footrest and a plush, slightly concave backrest that coordinates with the stylized armrests. The chair is finished with wood feet.
The Millennium stand from Lovan portrays timeless elegance with an aesthetically simple design, according to the company. The stand has been designed to support the larger CE components featured today. The four-shelf unit, at a suggested $1,700 retail, is composed of 2-inch steel tubing, large isolation cones to help eliminate sound vibration and extra-thick glass that can support a variety of components. Millennium is finished in champagne silver and is currently available.
"Color and design continue to drive home office seating sales," said John Hendrix, VP/sales and marketing, for Ontario, Calif.-based Office Star Products. The company's fabric of choice, called Capretto, "has already been well received and represents a totally new direction in the home office category," Hendrix said.
One example of a Capretto-covered chair is Office Products' model OAK5788, which comes in green or cobblestone colors and is one of two of the company's first chairs to be upholstered in this material.
Capretto is an easy-to-care-for synthetic fabric with the look, feel and durability of leather. It is also an exceptionally breathable fabric, which enhances air circulation and comfort, the company said.
The series also features solid oak accents in a light or dark finish as well as pneumatic seat-height control and locking tilt mechanism with tension control. Suggested retail for the currently available chair is $350.
O'Sullivan Industries, which is planning to unveil 80 new products at this week's market, is putting much of its efforts into its Encore line of home entertainment and home office furniture. Encore, which is said to accommodate the needs of electronics and media-intense Gen-Xers, most notably, is offering a combination of Bank Alder and Rose Granite laminates.
Among the Encore lineup from the Lamar, Mo.-based ready-to-assemble furniture manufacturer is a mini-audio stand, model 20491, for a suggested retail of $59.99; an entertainment center, model 20490, for a suggested $99.99 retail; and a TV/VCR stand, model 20492, at a suggested $69.99 retail.
Accurate home entertainment furniture from Sanus Systems blends an open architectural design with the contemporary look of wood and chrome. The furniture, which begins shipping in April, is said to offer superior rigidity and beautiful aesthetics at a price far below comparable "lifestyle" designs.
The four-shelf AFA audio stand features the ability to add extra shelves as an A/V system grows. As many as four extra shelves may be added to create a 6-foot tower that is a perfect complement to rear projection TVs.
Three different video stands are available, with the widest model, AFDV, able to fit even the largest 16:9 direct view, digital TVs. All models have suggested retails between $129 and $179. The shelf kit is $59.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.