By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
High styling, enhanced features and more affordable product are adding new interest to entertainment and small office/home office (SOHO) furniture.
And at the same time, world events have fueled increasing investment in homes and home entertainment systems, encouraging retailers to roll out the red carpet for expanding furniture display.
With much of the new merchandise in this category designed to both complement and accommodate the burgeoning array of consumer electronics hardware, media and office products, furniture has become one of the focal points in the CE accessories business.
Furniture makers, just coming off introductions at the International Home Furnishings Mart this past fall, are rolling out additional merchandise for holiday sales. Several of these companies will be showing product at CES this week.
With home owners upgrading their home entertainment systems, three basic considerations affect home entertainment furniture, according to Joe Greco, director of sales at Bell'O International.
For one, "direct-view televisions, like Sony's Wega, are getting bigger and heavier. Another is people have more components then they ever had. The growth of direct broadcast satellite (DBS) TV and the explosion of DVD players translates into consumers requiring additional space to display their systems. And third, home theater furniture has truly become a fashion item for the home," Greco said.
Newest addition to the Morganville, N.J.-based Bell'O home theater system is Model WU-2110M, which features two audio towers and the audio/video system. Accented with sweeping curved metallic silver fronts inlaid with real wood trim, the furniture is design for savvy consumers as well as complementing different rooms. Suggested retail is $2,850.
Bell'O includes an audio tower, ATC-2111M, in its home theater system. This consists of five oversized glass shelves plus a glass top. The tower can hold up to 10 A/V components.
The A/V system, AVSC-2112M, features two glass shelves capable of holding four to six A/V components. This model is made to accompany the ATC-2111M or to stand alone. It can accommodate up to a 36-inch direct-view television.
The speaker stands, SPC-300, are made to match the WU-2110M. Updated in design and standing 30 inches tall, the stands feature Velcro strips for mounting speakers, wire management, spikes and rubber feet. Capacity is up to 100 pounds. Suggested retail is $260 per pair.
"Another trend we are seeing," said Bell'O's Greco, "is that retailers themselves are now better focused on selling furniture. "For many, furniture had simply been a means for displaying the televisions and audio components that they were primarily selling. Today, many retailers have redesigned their sales floors to provide lifestyle rooms and vignettes, which encourages the sale of total home entertainment systems, of which furniture is now a major part."
"The next challenge for CE furniture manufacturers is the likely merging of computer and home entertainment," said Jim Wohlford, president/CEO of St. Paul, Minn.-based Sanus Systems.
"We feel that people will continue to move toward a digital lifestyle, which will actually be more dramatic than the Internet in terms of how people organize and furnish their homes," Wohlford continued.
"For 20 years, Americans have had A/V equipment and computer equipment — one genre belonged on a desk and the other in an entertainment area. Although systems became larger and more complex, the furniture did not change radically. Now, we have a paradigm shift toward a digital lifestyle that is being driven by a myriad of new digital products. None of us has lived with these products long enough to really understand exactly how they will be incorporated into our homes. The next challenge for CE furniture manufacturers is the likely merger of computer and home entertainment," Wohlford emphasized.
Sanus' newest line set for a CES debut and yet to be named, includes TV console, media towers in three heights, component towers in five heights, component consoles in three heights, a lowboy and options such as doors and drawers. The hardwood line, in maple or cherry finish, will be available in March 2002 at a suggested retail range of $600 to $1,400.
"The immediate challenge for 2002 is the digital television," said Sanus' Wohlford. DTVs are bigger and wider, and have shifted in color from black to gray and silver. They almost always use five or more speakers driven by an outboard receiver, and are often associated with outboard tuner and satellite hardware. They also include the sub-category of front projection and plasma TVs. All of this has an obvious impact on A/V furniture.
"The biggest impact is not that cherry, maple and silver are in vogue. It's that DTVs are big and expensive," Wohlford said. "The lingering assumption that a TV stand should be a $149 black or oak laminate structure on casters is causing many retailers to miss out on a big opportunity. Most people don't want a cheap particleboard stand for their expensive digital TV. They want something with appeal and flair that highlights both their DTV system and their sense of style."
Gusdorf is making additions to its popular Metal-Works and Stealth series, featuring additional finishes and designs. With retails ranging from $89.95 for a basic computer cart to $399.95 for a projection TV wall system, the ready-to-assemble furniture manufacturer is keying on products that use combinations of glass and wood to display televisions, audio, entertainment and home office products.
Model 12121 from Laval, Quebec-based Gusdorf is a flat-screen wood and glass credenza that accommodates a 36-inch television. It features open storage shelves to house a variety of audio/video components.
Also in wood and glass is Model 60621 audio tower in a silver/black finish that is freestanding with dedicated open-storage glass shelves to house a variety of audio/video components.
In wood and metal, Gusdorf is featuring Model 52009, a computer workstation with dedicated printer shelf and CPU tower that can be placed in a variety of positions. The cherry/black piece offers a removable large monitor shelf with integrated CD-ROM storage slots.
Model 52908 in maple/silver is a mobile computer workstation consisting of tubular steel with swing-out shelves that create additional work surfaces. A dedicated shelf accommodates most CPU towers.
Two bookcases, Model 55109 in cherry/black and Model 55108 in maple/silver feature adjustable shelves to house a variety of books and other decorative items. The units are designed to complement the company's current Metal-Works collection.
A straightforward and simple design marks the Signature line from Saint-Hubert, Quebec-based Bestar. Among the top collections in the line is Select, which combines classical structures with modern styling. Select offers a distinguished look, with a finely styled surface and solid wood molding, set off by European-style handles.
The Select home entertainment center, Model 10100, is designed for most 32-inch televisions. It has three adjustable component shelves behind a bronzed glass door. Two large drawers to store videocassettes and CDs are included, while open storage space can be used for additional electronic components. Suggested retail is $299.99.
Also designed to hold most 32-inch televisions is Bestar's Model 10200 Select TV stand. The unit offers a single adjustable component shelf and open storage space behind two bronzed glass doors and a large drawer to store videocassettes and CDs. Suggested retail is $169.99.
Select's audio furniture, Model 10300, includes three adjustable component shelves, a large drawer to store videocassettes, a CD rack and two bronzed glass doors. Suggested retail is $269.99.
A new breed of "design-it-yourself" modular furniture from Archbold, Ohio-based Sauder Woodworking, called QBits, is a system of cube and shelving components that can be configured to create an almost endless array of customized home furnishings solutions. The company is teaming with designer/Discovery Channel TV personality Lynette Jennings in a licensing partnership for the new line.
QBits' seven components include an open cube, a cube with a door, a cube with a drawer, a larger Combi-Cube, a desktop with keyboard shelf, a shelf that spans four cubes and optional feet. Consumers simply determine the size of the modular system they desire, use interlocking hardware to attach each component to the next and add the nickel-finished feet if they wish. The system is available in Cassava Maple, Metal Tenzin, Dark Alder and White finishes. Suggested retails for the components range from $8 to $40.
Home theater users enjoy independent lighting and curved glass doors from top to bottom with the Prelude collection from Laurier-Station, Quebec-based Laurier Furniture.
The Prelude's piers have a ventilation outlet to protect systems against excessive heat and a removable rear panel to allow for ease of jack connections. The bridge and shelving system features an adjustable width of 40 inches by 70 inches that can accommodate overhead TV screens as large as 73 inches. A 40-inch two-door stand is available for table TV sets.
The furniture is available in two different shades of maple wood and in a high-gloss black lacquer to match rear projection TVs available in the same finish. Suggested retail for the Prelude rear projection system is $2,499.
The Ultra Furniture line at Irvine, Calif.-based StudioTech features a new Ultra Rack Mount adapter kit. The line is available in four different configurations, which can be used individually or in combination with other Ultra cabinets. These include a 22-inch audio/video cabinet and 48- and 60-inch component cabinets. The units come in American Cherry, Natural Cherry and Rosewood hardwood veneer finishes.
Standard features on the rack mount adapters, which are being featured at CES, include metal screen door and side panels for ventilation, internal steel frame, adjustable shelf spacing, Smart Spikes shelf isolation system and wire management panel for organizing cabling and wires.
Suggested retails are $999 for the 60-inch component cabinet, $899 for the 48-inch component cabinet and $799 for the 22-inch audio/video cabinet. Combining two 60-inch component cabinets with the 22-inch A/V cabinet, and tying these to a $349 suggested retail bridge, makes up the Ultra U60-EC NC audio/video system.
Bush Industries says it matches innovative design with great value in its Model VS47440 "V Base" TV stand. Made of tempered glass shelves, the unit has an open design for ease of cord access. The silver color complements the wide range of silver/metallic finishes found in current TV sets. Suggested retail is $199.
The Universal Collection audio stand from the Jamestown, N.Y.-based company, Model AD47741, features glass shelves, silver color and a V-base design, but also offers a fixed middle shelf and cord access through its rear panel. The product provides additional component space and is the perfect match to the V Base TV stand. Suggested retail is also $199.
"The new television sets, offering updated screen formats and unique colors, call for open-architecture furniture that accents their beauty," said Stu Oram, VP/sales for Bush's general market, home furnishings and home improvement channels.
"Consumers are looking for a furniture solution with equally exciting new materials and colors. The use of glass, metal and paint make our contemporary furniture the perfect match for the modern look in home entertainment," Oram said.
Listening to dealer needs when designing theater seating is essential to Premiere Home Theatre Surroundings, according to Bill Johnson, VP/marketing. "We've added new models and features to our line that include dealer suggestions, such as integrated arm rest storage and swing-out burl wood snack tables. The best dealers realize that ultimate customer satisfaction is achieved by being a total solutions provider," Johnson said.
"We've moved past the stage where the theater seating sale was an accidental sale," added Michael Laurino, Premiere president. "It's not a matter of whether the client is going to buy home theater seating or not — the question is, from whom, and who will benefit from the sale."
New high-end home theater seating products from the Agoura Hills, Calif.-based company include four models. The Rialto and Sequel have suggested retails ranging from $1,995 to $2,995, depending on choice of fabric or leather and motorization options. The Savoy and Landmark range from $1,595 to $2,395. All models are available in a wide range of fabrics and fine Italian leathers.
An armoire from Diamond Case Designs, called AVA-Advanced Video Armoire, "satisfies two major trends we have seen in recent months," said David Hartfelder, president. "First, nearly every major TV manufacturer has a flat screen tube series of televisions similar to the Sony Wega Series. Due to the larger size and weight of these TVs, consumers have a near impossible time trying to find furniture to accommodate it. AVA will fit any of them.
"Second," said Hartfelder, "many consumers, especially those in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York are 'wall space-challenged.' They simply do not have eight or 12 feet of wall available for a massive furniture system. AVA is perfect for these people, taking up just a little more than 4 feet of wall, yet being able to accommodate a serious home theater system."
The Yorba Linda, Calif.-based company's AVA is able to "elegantly" conceal a television as large as the Sony 36-inch Wega, and its features makes it perfect for complex home theater systems. About six to seven components can be hidden behind the lower wood doors. A built-in receiver picks up IR remote control signals. There are also two high-capacity media storage drawers with adjustable row dividers to fit any size media. Standard capacity is 240 CDs, 120 DVDs or 30 VHS tapes. Suggested retail is $3,499.
Altra Furniture is showing three new products in its Galaxy Series at CES. An audio cabinet, made of wood veneers, called the GXAW48, comes in a cherry finish. Suggested retail is $129.99.
The GXTV445, from the Mt. Laurel, N.J.-based company, is a Galaxy TV stand designed for Sony Wega and other flat-screen TVs. It is available in slate and silver colors, and will hold up to 42-inch-wide TVs. Suggested retail is $119.99.
Altra's CD600 is a closed media storage tower that holds over 600 CDs. It can be configured to hold DVDs and tapes as well. Suggested retail is $99.99.
A sophisticated silver color has been added to the Evolution line of television, audio and video mounts from Chicago-based Vogel's. Both mounts and accessories are available in silver. Evolution also is available in anthracite and ivory colors.
Vogel's Silver line offers the same advantages as all other Evolution products — including a modern design and flexible use — making these products an easy fit in any interior.
Advantages also include: ideal installation solution for all equipment; viewing and listening comfort; Cable Inlay System, which keeps cables out of sight; and a modular system that can easily be extended or adapted to existing equipment.
Evolution TV mounts range in suggested retail from $79.95 for the 14- to 19-inch TV wall support to $229.95 for the 20- to 29-inch TV swivel arm. Speaker mounts range from $29.95 suggested retail for a satellite type to $59.95 for a speaker clamping system. Floor stands range in suggested retail from $99.50 for a 31- to 52-inch adjustable steel type that holds 7 pounds to $109.50 for an 18-inch steel type that holds 55 pounds.
CinemaTech is making available ACT II custom-built home theater seating made in Germany. The Addison, Texas-based company said the collection includes single seats; rows, either straight or curved; love seats; and sofas. All come in fine European leathers.
Included in the line is Rustico, featuring Italian leather coverings; DasKino, purely German in its exact visual lines, with a curved back to provide lumbar support; and Ferien, showing German cutting-edge design, inviting curves and unmatched comfort.
Suggested retail for all ACT II products ranges from $1,900 to $2,400 per seat.
A computer desk, with revolving storage is an addition to the Office Elements home office collection from Appomattox, Va.-based Creative Interiors, a division of Thomasville Furniture Industries.
Model 179-590 features a large work surface top, while the desk has closed storage for a vertical CPU, a file drawer, a storage drawer and a large pull-out keyboard tray.
The hutch, in addition to its shelf storage, is defined by its "unique" rotating storage cube, which offers a CD storage rack, a dry erase memo board, a cloth pegboard and a document holder.
The computer desk, at a suggested $149, is available in a rich Cherry Glenn finish.
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.