January 29, 2012

The hot seat

Recliners, in chair and sofa styles, are winning over Maine consumers.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

In the 1970s, football stars like Joe Namath and Alex Karras sold recliners to your dad using the slogan "Everybody loves a winner."

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Staff Illustration/Michael Fisher

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This wingback chair hardly looks like a recliner, but it is one. Many of today’s consumers want the comfort of a recliner but in a sleeker style than more traditional models.

Photos courtesy of La-Z-Boy and Best Home Furnishings

Additional Photos Below

Those La-Z-Boy ads began recliners' long association with sports fans and man caves. Today, those old-style, overstuffed recliners are still popular, but reclining sofas and loveseats in more contemporary styles appear to be gaining some ground.

And it's not just middle-aged men who are buying them.

"Typically, you would see an older couple going for a reclining sofa, but now young couples are going for it," said Lynn DiPierro, a designer at Crockett Interiors in Gorham. DiPierro says she recently sold as many as five reclining sofas in one week.

In this sluggish economy, more homeowners are forgoing expensive vacations and spending their money on making their home a relaxed, comfortable place to be, and reclining furniture fits right into that plan.

"We are seeing people that are renovating now," said Sam Novick, owner of Hub Furniture Company in Portland and Westbrook. "Their house isn't selling, so they've just decided they're going to renovate and be comfortable with what they have, and one of the ways to do it is to have more comfortable furniture."

Other families are downsizing and, while they still want comfort, they also want a more sleek, modern look. That means recliners that don't really look like recliners. They have thin arms, high legs, lush upholstery, and in many cases have been scaled down to fit a smaller space like a condo or small apartment. "They don't take over the room," Novick said.

These more contemporary looks also appeal more to women. Witness La-Z-Boy's new ad campaign starring Brooke Shields.

"It really speaks to targeting that demographic of women, that 'Oh, this isn't your father's recliner anymore,"' said Polly Hardy, who works at the La-Z-Boy store in Scarborough.

DiPierro has also noticed that younger customers are going for powered chairs, sofas and love seats that recline at the push of a button, rather than sticking with the old-fashioned lever on the side.

La-Z-Boy has noticed the interest in power recliners too. In October, it announced that it is expanding its line of power recliners in various sizes. Hardy notes that 70 percent of all recliners in Europe are powered.

Recliners that can be customized are also becoming increasingly popular. This time of year, sports fans can have their favorite team's logo on their recliner while they cheer them on in front of the plasma screen.

La-Z-Boy's XZipit chair, for example, has a hidden zipper system that lets the chair's owner insert a panel embroidered with, say, the logo of a major league baseball team or NHL hockey team. The panels are interchangeable, so a veteran could have an Air Force emblem on his chair in summer, then switch to a New England Patriots logo in fall.

There are hundreds to choose from, including pets (I heart my German Shepherd), zodiac signs, holiday symbols, and hunting and fishing scenes.

"It's mostly sports logos that people are buying, but you can buy Army and Navy logos, you can buy the University of Maine school logo," Hardy said. "You can buy all kinds, and those are very cool. Those are starting to catch on."

This time of year, furniture retailers are selling hard to sports fans in the lead-up to the Super Bowl. Businesses such as SofasandSectionals.com and Wholesale Furniture Brokers have been offering discounts and giving away recliners.

Novick said he sees an increase in sales of recliners and entertainment centers this time of year as customers prepare for big Super Bowl parties.

"The wife's saying to the husband, 'You're not going to have that Super Bowl party with that ratty old recliner down there,' " Novick said. " 'Let's get this recliner delivered before the Super Bowl.' "

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:



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Additional Photos

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This La-Z-Boy recliner is both scaled down in size and more stylish than less contemporary models. Many also recline at the push of a button, rather than by pulling a side lever.

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Reclining couches and love seats are also popular, and with more types of people than you might expect. “Typically, you would see an older couple going for a reclining sofa, but now young couples are going for it,” said Lynn DiPierro, a designer at Crockett Interiors in Gorham.

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This chair from La-Z-Boy, with its size and side lever, sports a more traditional recliner look. But even it has something new: Shiatsu massage.

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