Tricking out the recliner: Moving beyond just chairs to comfort zones


RALEIGH — Ah, the recliner. The American invention that linked lazing in the living room to television and frozen dinners is one of the few bright spots in a well-worn U.S. household furniture industry.
Sales of reclining chairs are getting a lift from the growing popularity of high-tech TVs, home theater equipment and video games, as well as an aging population that is less active. Even the recession, which forced many Americans to cancel vacation plans, seemed to have helped sales of the comfy lounge chairs.

“People think, ‘I'm not going to travel. Doggone it, when I go home I'm going to be comfortable,'” said Don Hunter, who heads Catnapper, a recliner-focused division of Jackson Furniture Industries in Cleveland, Tenn.

Sales of reclining chairs and sofas totaled $3.5 billion last year and are expected to climb to $4 billion within five years, according to trade magazine Furniture/Today and New York-based Easy Analytic Software Inc.

That's a stark contrast to the nearly 13 percent drop in sales furniture stores saw through September this year, compared with the same nine-month period last year, according to census data. That bad news includes a slight 1.4 percent rise in retail sales from August to September, the government reported this month.

At the fall edition of the High Point Furniture Market, several manufacturers will be showcasing recliners with more gizmos.

Latest in accessories

Berkline is introducing a recliner line starting at $699 with installed stereo speakers, a subwoofer and a plug for an iPod. The company has an existing model called the ButtKicker, which can be hooked up to a special amplifier that delivers the shakes and vibrations of the action on your home theater system.

Also new this year, is a top end to the line of massage chairs retailing for about $1,200-$2,400. The deluxe version offered this year costs $2,599, conforms to the shape of the user's body and includes a system of pressurized air bags for a massage that mimics human hands.

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