LOUNGING SHOPPERS SHOW OFF COMFORT IN ADS FOR LA-Z-BOY: $10 MIL BLITZ SWITCHES EMPHASIS FROM PRICES TO BRANDING ITS STORES

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La-Z-Boy, built on the recliner business of the 1960s, is moving to brand itself as a more comfortable place to shop for furniture.

With $1.3 billion in annual sales, La-Z-Boy this week breaks a TV effort featuring its La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries.

In three new spots from Doner, Southfield, Mich., La-Z-Boy shows people lounging on a sofa or a comfortable chair, often without their shoes, and relaxing with a book or a crossword puzzle. When the camera pulls back to show they are actually in a store showroom, voice-over says, "At La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries, we know that to be truly comfortable with your furniture, you need to be comfortable with where you buy it."

John Case, VP-marketing, La-Z-Boy, said about $10 million will be spent on the branding effort in an attempt to move the stores away from price-and- item advertising.

"Our advertising can't be 'this week only at prices starting at,' " he said.

La-Z-Boy has 250 licensed galleries in the U.S., with 40 additional stores planned. Those stores spend about $65 million annually on advertising, according to Mr. Case.

WOMEN BUY 94% OF FURNITURE

John Considine, director of planning and research at Doner, said studies found women make 94% of furniture purchases. Those customers, he said, had a much more emotional connection with furniture, seeing the products as an important element of the environment they are trying to create for their families and friends. Men, he said, "would be much happier with a vending machine."

Previous efforts focused on the benefits of shopping at the stores, such as selection and decorator services.

The new campaign comes amid significant change in the furniture business.

The $60 billion category is picking up steam as the echo boomer population begins to move on to college or to start their own households, and furniture sales are increasing, according to some indexes.

The American Research Group's furniture index was up 8 points from June 1998 compared to June 1999. The group also found the strong economy has resulted in increased furniture prices.

NEW PLAYERS GAIN GROUND

At the same time, the industry is seeing a consolidation among manufacturers and retailers. New players such as Pottery Barn and Bombay Co. are beginning to gain a foothold.

E-commerce also is presenting new challenges. While La-Z-Boy and Ethan Allen are moving to sell online, a number of pure Internet firms also are trying to tap into what has been a sleepy industry.

"For the industry to believe that you don't need e-commerce is pure folly," Mr.

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