Marketing 50

Marketing 50 Case Study Shows La-Z-Boy Sales Increasing

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Five years ago Todd Oldham and La-Z-Boy would have seemed an unlikely partnership. Mr. Oldham was the MTV-generation designer of Keds sneakers and jeans for young hipsters, while most people knew La-Z-Boy as making recliners for the older guy, more Frasier's father than Escada.

That Mr. Oldham announced last month he would be designing a collection of products for La-Z-Boy says a lot about the changes at the Monroe, Mich.-based furniture company. "Todd wouldn't have worked with us three years ago," admits Kurt Darrow, La-Z-Boy president-CEO.

Mr. Darrow, whose 1999 appointment as president of La-Z-Boy Branded Products sparked the evolution of La-Z-Boy, started with research. "It showed the brand had great attributes: comfort, reliability and affordability," he says. "But it did not register with the consumer as being stylish, and we knew it had to if we were to attract a younger audience."

In addition to then adding more stylish products and finishes, La-Z-Boy also started remodeling its 320 U.S. stores around a central design center, which Mr. Darrow says, "shifts the transaction from a chair purchase to furnishing your home."

Doner, Southfield, Mich., the company's longtime agency, came up with a new look for advertising-striking shots of products in white limbo-and created a more style-oriented tagline, "The new look of comfort." The agency went beyond shelter books and partnered with magazines such as InStyle to find new consumers. It also scored a number of major PR coups such as getting La-Z-Boy included in the Academy Awards gift basket-prompting a host of stars including Sandra Bullock and Sharon Stone, to request recliners.

The result? Net orders on advertised products have risen more than 60%; sales in the remodeled stores rose 15% to 20%; overall sales, claims Mr. Darrow, have grown at about twice the average market rate.

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