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Sales of La-Z-Boy's reclining armchairs have been soaring throughout the 1990s, but the company sees no reason to rest.

Last year, after intensive market research and engineering to find a new product to win over the baby boomer market, La-Z-Boy came up with a chair designed to let even the most frenzied executive relax.

The $750 La-Z-Boy Maxim recliner has all the usual comforts of its other chairs, but it comes equipped with computer chip-enabled high-tech features including a heater, massager, speaker phone, digital answering machine and modem jack.

Maxim users can take phone calls, operate a laptop computer, send e-mail or tune out the world completely by activating the chair's answering machine and setting the chair to deliver a warm massage.

Each optional gadget is concealed within the chair's flip-up armrests.

Led by La-Z-Boy VP-marketing John Case, the company released the product and immediately triggered a swirlof publicity, with the business, lifestyle and gadget sections of magazines and newspapers besieging its marketing and PR departments for more information.

Orders began pouring in, hitting a peak around the 1997 holiday season. Retailers say it's been difficult to keep up with Maxim demand.

The company does little general advertising, relying instead on co-op programs with retailers and consumer promotions; its agency is W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich. Selling more than 1 million recliners per year in the U.S., its total sales reach about $1 billion annually.

La-Z-Boy won't say what's next, but it's hard at work creating another new way to make people relax.

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