Sligh follows the television into bedrooms

April 12, 2010
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HOLLAND — When a company has been around since 1880, chances are it has dabbled in a few different markets over the years.

That has been the case for family-owned, Holland-based furniture manufacturer Sligh Furniture Co. This month, the company will launch a new line of bedroom furniture at the High Point Market, the largest furnishings industry tradeshow in the world, held in High Point, N.C.

While bedroom furniture may appear to be a new foray for Sligh, which today makes a wide range of high-end home office furniture, entertainment units and such, it was actually the market on which the company was founded 130 years ago.

“One of the things that Sligh specialized in was bedroom furniture,” said Rob Sligh, chairman and CEO and great-grandson of the founder. “It was founded as a bedroom furniture company in 1880 and focused on bedroom furniture for many decades, until the 1930’s when it started also focusing on desks. It was in bedroom furniture until 1957.”

Sligh said it was customers’ interest that initially brought the company back to its original market. After analyzing the bedroom furniture market, Sligh found it fit with the company’s current core competencies of making furniture that supports consumer electronics.

“We invite consumers to e-mail me directly. Sometimes they talk about old Sligh products. A lot of consumers out there still have Sligh bedroom furniture or run across it at antique shows and have encouraged us to get back into it,” he said.

“We noticed that, taking televisions as an example, the average high-end home has seven televisions in it. At least one of those is in the master bedroom, and there may be others in the other bedrooms. It’s natural for us to follow those electronics back into the bedroom.”

Sligh had to gain new insight into how furniture used in a bedroom might be made differently than the home offices where the company does the bulk of its business.

“In high-end home offices, you have ball-bearing slides on the drawers, but in a high-end bedroom, a sign of quality is to have drawers that are on wood guides,” he said. “We try to make all of our drawers very smooth (inside), but it’s particularly important to make sure of that in bedroom furniture, because a women might have, for example, nylon stockings in a drawer. You’ve got to have 100 percent assurance you have a silky smooth drawer.” Mattress height was also taken into account, as it tends to vary depending on what part of the market it is sold in.

These types of insights were gained by talking with consumers, visiting high-end hotels and understanding what dealers were seeing. The research led the company to rethink how televisions are accommodated in the bedroom now that most are flat panels. It has also led to a master light switch that can be added to a nightstand.

“We noticed from our travels that some of the great hotels in the world have a master switch on the nightstands where you can be in bed and … at the push of the buttons at your bedside, turn off the lights in your room,” he said. “Learning from that, we’re introducing with the new bedroom what we call Smart Light.”

The launch of the new bedroom line kicks off April 17 with the opening of the High Point Market. Sligh will wait to gain feedback before deciding whether to expand the line.

“We’re taking our best-selling style, our best-selling technology ideas and following the TV into the bedroom,” he said. “If it’s well accepted by our dealers and gets onto the floor, we’ll do more of it.”

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