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CHICAGO-The stationery and office supplies division of 3M will exhibit its line of ergonomic products at this week's NeoCon World's Trade Fair.

With some 800 new cases of carpal tunnel syndrome reported every day and 240 million work days lost each year due to back pain, the spotlight on ergonomics is certainly getting brighter.

3M's ergonomics group consists of a variety of products, including an adjustable keyboard tray, which is new to the line, plus a document holder, office-air cleaner, gel-filled wrist rest, foot rest, back supporter, monitor stand and computer file.

3M, which also produces and markets Post-it Notes and Scotch Magic Tape, among other items, has been attending NeoCon for about three years. The ergonomics line was first introduced in 1995.

According to Claude Denais, a business manager for 3M, architects, interior designers and facility managers are the professionals the company typically meets with at the NeoCon show.

He believes these products hold potential for retailers -- specifically computer-specialty chains.

"Their customers are intensive computer uses, and as such, would have more of a need for sophisticated solutions to their computer needs," he said.

The growing SOHO segment is another reason these retailers should consider offering these types of products, according to Denais.

Products in the line are priced out of the reach of general retailers, Denais added. "They are price conscious, and have a low-feature-type interest. I don't think they would have enough turns to justify carrying these products."

Mail-order catalogs, including Quill, have been a strong distribution channel, Denais said, as they are an option between contract stationers, who sell to large companies, and retailers.

3M's prime competitors are furniture manufacturers that sell to the commercial market, Denais related. He sees a clear benefit in dealing with 3M over, say, a Steelcase, Herman Miller or Hayworth when it comes to purchasing accessories.

"Furniture companies sell furniture and accessories are an afterthought," he said. "In our case, our main focus is the accessory itself."

Here's a rundown of the ergonomic products 3M will show at NeoCon. Some of the items have been endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association and the American Physical Therapy Association.

The adjustable keyboard tray is designed to provide a full range of height and tilt adjustments to accommodate varying postures, both sitting and standing. The mouse platform slides over the keyboard's numeric keys, to lessen the need to reach. There are gel wrist rests for both the keyboard and the mouse. The keyboard tray is available in four configurations, at prices of $444 and $389. The gel-filled wrist rests are made of a fabric that is designed to resist heat and moisture. Rests fit most standard keyboard-only and keyboard/mouse combination models. Eight rests are available at prices ranging from about $45 to $87.

The monitor stand adjusts in increments of 1.5 inches to provide viewing heights that would help reduce eye and neck strain. The monitor stand is priced at $44.95. A monitor stand drawer is also available, priced at $14.95.

A document holder, which mounts tightly to either side of a computer monitor, adjusts six ways. Three holders are available, at $33.33, $55.09 and $57.27. An adujstable back-support rest features contour-molded foam for extra thickness and density.

The rest is said to fit many styles of chairs quickly and easily, and an elasticized strap allows for easy installation/removal. A built-in handle for transport is also included. Prices are $119 and $139.

An adjustable foot rest designed to promote good posture can be adjusted for both height and angle. It includes a patented anti-slip surface and is $89.24.
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Author:Lieber, Ed
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jun 8, 1998

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