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OKANAGAN FALLS, B.C.-Avante Furniture Mfg., a supplier of ready-to-assemble furniture based in Canada, is ramping up its strategy of providing a broad-based furniture line.

The company will use the San Francisco Furniture Market, July 24 through 28, as a launching pad for several products designed for home use, including a two-person desk, a wine center and a rotating media-storage unit.

The company -- which in the past was primarily a supplier of audio/video furniture -- is seeking to attract smaller Western retailers at the show. The High Point market, in contrast, primarily is used to gain access to Midwest and Eastern dealers, as well as the export market, the company said.

Avante seeks to carve a niche for itself via regional furniture retailers rather than mass merchants and discounters. This will not be a task without hurdles, according to Iain Lang, director of marketing and sales.

"A lot of the furniture retailers haven't opened their doors to RTA," he said. "They're still learning about it. Some feel unsure about a customer having to assemble a product."

Avante's retail RTA pieces, which number about 40, are priced from $199 to $399.

"We are trying not to go head-to-head with promotional product," Lang said. "Our line won't be bandied about in category killers."

The company's strategy is to provide RTA pieces that blend into several areas of home use. PC desks and storage items are the company's primary avenues for doing this at present.

The supplier constructs its products from high-quality wood grains, including maple, cherry mahogany and medium oak. "These are very rich finishes," Lang said. "They wax and polish up just like a wood veneer."

Avante offers a 10-year limited warranty on all its products and also provides consumers with a toll-free help line.

It is Avante's attention to detail that helps separate it from the rest of the RTA pack, according to Lang. "We make sure everything is looked after," he noted.

Concealed storage for a wide variety of accessories is one way Avante is attempting to build a name for itself. The company offers pieces that include extensive storage for everything from CD-ROMs to pencils.

Also helping set it apart is its ability to adapt to the changes of the products the furniture is designed to house, Lang reported. Some RTA manufacturers "haven't kept pace with today's hardware," he said. "Their furniture doesn't fit."

The company offers retailers a host of tools to help sell RTA as a category. Newsletters that include tips on selling RTA and P.O.P. material that highlights a piece's features are among the aids the company provides.

The two-user desk, to be unveiled in San Francisco, features a patented design that enables the monitor and keyboard to swivel together from left to right like a pendulum.

The "Double Play" desk is available in oak, maple and cherry mahogany, with black accenting. It is priced at $269.

The wine center, which is mobile, provides a criss-cross storage rack that can hold up to 18 wine bottles. It also sports a cradle that can hold four "prized" bottles. Two drawers designed to store corkscrews, coasters and the like are also provided, as are hanging storage racks for glasses.

The unit also is available in the three finishes and is priced at $299.

The media storage unit can harbor everything from LPs, laserdiscs, photo albums to VHS tapes, audiocassettes and CDs. The unit is available in all three colors and is priced at $229.
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Author:Lieber, Ed
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jul 13, 1998

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