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ATLANTA-Home office storage pieces are becoming more compact, more portable and more versatile as casual users and telecommuters both look to organize more items in tighter spaces.

"Mobility is the biggest issue we hear when we're speaking with consumers," said Jean Rupar, product manager of specialty storage for Rubbermaid.

"There is a significant trend for carts and items on wheels," added Linda Carter, product manager for Akro- Mils. The company just introduced OfficeSpace storage and organization carts that store everything from printers to scanners. An OfficeSpace File Manager Cart features a storage box for hanging files. A shelf feature stores books, printed materials and molded pencil storage compartments. The Shelf Cart features a double shelf. The carts retail from $32.99 to $38.99.

Mobility is important because "people often have multiple locations to work within an office, and they also have to move things around," said Michele Virnig, marketing- communications manager for Eldon Office Products, a Newell Rubbermaid division. She noted that while products on wheels are critical in this segment, so are file boxes and other containers that allow users to move products not just within the home, but allow road warriors to bring products with them.

Modular storage pieces also are becoming increasingly important in home office storage because they give consumers more flexibility in designing storage systems that better suit their needs.

"We see modularity as an important driver for both telecommuters and consumers," said Rupar, noting that Rubbermaid is aggressively targeting this segment with a modular drawer system. The drawers come in two sizes and each features a knob for added style. In addition, the drawers are designed in Rubbermaid's new galaxy hue -- a metallic gray color. The drawers retail for $7.99 for the medium-size unit to $9.99 for the larger unit. The drawers can be stacked for more customization.

"Consumers can configure these in whatever way is convenient for them. They offer function and fashion; they're coming out of the closet and being used in other areas," said Rupar.

Modular cubes for stacking also are becoming popular.

"In response to space issues, we have a lot of customizable modular storage systems," said Virnig.

Still, function isn't the only feature manufacturers are addressing in home office storage. Increasingly, home office products feature more stylish designs and hues, reflecting consumers' continued emphasis on decorating every area of their homes. And while some home offices are elaborate telecommunications rooms, others are simply corners of kitchens -- therefore, fashion and decor matters even more in these casual spaces.

"I don't know of a house that doesn't have a computer," said Julie Ranahan, sales and marketing manager of Norscan. "More professionals are working out of their houses and more people are spending time at home. The home office is a part of that trend. Home offices create a quality of life and improve the quality of life."

Home offices, indeed, are becoming so prevalent that the segment is helping boost the total office storage business.

"While the small office industry has not grown at the same rate, the home office sector is really strong," said Jay Johnson, director of marketing for Iris USA. "It seems like the home office sector gets stronger in difficult economies."

Metals and mixed materials are becoming fashion trends in home office, reflecting the same style and decorating trends popular throughout the home. While industrial-inspired designs in brushed steel and other metals continue to be popular styles, vendors are introducing plastic styles that emulate these trends.

"We can make something affordable in plastic that's comparable to metals" in color and appearance, said Rubbermaid's Rupar. "Consumers can get a beautiful look at an affordable price." The company has new drawer units in galaxy, titanium and graphite colors, retailing from $14.99 to $19.99. In addition, Rubbermaid will unveil a drawer system next year to further target this fashion trend, although Rupar would not elaborate on the specific aspects of the product. "It will be revolutionary and not quite like anything on the market," she said.

Home office storage suppliers point out that storage products extend beyond totes, drawer units and file boxes, especially as consumers adapt to newer technologies. For example, vendors expected media storage units will likely see a big spike in sales -- especially around the holidays -- as more consumers burn music and photo compact discs into the newest computers.
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Article Details
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Author:Bernard, Sharyn
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 3, 2001
Next Article:NEWS BRIEFS.

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