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Byline: Karl Kunkel

HIGH POINT, N.C.-Houses are getting bigger? Try telling that to consumers whose storage closets are overflowing into their living rooms.

Ready-to-assemble furniture manufacturers have noted this organizational chaos with stuff-loving Americans and made a mad dash to their drawing boards, seeing an opportunity to help these organizationally challenged consumers. And those ideas have come to fruition just in time for the knickknack-happy holidays.

Sauder Woodworking Co. started shipping its Shelf Life products earlier this month. This major leap for Sauder, an easily mountable wall shelf, combines fashion, function and ease of installation.

"The well-thought-out merchandise presentation was very well received [by retailers]," said Susan Dountas, vice president of merchandising at Sauder.

Sauder now offers Shelf Life displays to retailers in both single-sided wall unit and gondola form. The latter enables a retailer to present Shelf Life stock and display samples on a compact, 4-foot, back-to-back rack.

Each Shelf Life unit contains a small, magnetic stud finder so that a consumer can find the most secure parts of a wall for mounting the shelf. Each shelf is also designed with a patented T-slot edge on three sides so that a consumer can slide the decorative moldings on flush to the top surface or slightly raised to prevent a vase from sliding off. The11 inch-deep shelves are designed to hold up to 50 pounds and are available in eight colors that match Sauder collections, such as Heritage Hill with its classic cherry finish.

"This makes them much more versatile for retailers," Dountas said. "We are seeing these go into stores as product extensions and to other channels of product, like, let's say, office. Everyone is looking for more and more storage solutions."

The licensing deal Ameriwood Inc. has inked with storage specialist California Closets should bring some happiness to beleaguered, tchotchke-rich households.

"Retailers were calling us to take a look at it [during the October market], which is nice," said Jeff Sternklar, director of marketing at Ameriwood. "We have not, at this point, put together a mass program. We are going to be doing it for select retailers. We have, more or less, chosen different retailers in each channel to go after. There will be one in mass, one in specialty, one in DIY home centers. It won't be an open program for everybody to come after."

Ameriwood will announce those retailers around the first of the year.

These storage items, under the slogan "Life: Stuff: Storage" will be directed to places in the entire household needing them the most, including the basement, garage, laundry room, closet and kitchen.

"We are working very closely in conjunction with California Closets," Sternklar said. "We have a team put together -- product managers, designers, engineers, purchasing people, marketing people -- all working together to come up with this. They see everything before it goes to market."

The items will be in stores around March. However, the Ameriwood products will not be sold at California Closets retail outlets, according to Sternklar.

"There is a distinct difference between California Closets' core business and Ameriwood licensing," he said.

Last month, O'Sullivan Furniture launched its O'Sullivan Platinum Pro Series storage system, a five-item line with each retailing under $129. Both the base cabinets feature half-inch-thick drawer bottoms for increased holding capacity, and the storage hutch has a wall-mounted pegboard. The finish has black uprights and brush-metal fronts.

"It features an ergonomically sensitive, extruded handle system on the drawers and doors," said Mike Franks, director of strategic planning at O'Sullivan. "This handle runs the entire width of the cabinets and features a deep channel. This allows for easy access from nearly any angle and works for users that are wearing work gloves."

Rush Industries has introduced a stackable cube collection with doors. The line is part of his Charles Harris collection. Each cube is 2-by-2.5 feet and can be arranged in a number of configurations in closets, kids' rooms, laundry room or any other room. The line comes in four colors: honey, cherry, white and black.

"It's desk-high, and we made it UPS-able," said Michael Rush, president, Rush. "It's also lightweight for easy shipping and handling."

Caption(s): The new GearBox collection from O'Sullivan provides storage solutions for the garage. / Sauder's Shelf Life combines fashion, strength and practicality. / Above: This wall unit from Bush Industries provides plenty of storage for the home office/small office market. / Right: Ameriwood's licensed California Closets line includes this organizer.
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Author:Kunkel, Karl
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 29, 2004
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