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Byline: Sharyn Bernard

NEW YORK-Clock vendors are incorporating alternative materials and fabrications in their new designs, offering retailers looks that coordinate with other home accessory and furniture styles.

These materials and styles reflect trends in other home categories, particularly as clocks move out of the function category and into the home decor business. Besides giving vendors the benefit of being on-trend, these materials, such as leather, wicker and fabric, are proving to be more cost-effective than other materials, particularly as the prices of resin and steel continue to rise.

By adapting to new home decor trends, clock vendors can continue to drive sales. "It's a challenge to come up with new [clock] technology, so we have to be creative in other ways," said Grace Saari, senior product manager for Salton at Home. "As our customers' [styles] change, our developments change," through new materials or shapes.

The latest styles of clocks reflect the importance of natural hues and materials in home. Wicker, leather -- whether real or faux -- fabric and even cork are appearing on clocks.

"Leather is gaining popularity as consumers want to create a uniform look with the furniture in their home," Pat Neilson, manager of new products and business development for Chaney Instrument Co. "We see this trend emerging in every room of the house."

"We closely follow the trends in furniture," Leonard Molite, general manager of Bulova Clock Division, said, adding that the company is exhibiting at more furniture shows, such as those in High Point, N.C.

"Leather is one of the alternative materials that [we're] looking into," he said. "In the past, we have limited ourselves to producing leather clocks that would fit into the executive or picture frame categories. Now, we are working on tabletop and mantel pieces that feature leather accents."

Infinity Instruments launched a line of faux leather clocks and frames last year and has seen success with it; the company is expanding its assortment with new fabrication. "The next evolution in the series is a collection of suede-finished clocks, frames and mirrors," said Steve Hajewski, marketing manager for Infinity Instruments.

Several companies either have or are planning to introduce wicker and other natural material styles to maximize the trend. "Natural materials that give the consumer a new and fresh look are setting the stage for the clock category," Neilson said. "Wicker furniture is now available for any room in the home, and complementing this style with accessories that give the consumer a blended look is an important trend that cannot be ignored."

Kirch has a bamboo clock in development, taking advantage of both the style trend that is popular in housewares as well as the move toward using renewable resources for Earth-friendly products.

The costs of these raw materials, versus the costs of petroleum-based resin, helps make these products even more attractive to vendors. But finding a resource to provide new materials can be challenging.

"Wicker is definitely more cost-effective," Kevin Wu, vice president of sales and marketing for Kirch Industrial Co., said, adding that quality control can be an issue when using that material.

The combination of sharp prices and on-trend styles gives consumers more bang for their buck, most vendors say. "Even with the addition of these new finishes and materials, we've been able to offer these new clocks at price points similar to what we have offered for our basic finish clocks," said Tom Albin, vice president of merchandising for Bulova Clock Division.

Caption(s): Salton is experimenting with fabric on clocks. / Chaney added real leather to its clock assortment.
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Author:Bernard, Sharyn
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 25, 2005
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