Universal expands custom upholstery options with U/Choose

Universal Furniture is taking domestic upholstery program to the next level with a new custom offering that takes advantage of the capacity and capabilities of its production facilities in Conover, North Carolina.

U/Choose is a build-your-own upholstery program that will offer multiple arm and leg options, as well as cushion and welted/nonwelted options on sofas, sleepers, sectionals, loveseats, and accent and swivel chairs. This is in addition to the 500 cover options, including 50 leathers, the company already offers.

The program has been in development for about two years as part of an effort to expand its custom approach and build upon the success of its existing domestic program, which developed out of its purchase of Southern Furniture three years ago.

The belief is that the program could be a significant part of the business moving forward — perhaps as much as half if not more.

At Premarket in September, Universal showed a selection of core frames and options in a neutral fabric. At the High Point Market Oct. 22-26, it will showcase options in two additional settings, including one that highlights a more Southeastern coastal design and another that is targeted toward middle America.

There are two sofa sizes available —  80 inch and 88 inch — each with a bench cushion option and a three-cushion option. Sofas with starting-tier fabrics are targeted to retail around $2,100, compared with about $1,999 in the company’s regular domestic line.

“We are going to show you this in all of its glory and the way that this can hopefully be duplicated at the retail level,” said Sean O’Connor, senior vice president of sales at Universal.

He added that the program aims to make Universal more important to customers that are already carrying its upholstery line and give another reason for the “big folks to look at us.”

“We were very strategic in finding the right arms, the right scale, and the right sit and pitch,” O’Conner said. “Everything was developed very intentionally.”

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O’Connor and operations manager Dale Smith told Home News Now that the program has been in the concept and development stages for some time. However, because of lead times of up to 28 weeks at the Conover plant, it would have been difficult to implement before now.

The company was even considering putting off the U/Choose launch for another market or two, but with lead times down to eight to 10 weeks, the company believes it can move products through the plant both quickly and efficiently.

“This is the right time,” Smith said, adding that Universal moved quickly to bring the initial designs to Premarket. The company is glad it did, as the options it is offering are already being noticed by retailers.

“We are giving the consumer a lot of look, a lot of function and a lot of capability, but in the process, we have developed it where it will run through this factory very, very well,” Smith said. “That is why we are so excited about it. We know that we can reproduce this product and that it will flow — there is not one area that is going to bog down this plant. We designed it this way to be able to do some things differently and to make it happen.” During High Point Market, the line can be seen at the Universal Furniture showroom at 101 S. Hamilton St. The company plans to put the line into production immediately after market and anticipates lead times of eight to 10 weeks.

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