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AMY SCOTT: The evidence will be on the curb today — all those giant cardboard boxes that once held flat-screen TVs. They were one of the big sellers this holiday season. Which brings us to another story about another kind of box, for another kind of television. We sent Mary-Rose Abraham to a hotel in suburban Los Angeles to track the impact of a change in TV fashion.
Mary-Rose Abraham: In a guest room of the Warner Center Marriott, a large, dark-wood armoire holds center court. Its doors conceal a few small drawers, some shelves, and a 28-inch television. The armoire is the workhorse of the modern luxury hotel room. Or it was, until the flat-screen TV came along.
GORDON LUSTER: Our travelers typically are frequent business customers, are more and more in demand for upgraded technology, upgraded capabilities, upgraded entertainment.
That’s Gordon Luster, manager of the Marriott in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. The hotel is undergoing a $6 million renovation. And when it’s finished each room will include a new 32-inch flat screen TV, and hundreds of armoires will find themselves out of a job.
Industry analysts predict that more than 40,000 armoires will be on the market by next year, cast off by high-end hotels. At the Marriott, Luster says a few employees have asked for some of the old armoires. But most will be carted away to a place like this:
Armoires line the floor at the large warehouse of Hotel Surplus Outlet. It’s a furniture liquidation company also in the Valley. Company owner Don Fenning points out some of the new arrivals.
Don Fenning: These are from The Mission Inn, two styles. The Venetian Hotel. This just came in from a boutique hotel in Santa Barbara. It’s about two-and-a-half years old. It’s a Canadian-built armoire, really fine furniture.
Fenning says he has about 120 armoires on site and several hundred more in storage. Small hotels and motels are steady customers. But with so many of the big cabinets in stock, Fenning, like many other resellers, is slashing prices. A few years ago he could get up to $1,000 for a used armoire in good condition. Now the average price is just $300. And he’d settle for less. Here’s one of his ads:
Radio advertisement: They’re currently overloaded with a nice selection of armoires in various styles with clearance prices on armoires starting at less than $100 each…
That’s a pretty good deal for a fairly new armoire. Fenning says hotel furniture usually has a life of five to seven years, though many hotels are unloading their cabinets after just two years.
But not with Fenning. Unless the pieces are standouts, or come with the rest of the room’s furniture, he’s not interested.
Don Fenning: You know, any project that’s got several hundred armoires and an armoire alone without the case goods is a tough, tough project to sell these days.
And individual sellers are having the same problem. e-Bay has a glut of armoires on its site. And judging by holiday sales of flat-screen TVs, hundreds more armoires may be on their way out the door.
I’m Mary-Rose Abraham for Marketplace.
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