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BoConcept furniture, Smart car join hands

TAMPA — It's not an obvious pairing, furniture and cars.

But it's an ideal match for BoConcept and Mercedes-Benz Smart cars.

The European manufacturers have teamed up on a new furniture line and Smart car design that highlights their common focus on urban living, functionality and good design. The sofa was inspired by the back seat of an old car. The chair looks like a bucket seat. The car has BoConcept's brown leather interior and touches of neon yellow in the dashboard gauges and wheel rims.

Today, the collaborative effort comes to the BoConcept store in Tampa's Channel District for the launch of the Danish retailer's Smartville collection of furniture and home accessories. Also on display will be a Smart ForTwo BoConcept signature car, one of just two in North America. A second, standard Smart car from the dealership on Dale Mabry Highway will remain in the showroom through May 23.

"It's all about cross-marketing and demonstrating what our brand is all about," said Ray Priddle, owner of BoConcept in Tampa's Channel District. "We're an urban brand, and so is Smart."

The idea came from a public relations firm in Germany that does work for BoConcept and Smart. When looking at the companies' demographics, the firm noticed both had the same customer profile: high-income city dwellers in their late 20s to 50s who embrace the urban lifestyle.

By marrying the concepts, the companies hope to open new markets and, ultimately, boost sales. Much like Porsche fans buy jackets and ball caps with the car's insignia, Smart owners might buy the matching furniture and home accessories.

"We're using this to reach a new pool of customers who are in our target group," said Steen Knigge, marketing director for BoConcept, which has 260 stores worldwide, including 23 in the United States.

The idea also makes a statement. Every spring, the 60-year-old Danish furniture company introduces a new line to generate some midseason excitement. Last year, it was the Ottawa Collection by Karim Rashid, a noted interior architect and industrial designer. Inspired by his formative years in Canada, the line won the coveted Red Dot design award.

The partnership with Smart is BoConcept's first with an automaker. For the Tampa store, the only BoConcept in Florida, executing it wasn't easy. To get a Smart car into the showroom, the staff had to load it onto dollies and roll it inside. Because gaining access to the interior was so difficult, the decked-out BoConcept car will stay parked outside for the one-night event.

While groundbreaking for BoConcept, the joint-marketing idea isn't unprecedented. A few years ago, watchmaker Breitling partnered with Bentley automobiles, both luxury brands known for their mechanisms and performance.

Smart made fewer than a dozen of the BoConcept cars, which debuted at auto shows in late March. Based on strong initial feedback, Knigge said, the automaker plans to start selling them commercially at dealerships this fall for about $20,000.

Already, the furniture line has gained some traction. The Tampa store has sold out of the $99 clocks resembling the circular dashboard gauges on the Smart car. Nationwide, sales of the sofas have been strong, Knigge said.

Priddle, the store owner, said a customer who saw the Smart car in the showroom ended up leasing one.

Susan Thurston can be reached at or (813) 225-3110.