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From Home Furnishing Business

What Sells: Waking Up Improved Finishes, Designs Spur Bedroom Furniture Growth

By Larry Thomas

Buoyed by innovative finish treatments, improved Asian sourcing models, and successful design-driven collections and licensing programs, bedroom furniture appears poised for continued growth across the pricing spectrum

Producers say the category is finally showing signs of life after several years of sluggish sales, and is due for a significant rebound. Millennials, for starters, are starting to form new households in earnest, and non-Millennials are starting to feel comfortable about spending money to replace their well-worn existing bedroom suites.

And when they do make those purchases, they’re likely to find an array of finishes that weren’t available the last time they shopped. Not only have gray finishes become all the rage the past couple of years, but the time honored brown finish has taken on a variety of new forms that are nothing like the high-gloss, lacquer-heavy traditional finishes that have been a staple of the category.

“Even in the most sophisticated environments, we see consumers gravitating towards a more relaxed aesthetic,” said Randy Wells, vice president of creative at Stanley Furniture. “We believe there’s a call for finishes that convey the natural characteristics of the veneer or wood species they are applied to.”

And in many instances, that has meant gray finishes – especially the past two to three years. Producers say grays have been prevalent in Europe for many years, but have caught on only recently in North America.

“All of a sudden, it just seemed like everything became gray,” said Geoff Beaston, vice president of case goods at Klaussner. “I am hearing people are tiring of it, but I believe it will be here for quite a while. Just like the classic traditional finishes, I think gray will still be one of the popular finishes.”

And given today’s increasingly sophisticated finish treatments, there are now some brown finishes that have a gray tone, which pleases those who think there’s too much gray in the marketplace and those who can’t get enough of it.

“If you can come up with a finish that is brown to the people who like brown, but yet gray to the people who like gray, they you’ve got a winner,” Beaston quipped.

Research by Impact Consulting Services, parent company of Home Furnishings Business, showed that replacing old furniture was the most frequently listed reason for buying new bedroom furniture, but buying a new house was not too far behind.

In a survey of recent bedroom furniture purchasers, 33.6% said replacing old furniture was the primary motivation, followed by buying a new house, which was cited by 24.9% of respondents. The next-highest motivation was a desire for new style, cited by 19%, followed by a change in family size, cited by 11.4%, and a desire for new function, cited by 11.1%.

To no one’s surprise, a headboard or headboard/footboard combination was the most frequent bedroom furniture item purchased, cited by 56.7% of the survey respondents. But a dresser and night stand were close behind, purchased by 53.6% and 53.1% of respondents, respectively. A chest was purchased by 25.3%, while a platform bed was purchased by 13.4% and a desk by 12.9%.

The armoire, a fairly common bedroom furniture purchase prior to 2000, was acquired by only 9.3% of the survey respondents.

“The bed is still the focal point, and we all want to make that grand statement,” said Beaston.

Increasingly, that statement is being made with upholstery, as upholstered headboards continue to gain market share. Estimates of the market share captured by upholstered headboards vary widely among producers, but they all agree their popularity is not waning.

“Upholstered beds remain an important option in our whole-home collections,” said Wells. “Even if we don’t cover an entire bed, our beds will typically employ some level of upholstery to add a valuable element of texture and softness.”

Bedroom furniture producers also are making a statement by increasing the height of their headboards. No reliable data is available on the number of tall headboards offered by producers, or just how tall they are, but it appears the headboard heights may be limited only their ability to fit into a container (for importers) or a truck (for domestic producers).

“It seems like every time we look at a sample, we say, ‘gosh, we need to raise it a couple of inches’,” Beaston said.

Headboard heights weren’t part of the Impact Consulting survey, but the overwhelming majority of respondents (63%) said it was the bed that initially drew their attention. The dresser came in a distant second, cited by 18% or respondents, and all other bedroom pieces were cited by less than 5% of recent bedroom furniture purchasers.

And while the ability to customize bedroom furniture isn’t nearly as important as upholstery – except at the very high end of the market -- nearly all of the survey respondents said they would be willing to pay extra if they were able to customize. In fact, 25.8% said they would pay an additional $100 to $250, and another 24.2% said they would pay an additional $250 to $500.

Plus, some 14.4% said they would pay an extra $500 to $1,000, while 8.3% were willing to add more than $1,000 to the price tag.


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