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From Home Furnishing Business

What Sells: On the Move

By: Sheila Long O'Mara

Before Jim Muffi put the motion into sofas, consumers were forced to argue over the one or two bubba recliners in their family rooms when watching television.

Prior to Muffi’s 1979 founding of PeopLounger in Mississippi, sofas, sectionals and loveseats did little other than offer a place to sit. Today, 35 years later, motion upholstery has transformed the way many families congregate to watch movies, play games and become all out sofa spuds.

The category has come a long way since those early days, and today’s offerings boast gadgets, power reclining mechanisms, massage options and storage space, not to mention improved styling and design across the spectrum.

While hitting middle age, the category continues to resonate with consumers.

Total motion upholstery sales for 2013 were $10.02 billion, 14 percent of all furniture sales. When broken down and considering only upholstery sales, motion upholstery accounted for 36.4 percent of sales in 2013. For the first quarter of 2014, those percentages remained steady.

Home Furnishings Business and its parent company Impact Consulting Services/FurnitureCore recently conducted a consumer survey of 259 people who had bought motion upholstery within the last 18 months. The survey revealed relatively pleased customers when it came to their purchases.

Of our consumer panel most (61.4 percent) bought a reclining sofa and or a loveseat, and 82.3 percent of them fell in the range of five to seven. The scale ranged from one to seven with seven being “very satisfied” and one being “not at all satisfied”.

While in the industry we’ve seen quite a bit of improvement in motion upholstery design, our consumers see more room for improvement in styling. More than half — 57.6 percent — said the style of motion is an inhibitor to purchasing. Keep in mind however, that our group all bought some piece of motion upholstery so they must have found something they liked well enough. It only says motion designers could spiff things up a bit in the eyes of consumers.

Despite the focus of manufacturers and retailers to gravitate toward power merchanisms for reclining in higher-end models, consumers in our panel say they prefer the hand-operated style. More than 52 percent preferred lever mechanisms, while 28.7 percent opted for power recline and another 19 percent chose press-back reclining.

Speaking of those power mechanisms. Consumers are pretty tight-fisted on their willingness to cover the cost of them. Almost 70 percent (70.6 percent) said they’d only pay $100 or less to get power recline in their motion sofa or sectional. Forty-one percent said they’d be willing to pay only $50 more for a power mechanism.

Ensuring the product lasts and doesn’t breakdown, consumers are adamant on warranty options for motion upholstery. Nearly 70 percent said they have a warranty on their furniture. When asked of the importance of warranties, 75.2 percent scored them a five or higher on our one-to-seven scale with one being “not at all important” and seven being “very important”.


Want More?

A more indepth report on motion upholstery is available for purchase at—Industry Info—Industry Reports—Motion Upholstery, or by calling Natalia Hurd at (404) 390-1535.


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