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From Home Furnishing Business

A Frequent Occurrence Expanded Offerings Shine Brighter Light on Occasional Category

By Larry Thomas,

If you’re looking for a furniture category that truly offers something for all occasions, it has to be occasional.  

Retailers who sell the category more than just occasionally are likely to find their average tickets regularly increasing, and the number of walk-offs and be-backs regularly decreasing. When sold as part of a seating group, a set of end tables or a coffee table can round out that perfect room package. Or when sold individually, occasional pieces can be effective cash-and-carry items for the consumer who is reluctant to pull the trigger on a whole room of furniture, or isn’t in the market for that.

Not only are there styles, shapes and sizes for virtually every taste and budget, but the occasional category has come to mean a lot more than end tables and coffee tables in recent years. Of course, the three-pack table group isn’t going anywhere, but the category today also includes sofa tables, console tables, benches, magazine racks, bar cabinets, and even small writing desks.

And if the recent Las Vegas Market is any indication, many vendors of occasional furniture are becoming more aggressive with their product roll-outs. Many are adding significantly to their SKU count, expanding their assortments and devoting more showroom space to the category.

Zuo, for example, opened a new Las Vegas showroom that is dominated by offerings from its new Zuo Décor division, which includes occasional furniture and home décor products such as wall hangings and knick-knacks.

And Coaster, long a powerhouse in the occasional category, doubled down on its successful licensed collection with the Scott Brothers of HGTV fame by adding 250 SKUs to the Scott Living lineup, including dozens of new occasional pieces.

The Scott Living collection, in particular, includes a variety of styles and has no single style theme, particularly in occasional. And that’s consistent with research conducted recently by Impact Consulting Services, parent company of Home Furnishings Business.

The survey of recent purchasers of occasional tables showed that almost one-third (32.47%) purchased a table with traditional styling, and the identical number purchased contemporary.

No other style category came close. Country/rustic was the third highest at 15.58%, while country/European was purchased by 9.1%. Mission/shaker were each purchased by 5.19%, while cottage styling wasn’t named by any survey respondents.

And when it came to the type of table purchased, end tables led the way, being purchased by 54.55%. A coffee table was purchased by 38.96% of respondents, and a sofa or console table was acquired by 23.38%. (Multiple answers were allowed.)

The only other type mentioned was nesting tables, which were purchased by just 5.19% or respondents.

When asked how much they would expect to pay for an occasional table group if purchasing today, 44.16% of respondents said $250 or less. Another 32.47% said $250 to $499, while 18.18% said $500 to $999. Only 5.19% said they would expect to pay $1,000 or more.

Survey respondents weren’t too sold on the importance of packaged offers when purchasing occasional tables, such as bundling a coffee table and two end tables for a single price. On a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being “very important” and 1 being “not at all important,” the average response was a meager 3.61. In fact, nearly one-quarter (23.38%) of respondents rated it a 1.

An equally lukewarm response was given when respondents were asked the likelihood of buying a coffee table with extra seating, such as a model with stools that tuck under it. On a scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being “not at all likely” and 7 being “very likely,” the average response was only 2.87. More than one-third (36.36%) rated it a 1.

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