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From Home Furnishing Business

What Sells: : Dining: From Formal to Functional

The industry knows that in the age of open floor plans formal dining rooms have become a thing of the past with consumers opting for more open, functional spaces designed for flexibility. Of course, we all still need a place to gather and eat, so it’s no surprise that the dining category is still alive and well (though it’s fair to say that consumers are doing a lot more than just eating a meal on their dining pieces!). In this case, functional equals casual.

According to Bryan Sprinkles, sales and marketing manager at John Thomas Furniture, "We’re living in our homes much more casually than ever before. The trend may have started some time ago, yet it’s growing, not going. Part of that has to do with the largest demographic of home buyers being millennials (36% and rapidly growing). They don’t want segmented areas. Instead they want gathering spaces where living, dining, and kitchen spaces are fluid and visually connected.” What are manufacturers doing to create casual solutions to dining needs? Well, it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but it is important nonetheless. Sprinkles continues, “We’re consistently reviewing how the scale, shape, function, and fashioning of our designs can work best for shopper’s lifestyles and how we can add value to their buying proposition." Other executives agree. Jonathan Sowter, CEO and founder of Jonathan Charles says, “Customers are consistently looking for more casual dining options; gone are the highly formal separate dining rooms.” He says his product is a best seller "because it has the same scale and amenities as a formal dining table but the design is much more relaxed and appropriate in open layout homes."  

According to a FurnitureCore, Inc. industry model developed by Impact Consulting Services, parent company to Home Furnishings Business, when polled on the location of the dining area in the home, 52.34% of consumers reported having a casual dining space outside of their kitchen, 35.51% said that their casual dining space was within their kitchen, another 6.54% preferred a kitchen bar with stools or chairs, and the remaining listed ‘other’ or ‘no casual dining area’ at 5.6%.

Working with a modern finish or style will make all the difference while consumers are searching for their next casual dining piece. It will, after all, need to transcend its intended purpose as a dining piece and become a focal point for a large, multi-purpose room and combine with the other styles and features of the surrounding areas within the home. This is also where manufacturers and designers are able to have a bit of fun with their product design, keeping ahead of trends and anticipating the next big thing. According to Najarian Furniture’s Vice President Michael Lawrence, "Online retailers made way for transitional styles to be sought-after and mainstream over the past few years. We’ve been ahead of the curve and anticipated these shifts by incorporating more of these looks into our line-up, yet find there are still a lot of shoppers looking for contemporary and modern-glam styles that are truly unique, not me-too. Our approach is to work closely with our retail partners and engage in dialog to ensure our finger stays on the pulse of what shoppers are looking for at retail and design accordingly. Our niche has always been, and continues to be, unique, classic, timeless designs. Though we incorporate trendy, transitional styles... classic, timeless designs are consistently our sweet-spot."

Based on the same FurnitureCore study, when asked the style of the casual dining area, a near tie with traditional (32.71%) and contemporary (34.58%) was reported. Following that was country/rustic at 14.95%, transitional at 6.54%, and all others trailing behind. These same consumers have recently purchased casual dining furniture in the past 18 months. When surveyed, most reported that their most recent purchase was a chair(s) at 73.88%, followed by tables at 68.22%. Buffets were popular at 7.48%, China cabinets at 6.54%, and ‘other’ was reported at 12.15% (think wine cabinets, etc.). Now, you’re ready to peruse the best sellers of the category. Happy merchandising!



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