From Home Furnishing Business
Consumers Crave Comfort
By Sheila Long O’Mara
Consumers shopping for motion upholstery want more heat, more massage and more creature comforts in their reclining sofas and sectionals. In a Home Furnishings Business survey conducted last month of consumers who had bought motion upholstery within the last 12 months, nearly 62 percent either bought or would like to have heat and massage in their seating. Automated adjustable headrests and lumbar supports were highlighted by more than 53 percent of the more than 500 participates.
Storage drawers at 50 percent and hidden tabletops at 48 percent were also in the top four of consumer wants in motion upholstery. That’s great news for the category in which suppliers are packing more and more function into motion upholstery. Vendors of motion upholstery have continued to push the functionality of motion frames with power mechanisms, heat and massage, drop-down tables, MP3 docking stations and more. Most suppliers report that the more bells and whistles packed into a frame, the better a particular model tends to retail. On a scale of one to seven, more than 82 percent of the consumer respondents ranked their satisfaction with their motion upholstery purchase as five or higher.
While quite a number of motion upholstery vendors highlighted power recline as a big seller among their customers, our pool of consumers haven’t quite caught on to the fanciest of the fancy. Just shy of a third—29.1 percent—say they’d prefer a power-operated mechanism in their motion upholstery. The remaining 70.9 percent lean toward hand-operated or push-back mechanisms. Possibly the best news out of the survey is that the consumers who recently bought motion upholstery are now hooked and are pleased with their purchase. On a scale of one to seven, more than 82 percent ranked their satisfaction at five or higher.
Reclining sofas and sectionals—motion upholstery—remain one of the fastest growing categories in the furniture industry. Since 2009, retail sales of motion upholstery have grown 16.07 percent to $6.59 billion in 2012—making it the fastest growing category for furniture retailers. The category made up 8.96 percent of all furniture and bedding sold in 2012, almost as large as the 14.05 percent that mattresses command. What is it that has the motion upholstery rocking along on such a growth projectory? We see a correlation between more upscale styling and function as a key driver. Motion suppliers are pushing the style envelope and marrying better looks with all the creature comforts consumers say they crave. Traditional lifestyles from sister company Design Circle like Classic, Estate and updated New Traditionalist have viable motion upholstery selections currently in the marketplace. Lane’s more classic styled, high-leg recliners, for example, add a hint of traditional to any setting. The Modern consumer shopping for motion upholstery can also find a varied selection of styles, including American Leather’s classy, contemporary swing recliners in a variety of updated colors. As we know, the beefy, bulky, plush motion frames tend to carry the marketplace, but if consumers are looking for a bit more panache to add to the homes the looks are available.
12 Reasons for Motion’s Growth
1. The demographic for motion upholstery continues to grow alongside the aging population—a group that tends to gravitate toward lift, heat and massage features.
2. Younger consumers tend to lean toward furniture with an ergonomic story to tell. Think gaming chairs or exercise balls.
3. The influence of the automobile industry and its seating designs featuring lumbar support, heating and cooling seats, neck support and more. Why not relax as comfortably at home?
4. The home theater has moved out of the basement and into the great room. Motion upholstery now has a broader audience.
5. Motion suppliers have gained an edge by right-sizing their products. Motion comes in all shapes and sizes now. Remember the days when extra-large seating was all that was available?
6. Better performance fabrics and fewer covers with scratchy olefin. Better fabric designs that work with motion upholstery have brought new consumers into the fold.
7. Better leather education. Consumers now understand the durability of leather and its tendency to improve with time.
8. Stressful lifestyles and long work days have consumers eager for soft place to land at home. Relaxation, pampering and nesting have come a long way with the benefits of motion.
9. As the bedding sector have shifted its marketing toward better health through rest and relaxation, consumers have heightened expectations on how home furnishings can improve down time.
10. Men and women are shopping together more these days, and having a man’s viewpoint in the furniture selection points toward better sales for reclining sofas and sectionals.
11. Advances in motion seating size, silhouette and functionality, like wall huggers and multiple width seating, provide a broader reach to consumers.
12. Successful marketing campaigns have removed some of the stigma of the category as “my father’s recliner” providing shoppers with “permission” to opt for a seating that does more—reclines, massages, stores and chills a drink.
What Retailers say
Ashley Primematic Durablend Sectional
This two-piece sectional is a fantastic look at an unparalleled value. The color is a great crimson red (not another brown sectional!) and has two power recliners, a drop-down storage tray and storage in the chaise/ottoman. Customers can’t resist the features and at $1,299, it has the price, look and bells and whistles that make this a HOT mover!
Sam’s Furniture & Appliances
Fort Worth, Texas
Comfort Design’s 114 Ventana
“We show it along with a recliner in a pale yellow, and it stands out like a beacon in a brown leather department. It has a split back with a high-grade leather so it’s very comfortable. We sell sectionals, sofas and recliners off that frame.” Retail price is $2,999.
Coaster’s 550152 Reclining Loveseat
“The majority of motion upholstery tends to be dark brown or black so the combination of neutral coloring, attention to detail and price makes this item a great seller.” Retails at $764.95.
What Suppliers Say
Palliser’s Cortez sectional makes a powerful statement. Available in any of Palliser’s more than 300 leathers and fabrics, the Cortez is a strong seller, according to Lorri Kelley, vice president of sales and service. As show in this great leather with all power recline, the sectional retails at $5999; dressed in fabric with power recline, $3,599. “The power mechanism is the overwhelming majority of sales,” Kelley said.
Flexsteel’s Julio is all about comfort and eye appeal—sometimes a tricky combination when it comes to motion upholstery. Justin Mills, director of advertising and public relations, said the design tells the story. “Julio begins with a wonderfully soft automotive bucket seat and deep pocketed back divide,” he said. “The arm, arm pad, back and chaise page are lined with a French flap stitching detail that highlights the architecture of design.” In leather, Julio comes standard with power recline and is priced to retail at $1,999. Julio is also available in fabric with or without power recline.
The Milano sectional from Franklin Corp. offers several features that make it a winner for the upholstery supplier—eye appeal, comfort with a chair and a half reclining scoop seat and a great price point. “The Milano is totally modular and can be built several different ways—including a console and tablet tray with USB charger,” said Chuck Tidwell, vice president of merchandising and product development for the company.As shown, Milano retails at $2,399 in bonded leather. In a smaller configuration with two recliners, two armless seats and a wedge, the sectional would retail at $1,699.
Best Home Furnishings
The Bodie motion sofa from Best Home Furnishings is a streamlined reclining sofa that features power recline. Eric Vollmer, sales and marketing specialist for the company, said is available in “hundreds of fabrics and also with a manual reclining function.”As shown in leather, Bodie retails at $1,374 with the power reclining mechanism
The Grand Torino reclining sectional from Lane is among the company’s top selling motion groups, as well as top viewed on the Lane Web site. “The transitional design with comfort cradle seating and envelope style padded arms make it incredibly versatile,” said Mindi Brothers, vice president of marketing. Grand Torino offers a myriad of creature comforts, including a storage console, pulldown table and drink holders, power recline option and a sleeper sofa with the company’s trademarked iRest gel-infused foam mattress. Estimated retail price as a four piece, double reclining, sleeper sectional is $2,499.
Cozzia’s EC618 robotic massage chair is marketed as the Ultimate Massage Chair, and its target retail price is $3,999 to $4,999. Controlled by a microcomputer that performs a number of massage techniques, Bob Bruns, president of Cozzia USA, said the chair is a best seller with its bells and whistles. The chair uses innovative 3D robotics technology to offer a thorough massage by focusing on the acupressure points of the back. In addition to the mechanism, the chair has 64 air bags and vibration massage in the seat to create the various types of massage techniques. In addition to the massage and heat functions, the chair offers speakers and LED lighting for audio and visual stimulation.
The Stressless Buckingham sofa is the winner at Ekornes. The three-seat, low-back sofa retails from between $4,200 and $5,800 depending on the leather. Inspired by some of London’s most chic addresses, Buckingham offers a sleek, classy feel to reclining sofas. Buckingham features gentle curves, padded arms and a supple seat to provide the ultimate in relaxation. Each of the seats offers individual recliner with the patented Stressless Glide System to provide the right amount of support.
The Pinnacle Reclina-Way full reclining sofa from La-Z-Boy offers two fully reclining end seats that offer full-body chaise support and plush, pillow high backs. Amy Hellebuyck, manager brand marketing and public relations for La-Z-Boy, said the “line is a top-seller because of its smaller scale, as well as its customization and fabric and leather options, including power, a drop-down table and console.” Target retail price starts at $1,159.