By Trisha McBride Ferguson
If there’s one piece of furniture that establishes the style and décor of a home, it’s the sofa. As fashionable as they are functional, sofas serve as the centerpiece to the family room, living room, den, bonus room and plenty of man caves. Together with loveseats and upholstered chairs, they provide the go-to space for relaxing and entertaining.
The stationary upholstery category continues to grow, although at a slower pace (3.74 percent for the first half of 2016) than the impressive growth posted during the same period last year (5.31 percent). In 2015, stationary upholstery sales finished at $19.32 billion, up from $18.34 billion in 2014.
Combining stationary and motion sales, the total upholstery segment comprised 38.67 percent of total furniture industry sales (excluding bedding) last year, up from 38.55 percent prior year. For this first half of this year, it is trending flat at 38.67. Factoring in bedding sales, the first half of 2016 looks slightly more positive with total upholstery sales accounting for 32.98 percent of total furniture sales, up from 32.88 percent in the same period last year.
A quick look at Pinterest and Houzz shows that upholstered furnishings not only anchor a room’s design and functionality, they give consumers a way to express their personal style. Yet 44 percent of consumers who bought upholstery in the last 18 months cite product selection as the biggest shopping challenge they faced, according to Home Furnishings Business’ most recent survey. Respondents cited wanting a wider selection of products as a more significant challenge than experiencing higher prices than expected (19 percent), difficulty in distinguishing differences in products (12 percent), and inexperienced salespeople (4 percent).
As for design preferences, more than half of those surveyed (54.4 percent) identified their style as traditional, followed by contemporary (28.8 percent), country/rustic (6.3 percent), transitional (4.4 percent), cottage (3.8 percent) and mission/shaker (2.3 percent).
It comes as no surprise that consumers are browsing and searching online before purchasing upholstery. A notable 61.9 percent of those surveyed report researching products online before making their upholstery purchase. When asked about the importance of upholstery manufactured domestically, 62.5 percent of those surveyed said they’d pay more for an item made in America.
Eco-friendly upholstery products are valuable to some, but not to a majority of shoppers. When asked about the importance of environmentally friendly furniture, 18.7 percent cited it as important, compared to 23.1 percent who classified it as unimportant—with the majority of respondents (58.2 percent) falling somewhere in the middle.
When it comes to shopping, the majority of these consumers are acting decisively. According to this survey, 39.1 percent shopped two weeks or less before purchasing, with an additional 28.6 percent buying within the first month. Their willingness to wait for custom-order upholstery mirrors this trend, with 65.3 percent of those surveyed reporting they would wait up to four weeks, 23.6 percent would wait up to eight weeks, and only 11.1 percent willing to wait longer than eight weeks.
As for brand preferences, the importance of a brand name is declining. Of respondents most recently surveyed, 63.7 percent rated the brand as somewhat influential to their purchase—the middle ground between very influential and not influential at all. This is down from the 67 percent of shoppers who responded similarly in last year’s survey.
Vanguard Furniture’s Brit
Rolled arms, casters, and a button-tufted back give Vanguard’s Brit sofa a casually elegant look. Ultimately configurable, its cover (available in fabric or leather), finish and embellishments can be customized. Suggested retail starts at $4,800.
Uptown from American Furniture Manufacturing
“This is one of our bestsellers because it has a casual, contemporary style, a soft chenille fabric with attractive coordinating toss pillows, and it’s a tremendous value at $499 for the sofa.”
Kennedy from La-Z-Boy
Petite in scale with narrow arms, the Kennedy is perfect for smaller spaces. It features welt trim, fully padded arms, and ComfortCore® zoned cushioned seating. Suggested retail as shown is $879.
Universal Furniture’s Corbin
Sleek and urban, the Corbin’s signature is an exposed chrome frame complemented with upholstered arm caps and loose, box cushions. It’s available in gray cloud velvet (quilted), brown leather or gray leather. Suggested retail ranges from $1,500 to $2,250.
This sofa-chaise from HTL features slightly flared, curved arms with welt detailing and espresso-colored wood legs. It’s also available in coordinating sofa, loveseat and chair configurations. Power reclining models such as this include USB port for device charging.
Rachael Ray Home Collection by Craftmaster
Part of the Upstate collection for Rachael Ray Home, the R7612 Sofa is shown here in fabric Frasier 10. It features a relaxed traditional aesthetic and classic details such as pewter nailhead trim. Suggested retail sofa price is $1,299.
The 2361 Sofa from Sherrill Furniture is made in the USA and features eight-way, hand-tied construction and feather-down throw pillows. It’s shown here with the Falcon Brown fabric cover, a contrasting welt in Porto Tobacco, and bronze nailhead trim. Suggested retail is $4,439.
Santor from Taylor King
Transitional in style, the 85” Santor is Taylor King’s best-selling sofa. It boasts a distinctive silhouette with thin, track arms and a comfortable seat depth. Suggested retail is $5,547.
Bellini Modern Living’s Lauren
Luxurious without being fussy, the Lauren sofa offers contemporary styling, clean lines, and neutral versatility. Its leather cover is distinguished by unique quilted detailing on its inner arms. Suggested retail is $5,249.
Oliver from Best Home Furnishings
This transitionally styled sofa offers clean lines and coil-encased seat cushions. It’s available in over 700 fabrics, with a choice of pillows and finish options. Suggested retail starts at $1,099.
A.R.T. Furniture’s Stuart
The Stuart Sofa has a classic sleigh-style exposed wood frame with three-cushion seating. Its four pillows feature linen and animal print fabric and custom trim. Suggested retail is $3,927.
Magnussen Home’s Swan
Inspired by the elegance and grace of a swan, this namesake upholstery group features a curved, solid-wood exposed frame, a v-shaped back, channel tufting and luxurious coordinating accent pillows. Suggested retail is $999.
“This sectional features down-blend deep seating—its slightly lower seat height is what makes it retail well.” Suggested retail is $1,999.
-Len Burke, Vice President of Marketing
The Blake upholstery group from Flexsteel features lifetime-warranted blue-steel spring construction and design details such as clean lines, small nailhead trim and block legs in a rich wood finish. Shown here in leather 014-07, the suggested retail for the chair and ottoman is $2,835.
Nicoletti Calia’s Romeo
Combining European contemporary style with modern functionality, the Romeo sofa with chaise features ultra-smooth, virtually silent, power motion. Its sleek, off-the-floor silhouette has a sculptural, stainless-steel base and is available in multiple configurations. Suggested retail is $4,999.
Somerton Dwelling’s Miranda
A fresh option in seating, Somerton Dwelling’s Miranda chair is stylish and comfortable. Available in a variety of fashion fabrics, it can be used as an accent chair, dining chair or desk chair. Suggested retail is $340.
Manhattan from Ekornes
With a fixed back, gently sloping contours and a curved exposed wood frame, the Manhattan has an evolved sense of style. It’s available in a traditional three-seat sofa, a two-seat loveseat, and chair. Suggested retail is $3,395.
CH Living’s Sutton
The Sutton's squared back gives it modern appeal, while its recline, glide and swivel features make it a top-seller. It boasts a hidden-release mechanism and is available in over 200 fashion fabrics—shown here in Honor Flurry. Suggested retail ranges from $675 to $825.
Lee Industries’ 3583-03
This classic track-arm sofa features a bench seat and three back cushions. It’s shown here in Belize Camel—a 100-percent Belgian linen, and complemented by legs in a tobacco finish.
Suggested retail starts at $3,231, as shown $4,701.
Hancock & Moore’s Sundance
A bestselling stationary sofa for Hancock & Moore, the Sundance exemplifies the designer aesthetic. There is a slight concavity to its shape that makes it a perfect sofa to float in a room. Subtle button detailing on the sides and nailhead trim give it universal appeal. Suggested retail is $9,825.