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Ray Allegrezza

Consumers show interest in buying furnishings

Inside out

Congratulations are in order. If you are reading this, you made it through one of the toughest years in recent history.

But before we all take the day off to celebrate, let’s keep in mind that we still have lots of heavy lifting ahead of us as we begin a new year. Even so, I am optimistic and hopefully after reading this column, you will feel that way as well.

Here’s why: The majority of retailers I’ve talked to during the last few months tend to agree we’ve probably hit bottom and are in the process of working our way back. They also said while they are not seeing as many people in their stores as they would like, the consumers venturing out are buying.

In the words of one retailer, who happens to keep a good assortment of casual furniture on his selling floor all year long: “We are not seeing the tire kickers. The people who are coming in to shop are coming to buy and we are selling. We just need more of them coming in.”

The fact that retailers are sensing an improvement in their businesses is encouraging, but anecdotal. I’ve got something more concrete to share that should get you excited. Late last year, I heard lots of speculation about the impact the recession was having — and was likely to have — on the consumer’s intent to purchase home furnishings. So, hoping to replace speculation with statistical information specific to our business, Furniture/Today partnered with Home & Garden TV and conducted an online survey with households that receive HGTV’s Ideas newsletter.

We got back more than 8,550 responses, which means the data can be projected with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1%

They told us plenty. For openers, their primary motivators when buying furniture (in order of importance) are style, price and service. The vast majority of them — 92% — told us the economy affected their household spending in 2009. And as a result, they are making high-ticket purchases of things like furniture, cars and appliances less often. The majority (82%) also confirmed the “staycation” by acknowledging that they are spending less on vacations.

I have tons more, but let me get to the part that impacts you directly. We asked those who plan to buy furniture this year and next, which rooms would benefit from their investments. While the family room/den was mentioned most often (30%), and the master bedroom next (23%), guess which area claimed the third spot (21%)? If you guessed the outdoor area, give yourself a pat on the back.

Keep in mind, consumers indicated they are more focused on the outdoor area than on the formal living room, other adult/guest bedroom, eat-in kitchen, home office, home theater and/or entertainment room. Outdoor dining sets were the primary object of their attention.

They told us they are looking for best (not lowest) price, durability, quality, value and style in a brand they trust.

So, if knowledge is power, I hope this helps you head into the coming year positioned with authority and poised for profitability. I wish you a healthy, happy and rewarding 2010!

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