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The More Things Change, The More Things Stay The Same

Hey FAM, it’s Ray Allegrezza.

This week, I examine how consumers are fearful about decorating their homes—which I know for a fact is not a new phenomenon. In my research on the subject, I came across an interesting report called ‘The Study Of Furniture,” and I dive into it below.

Plus, don’t miss FAM stories about big retailers getting bigger and how smaller retailers can fight back, how one furniture retailer has found success with in-store events, and why the Sunshine Protection Act matters.

#WIMTY — What It Means To You

Based on the scores of new articles and blogs devoted to overcoming the fear of home decorating, it seems apparent that tons of first-time home buyers suffer from analysis paralysis when it comes to decorating their new nests.

I recently read one blog on the topic that started like this: ‘Struggling with how to start decorating a house? It’s easy to feel intimidated and overwhelmed when you are staring at a huge, empty house.’

Then a few minutes ago, I stumbled upon another blog written for people who think they have no talent in home decorating.

The fact that Wayfair posted a great article for newbies titled, “The First Five Steps To Decorating A New Home,” strongly suggests that many novice homeowners are facing a decorating dilemma.

Articles and blogs about this challenge are interesting, but for my money, I want statistics and facts. So, when I came across a study conducted by the Chicago Tribune titled “The Study of Furniture,” I was more than intrigued.

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The quantitative study reflects a sample of 400 households in Metropolitan Chicago which contain furniture bought by the occupants.

The study uncovered several interesting observations including that for many women, buying furniture was an ‘ever-existing dilemma.’ It went on to suggest that “Contrary to what someone might think, the buying of furniture is sometimes impulsive. The neophyte homeowner, faced with a bare apartment, tries to make this a home as fast as she can on a limited budget. Thus, her buying behavior might be termed impulsive.”

Further, in households that have been established less than five years, furniture is most frequently chosen based on style or appearance and price, the study concluded.

Respondents to the survey acknowledged that they are often overwhelmed by the profusion of styles, colors, fabrics, and woods, and as such, said they bought furniture from the sales associate who did the best job helping them navigate through a myriad of choices.

The study also found that in the period between five and ten years after setting up housekeeping—and the time when children enter the picture—durability becomes a key factor. During the first four years of housekeeping, only 15% of the respondents considered durability in furniture purchased, while during the fifth to ninth year almost a third of those responding said durability was an important consideration.

In households with children, respondents indicated a reluctance to spend any more than necessary for furniture. Specifically, they said they tended to limit their furniture purchases to things that are necessary and practical.

The observation that many women are not confident about decorating their homes was supported when the survey asked them how they would react to hearing their friends discussing their furniture. Only 25 out of 382 women answering this question gave responses indicating a feeling of security and pleasure.

To get an idea of where furniture fits in the hierarchy of the consumers’ wants and needs, the survey posed a hypothetical question—what would they do with a windfall of one month’s pay?

Furniture ranked fourth after:

  • Save it – 52%
  • Pay bills – 36%
  • Take a trip – 26%
  • Buy furniture – 25%

When asked to list the factors that most influenced the purchase of furniture, respondents said:

  • Style – 29%
  • Quality – 23%
  • Durability – 23%
  • Price – 13%
  • Fits with other furniture – 10%
  • Other – 1%

While the price was not at the top of the list, respondents said the emphasis on price is in part, attributable to the lack of brand identification in furniture. Forty-one percent of those surveyed could not name one brand of furniture they owned.

The survey also stressed the importance of the purchase of initial furniture for any future purchases. “A bad initial buy inhibits any desire for additional purchases,” it said, and concluded, “If the furniture industry would educate the newly engaged or newlywed to buy wisely before the initial purchase, both the consumer and the industry would benefit.”

Despite the flurry of recent blogs and articles detailing how consumers are fearful about decorating their homes, I know for a fact that this is not a new phenomenon.

How do I know? I know because I played a trick on you. While the survey quoted in this column is real, it was published in 1959, some 63 years ago.

Clearly, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

So, then, is there a takeaway? I think it could be this: It may be time for new solutions to old problems.


FAM Furniture Stories

In the furniture world, it seems as if big retailers are getting bigger and more successful. If that’s the case, is the day looming where Goliath crushes David? Or do smaller retailers still have a shot on the playing field?

Illinois-based full-line furniture retailer Darvin Furniture recently hosted its first Sweet Dreams Slumber Party event to connect customers with the store’s sleep specialists. We caught up with the store’s staff to see how the event went and what they learned from it.

Now that the Sunshine Protection Act has passed, clocks will stay the same starting in November 2023, which means you have plenty of time to address this topic in your store and prepare people for the potential permanence of DST. 

In Case You Missed It

Lovesac has hired Todd Duran—who was most recently the co-chief information officer for Sleep Number—as its new chief information officer. The appointment was effective April 15. In his new role, Duran is responsible for leading the vision, strategy, and operations of Lovesac’s technology functions. At Sleep Number he spent eight years in a variety of technology leadership positions including security, architecture, business transformation, development, and infrastructure. Before that, he held technology leadership positions in Mattel, Ingram Micro, and Lowe’s.

The National Retail Federation recently urged Visa and Mastercard to cancel credit card swipe fee increases scheduled to take effect this month, citing a letter from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress saying higher fees would add to inflation. Senators Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Representatives Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, and Peter Welch, D-Vt., sent a letter to Visa and Mastercard asking that they withdraw plans to implement a package of swipe fee increases this month. The estimated $1.2 billion in increases were scheduled to take effect in April 2021 but were postponed by a year after Durbin and Welch said they were ill-timed as the economy was struggling to recover from the pandemic.

“As Americans are dealing with the highest rate of inflation in decades, your profits are already high enough and any further fee increase is simply taking advantage of vulnerable Americans,” the letter said. “Raising your interchange fee rates even higher will undoubtedly increase the already high costs consumers are facing and add to inflationary pressure, which is the last thing American families deserve right now.”

Premium massage and wellness chair seating producer Infinity is targeting younger consumers with two of its most popular massage chairs. With a focus on HENRYs (High Earners Not Yet Rich), Gen X and millennial consumers who live and work in urban areas, the Prelude and Aura massage chairs are designed for smaller living spaces. In modern styles inspired by urban living, the chairs offer a high-end look with a clean-lined, cosmopolitan design aesthetic. The smaller-scaled chairs are ideal for lofts, and apartments. Prelude and Aura offer features typically found only in much more expensive massage chairs. The space-saving design also makes the chairs perfect for office spaces. The plush cushions and fully reclining design offer added comfort even when the massage functions are not being utilized.

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