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by Lauretta Converse
The preference for comfy, cozy home furnishings is having a clear impact on consumer attitudes concerning futons. In this survey, almost a third of them named “comfort” as the reason they would or wouldn’t choose a futon. This enormous concern for comfort represents a fifty percent increase in the importance of comfort compared to the survey results of only eighteen months ago.
This nesting trend towards comfort also means that consumers are giving less importance to futon furniture features such as style and versatility. For the consumers I spoke with, the look and versatility of a futon were less important issues to them. In fact, consumers named these concerns half as frequently this year as they did in the fall of 2000.
Winning over the over sixty-fives
In speaking to John and Jane Consumer, I found that people who own futons are overwhelmingly positive about futon furniture. People who currently own or have previously owned a futon are almost fifty percent more likely to consider a futon when shopping for a sofa bed. This is true for people who have bought futons at both high and low price points. They are pleased with their choice and a majority of them would purchase futon furniture again if they had the need.
Even better news is that this group of happy futon furniture owners seems to be swaying older consumers. Based on Futon Life surveys, the popularity of futon furniture among people over age sixty-five is on the rise. Interestingly, many consumers in this age group reported that they would consider buying a futon because of the personal recommendation of a family member. I often recorded comments like these: “My son has one and it is nice.” “I’ve slept on a futon at my daughter’s home and it was comfortable”.
Specialty Stores Surge Past The Big Boxes
Specialty stores were the type of store most frequently named by consumers as the place to buy futons. In fact, specialty stores were cited by more than half of the respondents in this survey. This definitively marks the progress of futon furniture’s emergence into the mainstream furniture
stores or furniture stores as the place they shop for a futon. Consequently, as futon furniture shoppers look to specialty stores more, they are looking to discount stores less. Only 4% of people named discount stores such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart as stores where they would buy a futon. This represented a shift from the responses I gathered just eighteen months ago, when 7% named discount stores as the place to buy a futon.
This survey also showed a close link between where people would shop and how much they expect to pay. When a shopper thinks of futons as furniture to be purchased at a furniture specialty store, he expects to pay more. In the 2000 interviews, more people associated futons with discount and department stores and they expected to pay an average of $315. In the 2002 interviews, people associated futons more frequently with specialty and furniture stores and they expected to pay an average of $363.
People in the Know
Survey participants enjoyed the challenge of trying to pick futons out from among pictures of different types of sofa beds. They were shown pictures of five sofa beds (see bottom of page), two of which were futons and the other three were traditional sofa beds. A number of participants suspected me of trying to trick them. “They are all futons, aren’t they!” they guessed. I learned that people don’t trust people who conduct surveys.
Besides this quirk of human nature, I also discovered a high degree of awareness of futon furniture. In fact, three-quarters of people questioned were able to identify at least one of the futons among the pictures. A third correctly identified both futon sofa beds.
Who are the people who failed my quiz? Revealingly, almost three-quarters of those who could not identify a futon among my pictures were the ones who would not consider a buying a futon. And most of these consumers are between the age of 45 and 65. What’s up with these consumers?
Room to grow
Customers in this 45 to 65 age group are least likely to consider buying a futon when shopping for a sleep sofa. They are also the least likely to have heard of futon furniture. When viewing pictures of traditional sofa beds and futon sofa beds, this age group had the lowest percentage of correct answers.
Lack of information seems to explain the inclinations of these consumers. For these middle aged shoppers, futon sofa beds are not even on their radar scope of possible furniture choices. My survey questions concerning futons seemed to puzzle many of them. Others could not think of any reason why they wouldn’t consider a sofa bed and replied, simply, “I just wouldn’t”.
Comfort has taken center stage for today’s consumers and most of them are not convinced that futons are comfortable. In fact, most of the people who would not consider buying a futon named comfort as the reason why. Included among these are customers who have special chiropractic concerns. “I could never sleep on a futon, I have a bad back” was one typical comment.
These are concerns that may need to be addressed given the current emphasis on comfort. As consumers occupy themselves with nesting, pillows and meatloaf pans, let’s see that they buy a futon to go with them. Being a couch potato is finally ‘in’!
Checking in with the Man on the Street: Updated report on consumer climate
“Not so long ago, we Americans were excoriated for lounging on our sofas, chips and remote control at hand…But no one’s hurling the epithet “couch potato” these days,” Cathleen McGuigan recently noted. McGuigan, along with many home furnishings futon retailers, has noted an unmistakable trend of today’s consumer to ‘nest’. Warm, fuzzy and cozy describe consumer preferences for home-related things in the wake of September’s terrorist attacks.
Consumers are buying up things like bathrobes, candles, pillows and meatloaf pans in record numbers as their attention is focused more on home and family. “Consumers’ emphasis on their immediate surroundings is a silver lining for numerous types of retailers,” notes Carl Steidtmann of Deloitte Consumer Business Research.
Is this a silver lining for futon furniture retailers?
To answer this question, I canvassed consumers to uncover the latest pulse regarding futons, gathering responses from over 160 people. In a follow-up to the survey of the man on the street conducted eighteen months ago, this new report highlights futon furniture trends in our post-September 11 world.