Who’s Buying What - and Why?
Futon Covers - Hot Topic
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Part 2


"Custom" - futon covers that are selected from books of swatches. These covers maybe ordered in any size or futon loft. "Factory Selects" - these futon covers are made from first or second quality fabrics, short runs or close outs. Typically these assorted covers cost the fraction of custom futon cover. Downside is - Factory Select futon covers may not be available in desired size or with matching accessories like pillows or bolsters.

Custom or Factory Selects? 

Cover choices are clearly not limited to custom designs from swatch books. With rare exception, retailers stock and sell factory selects, odd lots, seconds or discontinued items which are selected by the manufacturer and shipped based on retail orders. In fact, 83 percent of retailers offered factory selects to their customers. These factory selects allow the retailer to offer the customer a better value, a less expensive product, and the opportunity to take the futon cover home the same day. This availability can make the difference between selling and not selling a futon cover. For those retailers that carry them, factory selects represented 47 percent of their total futon cover sales.
Despite significant sales of factory selects, many retailers are well aware of the downsides. Customers who purchase factory selects cannot purchase matching accessories such as pillows or bolsters and retailers often feel stuck with unpopular styles in inventory that they didn’t choose themselves. For that reason, 17 percent of retailers surveyed chose not to carry factory selects.

Who’s Buying What - and Why?

Like the demographics of the futon buyer, the typical futon cover buyer is a woman between the ages of 35 and 50. Surprisingly, most retailers reported that the customer’s choice of futon cover is based primarily on color and design rather than price. Price was ranked second, closely followed by machine washable feature.
But what design does the typical customer choose? Our research showed that the most popular futon cover style is contemporary. More specifically, the most popular styles are “casual contemporary” a la Pottery Barn, rather than the more boxy, geometric or artsy designs popular in the eighties. Traditional styles ranked a close second, with many pointing to the growing popularity of the mission or craftsman style.
There are a number of styles reportedly on the decline. While still quite popular, Southwestern designs are generally falling from favor, as are hand-painted, floral, and country designs.
What about the new leather futon offerings? Opinions were evenly split. Just over half of those surveyed (52%) felt that leather futon covers would sell and actually had pieces on order based on customer interest and their own interest after seeing the product in New Orleans.
Skeptics fears about leather were based on the retail price point: $300-$400. “Even our customers who might want it won’t pay the expensive price,” commented Brendan Huhn, owner of Urban Accents in Alexandria, VA. Others expressed concern that customers wouldn’t feel comfortable with leather because they don’t know how to care for it. Still others questioned the compatibility of leather and the futon design. “I’ve only have one expensive frame that looks like leather belongs on it,” commented Gordon Simons, owner of Bedding Loft, Waterbury, CT. “It’s a very masculine wrought iron futon frame that would be perfect in a den.”

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