Futon Survey 2004 part 1

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Survey Results Are In

Two hundred and sixty four futon retailers responded to this year’s industry survey, making this the largest turnout ever. We also collected verbatim remarks from many, and this is what they want (in case any futon manufacturers out there are listening).

Our survey data interpretation with charts is below. You can also download a PDF of the survey data interpretation, verbatim comments and raw survey data.

2004 Survey Results PDF (800 KB)

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The number one request is more information on everything. What is hot and what is selling. More articles on retailing techniques and current merchandising and marketing ideas. These people are excited about the product and want to hear about how other successful dealers are "doing it."

"I would like to see more in-depth articles on different futon stores across the country. How do they run their business, what are they carrying, what’s selling," said a dealer from Oklahoma.

Another hot topic (covered in detail by Laurie Converse) is the huge impact "low end" product is having on the futon industry and the continuing disintegration of the perception attached to the word "futon" (we’ve been talking about this for several years). "We need to get the image changed from what the deep discount stores are doing–they are bastardizing the product," said one respondent.

This sentiment was repeated numerous times across the sample. One obvious correlation is that many dealers find the surveys themselves very valuable for educating sales associates and support staff, and for business planning.

A dealer in Maine added, "I’ve been in this business for 17 years. I am not interested in the basics. I am interested in what would be new in our industry and innovative, if anything."

Futon Life attempts to deliver as much innovation information as possible. For better or worse, in a maturing market like ours, many of the innovators have moved on to new projects or have abandoned innovation for prosperity. Leadership in any field demands a vision and then the perseverance and fortitude to initiate change, shepherd those changes along, work through problems and fight like hell to make it all work.

The Numbers

The previous Futon Life Retailer survey was tabulated in 2001. We asked many of the same questions then. The answers and opinions we uncovered today show a futon industry a few years older, a few years wiser and a few years stronger.

This year, we received 264 survey responses, gathering data from almost every state in the union. The data was collected over a period of several months in early to mid-2004. Our respondents represented an array of store types.

Here are the results.

Average futon store sales statistics for each category of store type are encouraging. The first key is that we doubled the number of futon stores that responded, giving us a better look at the industry statistically. Seventy-seven percent of the stores characterized themselves as "specialty" stores. That is an 18 percent increase over the 2001 report.

Even more significant is a substantial increase in average dollars per square foot and average price point. In 2001, the average dollar per square foot was $299.25. This year it jumped 25 percent to $401.25. Not bad when you consider the futon industry average is between $189.00. and $285.00.

The average price point is also up from $410.53 in 2001 to $457.02 today. A 10 percent increase is nothing to sneeze at, and when you realize the 2001 number was lower than the 1998 number ($440.00), this current increase pushes us to our highest average price point ever. Available square footage dedicated to futon furniture is down from 1343 sq. ft. in 2001 to a smaller 1038 sq. ft. footprint in 2004.

Let’s look at demographics. Female buyers increased slightly and male buyers decreased significantly, dropping from 18 percent to only seven percent of the sample.

In 2001, the majority of futon buyers were aged 21-35 (53 percent) and 35-45 (40 percent). In 2004, our survey shows the demographic has expanded to include a significant increase in older buyers (45-60+). With an increase from seven percent in 2001 to almost 33 percent in 2004, it can be said that a much broader segment of the buying public is looking at futon sofa sleepers as a viable option for their homes.

Room-use statistics may also trend toward older buyers who spend more leisure time in the home than the younger demographic: reported futon sleeper use in the den/TV room increased by 57 percent, with 30 percent choosing the Den/TV Room option in 2001 and almost 53 percent choosing it in 2004.

What is the consumer purchasing? Solid wood frames have overwhelmed non-solid wood frames in this category for years and this year is no exception.

In fact, the sales of full size frames have dramatically risen from 70 percent in 2001 to more than 98 percent this year. Queen bottomed out at just over one percent overall from the six percent share in 2001.

Price Points are Up

Average price points are up over 2001. Then, 70 percent of futon sofas purchased sold for between $250-450. This year, over 67 percent of futon sleepers purchased were sold in the over-$450 ranges with only 17 percent below the $350 range.

Since 2001, a lot has changed, and the futon sofa sleeper industry is no exception. Older consumers have entered the futon sofa sleeper marketplace in considerable numbers and are making choices to purchase more expensive and higher quality furniture than ever before. With the futon sofa sleeper, wiser buyers can add style and versatility as well as comfort and price. This trend seems to be making store sales that much stronger in 2004.


Total Retail Sales for the Industry

We also used the last three retail surveys in 1997, 1999 and 2001 as fodder for parlor games by extrapolating the total retail sales for the futon industry. If we use the same method this year as we used in the past, the size of the futon industry at retail is a little over $1 billion, up 12 percent from the $890 million in 2001.

To reach this unempirical conclusion, we make the assumption that there are 2000 futon and other specialty stores out there and that they have an average square footage of 1257 sq. ft. (our actual average for the sample) devoted to futon furniture each. That would be 2.51 million square feet, which would total $1,006,510,000.00 at retail using the average dollar per square foot for the sample of $401.25. The numbers presented as results of the actual survey are accurate plus or minus five percent. The numbers calculated in this conclusion are based on an educated guess gleaned from talking to the major futon manufacturers and the number of customers they regard as futon or other specialty retailers.

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