Occasional tables stay ahead of furniture, bedding sales growth
HIGH POINT — Occasional tables slightly outpaced overall home furnishings and bedding growth in 2016 in terms of sales.
According to Furniture Today’s research, overall industry sales were up 2.7% this year to $104.8 billion. Occasional tables rose 2.8% to $5.5 billion, representing 5% of total industry sales.
While its share of market remained the same this year, occasional tables’ growth did not match performance in 2015, when the category grew 3.8%.
It’s no surprise that tables will follow trends in upholstery this coming year regarding not only price points but also style.
Companies with a specialty in occasional naturally outpaced other vendors when it comes to growth in their table business.
“Hooker has enjoyed double-digit growth in occasional tables in 2016,” said Pat Watson, vice president of merchandising at Hooker Furniture.
At Coast to Coast Imports occasional table business also outpaced overall industry growth, according to CEO Andy Stein.
“It’s a growing category for us,” he said. “We don’t specialize in promotional price points, we’re in a medium price point where we offer a big value — a lot of look and style and substance. That’s our niche.”
Drivers for next year
Stein said the popularity of motion upholstery remains a big driver in the occasional table category and one that feeds into the importance of function when it comes to occasional.
“Especially if it’s a bigger piece, we’ll put hidden casters on it and make it ‘motion’ occasional,” he said of Coast to Coast’s plans. “In general, we’ll be offering a lot of style and substance at the $299 to $399 range as opposed to $199 for a table; that’s what sells. The dealers aren’t focused on lower price points.
Items used in the public areas in a home such as upholstery, accents and occasional tables always lead the way at the beginning of market expansion cycles, said Hooker Furniture’s Watson.
“Although it has been weak, the market has been expanding this year, so there should be natural expansion in the category,” he said.
“Hooker has enjoyed better than average growth because of two things,” Watson said. “First, leading creativity from our merchant teams and manufacturing partners; and second, renewed focus on tying our occasional offerings with successful upholstered goods from our Bradington Young, Sam Moore and Hooker Upholstery divisions, as well as doing a better job of developing upholstery to go with occasional in our stand-alone collections.”
SUBHEAD: New approaches?
In addition to offering a gamut of styles, Coast to Coast has moved toward a more collection-oriented approach in occasional tables, offering not only cocktails and ends, but also accompanying pieces such as bookshelves and media cabinets to round out the selection.
Retailers “might just buy the bookcase and media piece instead of the tables, and we’ve had success with that,” Stein said. “We’re doing fewer stand-alone table groups and doing more full collections.”
Coast to Coast will stick at its middle price points, covering a range of styles from traditional to transitional.
“If you offer a really good look at a really good value, it will be successful,” Stein said.
“Because of our better/best strategy, you’ll see items from Hooker that will be true trend/style leaders in the upper price range along with items that, while very unique and exciting, are more value driven,” said Hooker’s Watson. “Regardless of the price point, innovations in design and material usage are leading the market today.”
He added that, in 2017, occasional table buyers at Hooker will see things “that have never been seen before and will generate a lot of ‘ooh’s and aah’s,’ along with a lot of sales for our retail partners.”
Styles and function
Mixed media in tables will continue to prevail regardless of price point or style next year. Glass and metal, woven fibers, plus treatments in stone should add some style chops to the basic wood table when it comes to complementing contemporary and transitional upholstery.
Another ongoing trend is a move toward “organic” looks, with metal treatments replicating patterns and textures found in nature.
Watch for more occasional vendors to offer function, as well. Tables with casters allow consumers to accommodate their spaces for parties or family gatherings. Lift tops on tables address those consumers who might be eating dinner in front of their televisions. Storage function — such as a shelf beneath the top or a sliding top — will let consumers store magazines or gaming components. Some vendors say that if “it doesn’t move, it doesn’t sell” for a large part of the shopping populace.
Occasional tables typically reflect the entirety of home furnishings sales, and this year was no exception. For retailers, that means choosing an assortment of tables that jive with what’s moving on their floor when it comes to upholstery and related categories such as home entertainment.
After all, everyone needs a place to put their feet while binge-watching their favorite shows on Netflix.