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Consumer Research: Knowing Your Buyer

Furniture World Magazine


HFC research sheds more light on furniture consumers.

Often I hear Industry professionals tell me that they know their buyer. Experience, training and research help you to know your buyer, but I always shutter when I hear the word 'know'. Your buyer, I suggest, continues to change, to grow, to have different desires. The key is understanding. You must understand the motivation, the wants and the needs of the buyers in your marketplace. Geographic differences are real, demographic differences are important. This is why we in the HFC so firmly believe in consistent and periodic consumer research.

For two years now, the HFC and AFMA have collaborated to focus research dollars on the consumer. This year's effort was designed by our research firm, The Wirthlin Group, to learn more about why consumers enter and exit the home furnishing marketplace. What triggers their entry and what triggers their exit, other than becoming a satisfied buyer. We have uncovered some very interesting information.

HOW MANY BUYERS? HOW MANY PIECES? HOW MUCH MONEY? One of our first objectives was to discover just how many people are in the market. How many people of our 800 plus national sample actually purchased furniture in the past year? The answer: 57 percent. That's a very high number, especially when you realize that 62% of this group purchased from 3-11 pieces of furniture at an estimated cost of $1000 each. This group (projected) represents purchases of nearly 8 billion dollars of furniture last year.

The most notable statistic, I believe, is that 62% number. A large part of this group are repeat buyers having been in the marketplace at least twice during the year. This points to an excellent opportunity to build brand loyalty and provide outstanding customer service. By the way, 74 percent of the furniture buyers are between the ages of 25 to 54... with a whopping 54% between 25 and 44.


The three reasons people tell us they enter the market for home furnishings are quite predictable: Need, Want and Influences.

The needs are familiar:

  • Moving Into a new home.
  • Children grown and have moved out.
  • Retirement.
  • Family and/or friends visiting.
  • Marriage.
  • Those who just need new furniture.

The wants show much more self interest:

  • "I deserve nice furniture!"
  • "I want bigger and better things."
  • "I want to get rid of my hand-me-down furniture."

The influences are interesting:

  • Friends and family.
  • Pictures in magazines, catalogs, and television.

Interestingly, we are one of the few industries that can list pictures in magazines and catalogs as a major influence on consumers. Hardly anyone ever wants to admit the influence of television, but it is clearly, strongly present.

This information has important implications for both home furnishings retailers and manufacturers. It says that most can benefit from increased use of magazines and TV advertising. For retailers, customer service should be the number one priority, because customer satisfaction is so very important in retaining long term and repeat business. In store information is also high on the list of what consumers want and advertising on TV continues to be a major way to get information... especially as home furnishing programming continues to expand.

Conduct research, research, research. Continue to promote, promote, promote. But aim with a rifle instead of a shotgun. Select the right media to reach the consumer you want to reach. This new research clearly tells us that understanding 'our' consumer is the first step to convincing her to buy. If we assume that all our buyers are alike, we will never be able to position our product properly. If we become complacent and feel we have the answer we will quickly discover that the consumer we 'know' is someone else's customer.

For more information on HFC programs or questions about this article contact editor@furninfo.com.