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Editor's Corner April 2013: Our Industry Is Coming of Age

Furniture World Magazine


This month we welcome back Jerry Epperson as a contributor to Furniture World Magazine. It’s been a while.

In 1980, the year I joined Furniture World, Jerry penned a six-part series our editor brilliantly titled, “The Epperson Report.” One installment in the March issue, “Our Industry Is Coming of Age” caught my attention.”

The 1980 article has some similarities with his current piece, “Believe In Furniture Again” that starts on the following page. Both have optimistic titles, analyze important demographic trends, and include a bit of humor. 

Mentioned in 1980 were topics familiar to today’s GenXers, including Iran, Afghanistan and the Redskins. Also, included were items of special interest to Baby Boomers such as 19% inflation, Women’s Liberation and the Sexual Revolution. 

Urban renewal, divorce, single family households, pornographic movie actors... plus nudists and their impact on the furniture industry were all mentioned. 

You can find it accompanied  by a mustachioed photo of the author below.
I wouldn’t like anyone to publish my photo or something I wrote in 1980, but Mr. Epperson is well known for his good humor, so I thought I would take a chance.

THE EPPERSON REPORT (From Furniture World Magazine, March 1980)

by Jerry Epperson

Our industry is coming of age.

If you can read the indicators — you're way ahead of the game.

The coming of age of the furniture industry is upon us. The 1980's do not suddenly open any new doors, yet it will likely come to be known as the end of the "old" fragmented, undisciplined furniture industry. Change has never been more apparent from nearly all perspectives.

Notice today's headlines: Energy, Inflation, World Tension, Women's Liberation, the Sexual Revolution, Grey Power, Urban Revitalization, the Redskins. Most will affect us directly, and the signs are already evident. Let's take these headlines one by one.

Energy — We are using 11% less gasoline today than in 1977. For the average family, this means one and a quarter hours not in the family car or cars. Where is it being spent? Not in the air! Deregulation and jet fuel availability has cut back on the number of flights. Not on the rails! Amtrak is shrinking faster than your housewares' inventory. Buses? Who knows (who cares?]. Folks are spending more time in the household environment. This is evident from the relative stability of furniture sales despite extremely negative economic pressures and from the growth of household items: spas, saunas, swimming pools, household electronics, etc.

Inflation — Inflation for the average homeowner in 1979 was in excess of 19% when all consumer goods and services were considered. What furniture manufacturer raised prices 19% or more?

(Yes, we know about him but he's the exception!) Furniture prices at the retail level were inflated only 60% of the Consumer Price Index in the 1970's. It's never been a better relative value.
World Tension — Besides back to Mom, where can you go to escape work pressure, the Russians, the Iranians, Afghanistan, oil spills and Howard Cosell? The home, of course!

Women's Liberation — With the increased availability of dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, multi-functional food processors and the like, women's roles are changing as they tackle new challenges. They are trying to "escape" the drudgery of the home, and today's improving furniture technology is helping. Easy-care finishes and covers, and improved functionability all help the ladies by making housework easier and making other times more carefree.

Sexual Revolution — More than 36% of all households today are made up of single individuals. When they marry they share the furniture used for seating, eating and, uh, sleeping; BUT, when they stay single (or when they separate for whatever reason) BINGO! we've improved our market. Even pornographic movie a tors and nudists, who receive the wrath of the textile industry, need comfortable furniture (perhaps more so than the rest of us!).

Grey Power — The maturing our population, largely as the resuit of the post-war "Baby Boom," is adding affluence to our population. The 18-24 year are are 8.8% of our population but have only 1% of the discretionary income whereas the 35-44 ye olds are 16.9% of the population but have 27.5% of the discretionary income! The households headed by 35-44 year olds grow 47% in number over the 1980's.

Urban Revitalization — The urban renewal efforts are bringing new monies and new furniture needs. In addition, it brings a new clientele to the urban furniture stores who had, in many cases been slowly transformed into low end specialists during the suburrban trends of the 1960's a 1970's.
The Redskins — The Redskina leave me speechless but wait unril next year. (Remember who dominates the headlines in Richmond.

Don't be discouraged by any headline that improves the relative attractiveness of the horne We'll all benefit in the long run.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.

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