HIGH POINT — Demand to fill retail floors is causing a bit of an upheaval of sorts on the bedroom side of the business. Not only is there demand for almost any and every style category; there is also a push to keep certain items in stock.
The challenge is that the demand causes inventory to be depleted on certain groups almost as soon as they arrive in the warehouse, making it hard to pinpoint specific trends in the marketplace.
The demand spiked in late May and early June once retailers reopened following COVID-19-related closures in most states from late March through early to mid-May.
“I have never seen anything like it in my 40-plus-year career,” said Jeff Scheffer, president and CEO of Universal Furniture. “To see it go from zero to 120 miles an hour in six weeks, I just have never seen anything like it.”
He and others said the demand for bedroom — and other wood categories — has occurred as consumers have been stuck at home due to travel or work restrictions. This has created a sense of need for new furnishings.
“There is much more emphasis on the home, and housing is on fire,” Scheffer noted. “It is a good time to be in the furniture business. But for the consumer, if you want it tomorrow, it’s not such a good time.”
Others agreed that demand for bedroom furniture has been quite strong, which is a boost for a category that sometimes gets ignored by many consumers because it’s the least visible area of the home, at least compared with the living room or dining room.
At Homelegance, demand is strongest for the $999 to $1,999 price points for four-piece sets. But there are some suites closer to $3,000 that are selling, too, said Jamie Collins, executive vice president.
“We are selling what’s in stock,” Collins said, adding, “The categories that were selling before are still selling; they are just selling more. I wouldn’t say the bestsellers have changed, they are just harder to get and are selling at a higher rate.”
Amidst all the demand is an opportunity to clear out merchandise that isn’t selling at all.
“There is a dog here and there that you can’t sell no matter what,” Collins said. “We will be able to clear them out during this cycle and not bring them back. I view it as a great opportunity to sweep out the corners of the warehouse.”
What they can get now
Still, demand is stronger than ever in the category, sources note, giving companies a chance to sell even a lot of inline product beyond the four or five top-selling suites.
“It’s been about what can they get right now,” said Scott Hill, president of sales and marketing at New Classic Furniture.
Working in New Classic’s favor has been the ability to be in stock both domestically and from its mixed container program out of Vietnam.
“Bedroom is one of our strengths at New Classic,” said Bill Dominguez, vice president, research and development, noting that its source factories in Asia are in full production mode. “We are getting goods flowing now, and we are in pretty good shape.
That said, most of the demand has been for inline goods, particularly those groups with a good track record.
“Nobody wants to buy anything just to try it out,” Dominguez noted. “They want it because they know they are going to sell it. That to me seems to be the best approach.”
Jeremy Hoff, president of Hooker Legacy Brands, agreed that in stock items were driving sales in the category.
“If it’s in stock, it’s doing well,” he said, noting that having a domestic warehouse has been a big advantage due to the demand from customers around the country. “It really is across the board. I have never seen anything like it. If you have it, you can sell it and ship it.”
What drives business
Still, he and others pointed to certain items in the category that are driving business. For example, Hoff noted, scale remains important as many consumers have space limitations in their bedrooms. This is particularly true of dressers and nightstands, which need to be scaled appropriately for smaller homes.
“They need space solutions as much in bedroom as much as a great look,” Hoff said, adding that different sized dressers start to matter for different areas as do different sized nightstands.
Hill, of New Classic, noted that storage beds are starting to come on strong once again.
“I think we got saturated with storage beds four to five years ago,” he said, adding, “We went away from it for a little while, but we had a lot of success with them at Premarket and (October) market.”
He said that about three years ago, as much as 60% of beds in the line had storage options. More recently it has been closer to 20% or 25%.
He said that, now, he is trying to get that number back up to about 40%.
“It is all about hitting the right price point,” he said of storage beds in the line that hit $599 to $699 for a queen.
And while beds with storage footboards can take up more space than a bed without storage, they also can eliminate the need for an additional case piece in the room.
At Riverside Furniture, the demand has been for cleaner lines, said John Iasiello, senior vice president, strategic planning and business development.
“When you can combine that with functional storage in the footboard of the bed, that is an area that has continued to grow for us,” he said. “It is becoming a greater percentage of our total bedroom volume.”
He added that casual looks also continue to do well as do updated traditional forms featuring casual finishes or that add a contemporary design element.
“It is not your grandmother’s traditional anymore,” he said, noting that four piece bedrooms start around $1,499 and top out at $2,499, with $1,999 being its “sweet spot” in the category. “We work with a lot of majors in understanding what their needs are and develop product that targets their market needs. We are focused on working backwards and understanding the needs of a particular market and developing product to that customer base.”
Focus on best-sellers
Gat Creek is also doing well with clean-lined looks, including low-profile contemporary platform beds with low profile headboards.
“The overall height has been dropping and all of our newer product is a lower (profile) bed,” said Gat Caperton, CEO. “In terms of our product development and sales, it is split. The lower beds are becoming more popular; they are gaining on the traditional height beds.”
At Klaussner, modern traditional looks and casual contemporary looks are among the top sellers in the category, with most of the line retailing between $1,799 and $2,299 for four pieces.
“We are constrained by the supply chain a little bit,” said H Kelly, senior vice president, case goods and outdoor at Klaussner. “A lot of the groups that were marginal by default, they have had to go away because you can’t supply them. You have to focus on the bestsellers: The marginal groups are dying away, and the bestsellers are plowing ahead.”
He noted as demand remains high, it is a challenge to stock goods domestically, thus shifting most of the demand to container direct shipments.
Officials at Universal said that casual looks and finishes tend to be driving the wood business, including bedroom sales. This cuts across different style categories ranging from coastal to modern, offering consumers something perceived as both comfortable and livable.
“Casual is what is working for us, and it speaks to the way most people live today,” said Scheffer, the president and CEO. “Especially with everyone working from home in their sweatpants.”
He added that consumers also tend to be buy pieces in various collections, for example, with certain upholstered and/or woven beds from one collection mixing with case pieces from other collections.
“It is much more item driven. The way the line comes together, things can be mixed within certain categories,” said Neil McKenzie, director of marketing. “It brings more of an eclectic approach to the buying process.”
J. Scott Ostrander, president and managing partner at Austin Group, added, “We have a lot of groups out there in multiple regions that are strong, but we also have proprietary products for customers that are doing exceptionally well.
“I think that the medium to lower price points are still the biggest category of sales, but I do see some movement at the upper end, too, because of the trend to improve your home because you are spending so much time there,” he continued, noting that bedrooms for second or guest rooms also are doing well because of the number of people who are visiting families during this time.
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