With the recession word on everyone’s lips and the January doldrums looming, shoppers are on the hunt for bargains as retailers slash prices. One place where the bottom dollar doesn’t hold sway is the furniture store.
“You’d think they’d be looking for the cheapest thing possible, but not really. We find that the better product sells when the economy softens,” said Morgan McCabe, merchandise manager for Home Furniture.
“When we look back at some of our best sellers in the last half of 2008, it’s not the promo products that are our best sellers, it’s the better product. The proof is always in the numbers.”
McCabe said customers would prefer not to spend money at all, but if they have to, they want something that will last, and they don’t mind paying fair dollar to get it.
This week, the Home Hardware distribution centre in St Jacobs played host to dealers from Home Furniture stores across the country looking to get a handle on trends for 2009. The three-day “Live and in Colour” show drew buyers from three-quarters of the 78 Home Furniture stores.
One of the big trends for 2009 is eco-friendly furniture, made from used and reclaimed wood, chromium-free leather and soy foam. McCabe said they’re also rolling out a program in Brazil where pieces are made without glues and chemicals that are harmful to the environment.
Mark and Elizabeth Coyles, owners of Kitchener Home Furniture, said they’re starting to see a little demand for eco-friendly furniture, but even more people are looking for a “Made in Canada” tag.
“A lot of customers ask where it’s made,” said Elizabeth Coyles. “It’s nice we can say a lot of this product is Canadian-made.”
McCabe said the same is true of stores across the country.
“They have had consumers that are coming in specifically and asking if it’s Canadian. The big thing, probably most of all at this market, is more and more Canadian products. Which is good, the Canadian dollar being what it is.”
With the turmoil in international markets, Home Furniture has shifted some of its buying back home. Now, 95 per cent of their products are North American-made.
On the style front, the pieces showcased in the show’s 22,000-square-foot display space are smaller and more functional.
“People don‘t want large, overstuffed furniture,” McCabe said. “A lot of the sofas we used to see were what I would call on steroids; they’ve certainly shrunk down considerably.
“When you get into the larger urban areas like the GTA, you’re looking at smaller spaces. Some of these condos are under 1,000 square feet, they can’t handle these big furniture products.”
Dark woods are still popular, and distressed finishes are getting rave reviews from the dealers.
“We have a dinette feature that the dealers are going crazy over – it looks like it’s been sitting in a garage for 20 years.”