Hidden strengths: As a category, how does bedroom perform in a tough business climate?

HIGH POINT — Like all furniture categories, bedroom has seen its ups-and-downs over the past few years. The category boomed over the pandemic, with many citing its increased importance as the home’s safe space. Then, like other categories, it weakened as consumer demand plummeted.

There is a commonly held perception that consumers who are tight on spending money will spend the little they have on other categories before upgrading their bedroom. Upholstery tends to come first, as it wears out more quickly and is highly visible to guests. Occasional and dining are likely to come next, also due to their greater visibility.

The issues of high interest rates and expensive housing are hurting the furniture industry as a whole, but it’s seems even more pronounced for the bedroom category.

“Bedroom has been slower than other categories over the past 12 months,” said Rodd Rafieha, chief sales officer at Abbyson, which offers furniture for every room of the home. “We believe it’ll stay that way for the next year to 18 months. With fewer homes being bought, fewer people are moving and filling up those new bedrooms with new case goods.”

Case goods supplier Martin Svensson concurred.

“There is a cycle that happens, and it’s reliable as the sun setting and rising,” said Pat Watson, vice president of product development for the company. “The first thing to decline in tough times is bedroom, followed by dining and then occasional. When things start to get better, it’s the same thing. Bedroom is the last to improve.”

Places to add value

Lower-end, more-promotional companies still believe the category to be strong, but only if consumers feel like they’re getting a lot for their money. That “value” often is realized in construction integrity and more features.

Elements’ new Valerie upholstered bed features built-in Bluetooth speakers.
Elements’ new Valerie upholstered bed features built-in Bluetooth speakers.

“We have always been known to feature hidden drawers and hidden storage, but we introduced more product than ever with lights, Bluetooth speakers, power and function,” said Paul Comrie, CEO of Elements International. “Historically, we find that case goods are harder hit than soft goods when the furniture industry is facing head winds. But our sales are up year to date as a company, and we are really proud that our bedroom sales are up in a tough case good environment.

Driving that success is the company’s ability to hit “trend-right” product at price points that get people into a furniture store. That’s done by producing lots of product.

“Our plan going forward is to remain obsessed with quality and continue to introduce more product than ever before,” he continued. “We had a nightstand that converted into a vanity this past market as well as a nightstand that had fingerprint-locking capability. We had more than 60 bedrooms on display. We were happy some of these were received extremely well.”

Like Elements, finding opportunities to add value is key for fellow promotional supplier Lifestyle Enterprises, which also considers bedroom its primary category.

“While the current purchasing trends favor an increased demand for promotional products, we contend with many competitors vying for the same market share,” said Michael Hsieh, CEO. “A fierce price war is underway, with each competitor striving to offer the most appealing products at the most competitive prices.

“People want value,” he continued. “One contributing factor to this is the increasing preference among customers for container products, driven by lower warehouse inventory levels and more affordable freight costs.”

The four-piece Porterlito bedroom from Lifestyle is crafted with wood and Okume veneer and comes in two finishes: black and toffee brown. Suggested retail is $699.
The four-piece Porterlito bedroom from Lifestyle is crafted with wood and Okume veneer and comes in two finishes: black and toffee brown. Suggested retail is $699.

Value isn’t just important at the lower end. For the more mid-range solid wood supplier A-America, it’s also crucial.

“People want better-built items that have a value,” said Christian Rohrbach, president. “Value is the absolute king. If a customer is feeling like their spending is worth it, they’ll spend. For us, that value is the solid wood story, and laden with features and benefits. For bedroom, those features are storage capability and lighting.”

RTA e-commerce supplier Walker Edison cited a challenge in keeping costs low.

“Finding the right value equation can be tricky,” said Cassie Begalle, senior director of product management. “Bedroom items have some inherently costly components (long bedsides, heavy or complex mechanisms to pass ASTM, etc.), but these costs don’t always translate to value a consumer is willing to pay more for. So, we focus on creating items that have a clearly communicable value in addition to those elements: trendy style, quality materials and ease of assembly.

“We are also starting to see increasing demand in customized closets and bedroom furniture,” she continued. “This poses a challenge for companies who rely on profitable growth that needs to be scaled. Retailers and companies should start looking at how they can start making bedroom furniture feel customized or unique, even if it is just a small part of the furniture or if it is giving the customer options to change the furniture.”

Begalle is optimistic on the category, citing it as its strongest of the past year.

Dressers and chests are driving that demand, she said, followed by nightstands, beds and then bunk beds. She expects the category to grow around 3% per year until 2028.

“Changes in lifestyles such as a trend towards larger homes and more spacious bedrooms will contribute to higher demand in bed frames and high-quality closets, nightstands and dressers,” she said.

Custom and design

At high-end domestic manufacturer Sherrill, the category is strong, but it has its challenges.

“Bedroom is an extremely competitive category,” said Tom Zaliagiris, senior vice president of sales across all brands. “Consumers are asking for unique design and the ability to customize and want us to deliver on these demands at an attainable price point. There is huge upside potential to the category, and for manufacturers to gain market share, if we can deliver on those demands.

“Bedroom is a category that is commoditized quickly,” he continued. “Pricing pressure puts a strain on the category but also drives innovation.”

The Nocturne custom bed program from Sherrill gives customers different options on headboard shapes and height, panel treatment and hidden storage.
The Nocturne custom bed program from Sherrill gives customers different options on headboard shapes and height, panel treatment and hidden storage.

Zaliagiris said the category is being influenced by design trends in the living room. Those include organic forms, mixed materials featuring natural elements and warmer color direction.

At the luxury end, bedroom remains what it has always been about: Aesthetics and comfort.

“First off, the bed has got to really entertain the consumer’s eye and is the key driver,” said David Koehler, president of AICO. “We create different design aesthetics to help consumers live a lifestyle of luxury and comfort. Some want very glamorous elegant styles, others want modern, glam, traditional, transitional, industrial, coastal, etc. – we address different lifestyles in our product range.

“Many consumers live in spaller spaces, e.g., a townhome, condo, apartment, or studio. Smaller scale and functionality appeal to this consumer and we are addressing this at the upcoming October market.”

See also:

  • Case goods companies are ‘adding value,’ but what exactly does that mean?
  • Bedrooms, dining rooms, case pieces galore | With photos

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