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Personal Electronics Use Moves RTA Furniture Design Beyond TV

NEW YORK— Flat screen televisions have been the key driver of ready-to-assemble furniture sales for some years now, but that has changed and created new kinds of demand as the role of home electronics evolves.
A new HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® 2012 consumer study conducted by Albing International Marketing supports the idea that a substantial proportion of consumers are looking for furnishings not only for their flat screen televisions but for their other electronics as well.
From grand entertainment centers to humble stacking tables, furniture retailers and vendors have been adapting to a multimedia home where family members may watch TV while surfing the web on tablet computers or calling up additional information associated with a television program on their smart phones all while texting, messaging and tweeting.
Many consumers want furnishings that support their activities. Already, charging stations built into furniture have begun to make the holes punched into cabinet backs as media organization seem inadequate, at least to consumers who may use multiple devices both for work and play. A desk that can’t support use of a computer, tablet and cell phone simultaneously won’t suit many consumers looking for home office furniture today. Conversely, the diminishing size of computers and the increasing scale of flat-panel television screens have created new demand for smaller, even if still multi-function, work stations and bigger TV consoles.
Last year, HomeWorld Business expanded the scope of its consumer study to cover other entertainment-related electronics beside televisions and this year, the scope of the research is broader and incorporates computing devices as well. When asked what their next electronics purchase might be, 45% of consumers said a smart phone, 36.4% said a laptop and 34.6% said a tablet computer. In contrast, 36.1% of consumers say their next electronics purchase would be a television.
More consumers this year plan to purchase furniture to house a television than was the case in the 2011 study. This year, 8% of study respondents said they definitely would and 16.3% said they very likely would purchase television-related furniture. Those figures compare with 3% and 14% last year. Over 20% of consumers, with 6.9% definite and 15.1% likely, are on the hunt for furniture to house a home entertainment system, while only 11% or so were on the lookout last year.
A smaller percentage of consumers are looking for furniture to house computing devices, but the proportion remains substantial, which is intriguing given the shift in use from personal computers to laptops to, what are considered the likely hot part of the product category this holiday season, tablets and smartphones. More than 15% of consumers are looking to buy furniture to house a computer and pretty much the same proportion is definitely or likely to buy a furnishings product that helps them use, charge or store a smart phone. Just a slightly lesser proportion of consumers, and still better than 15%, are looking for furnishings that help them use, charge or store a tablet computer.
Right now, more consumers said furniture that supports their electronics use is additionally attractive than those surveyed a year ago. In all, more than half of consumers say it is at least somewhat likely they will purchase a form of furniture to host home electronics. Given the impulse nature of the electronics-related furnishings purchase, even mild intent should translate into substantial sales.
The HomeWorld Business study does support the idea that consumers are thinking smaller when it comes to electronics purchasing as almost 62% of consumers said they intend to purchase electronics scaled for personal use. When asked what they might want to pay for furniture to house their electronics, more consumers said $151 to $250 than any other price level.
When asked last year where they would shop for home entertainment furniture, 37.4% of study respondents said a discount store. The figure made the discount channel by far the most popular for home entertainment furnishings purchases. However, when consumers were asked where they might shop for furniture to support electronics use generally, discount stores only narrowly beat out traditional furniture stores and electronics superstores.
As for the furniture itself, wood rules. Over half of consumers prefer wood as the material for their electronics furniture and over 44% want mixed material that includes wood, metal and glass. Price remains the most important factor in an electronics-related purchase although just over a third of consumers focused on style.
In the study, gender differences emerged in purchasing intent for and use of electronic devices, among them:
• Men said they are more likely to purchase electronic devices in the next year with 45% of males falling into either the “very likely” or “definitely” category versus 33% of females.
• Men are more interested in gaming consoles than women, at 23% versus 11%.
• Men, at 35%, are more likely to purchase furniture to house electronics than women at 23%.
• Women more frequently use electronics in the living room/entertainment room than men at 75% versus 59%, while males use electronics more frequently than females in the kitchen and the adult bedroom.
• Men are more likely to consider brand, while women are more likely to consider style.
• Women are more likely than males to shop at a furniture store or department store for electronics furniture, while men are more likely to shop at warehouse clubs and electronics superstores.
Generational difference also emerged in the study, such as:
• GenXers are more likely to plan a TV purchase than other demographic groups.
• GenXers and Millennials are more likely to purchase furniture for electronics than Boomers.
• Millennials use electronics more frequently in the adult bedroom than other generational groups.
• Millennials also are more likely to purchase electronics scaled for personal use such as smart phones and tablets.
• Millennial purchasing intent is driven by price more than that of other generational groups while GenX purchasing is driven more by style, and Boomers purchasing more by brand and style in combination.
• Millennials are more likely than other cohorts to shop for electronics furniture on the Internet.
• Meanwhile, women and older consumers prefer furniture made from wood or wood-based material, according to the survey.