Who would and who wouldn’t buy futons

Exclusive Futon Life Survey
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by Lauretta Converse





What do the people really think about futons?

September has been a great month, full of sunny, crisp “everyone should live in New England” autumn days. It has also been a great month to talk with shoppers in a quest to uncover what ordinary people, Jane and John Q. Public, think about futons. Happily, I found them ready and willing to help with Futon Life’s newest survey and just about everyone was at least familiar with futon sofa beds. But when you survey almost one hundred and fifty people, you are bound to get some very interesting responses.

“Excuse me, sir, have you ever heard of a futon?” was my first question.

“Isn’t that part of an atom you know, like protons, futons and electrons?” Well, no, not really. Let’s try again.

“Excuse me, ma’am, have you ever heard of a futon?”

“Now honey, aren’t those the crispy bread thingies on a salad?” Exactly, lady, and I write for Crouton Life.

“How about you, sir?”

“I am from New York.” Huh?

Despite these curious responses, the survey results do inform us about what average, typical people think about futons, where they are sold, and their pricing. This report will help educate you about your futon buyers and potential customers, and will help you make effective marketing and sales decisions for your futon store.

Here’s how the survey progressed. My initial question to each of the 133 people I spoke with was “Have you ever heard of a futon?” to which only 10 responded “No”. Of these, most were men and most were older than forty-five.

Of the remaining 123, I asked whether they would consider a futon sofa bed if they were shopping for a sofa bed. Three-quarters of those under age 25 and half of those in my other two age groups, 25-45 and over 45, said “yes”. Women said they would consider a futon twice as frequently as men would.

Next, I asked why (or why not) people would consider a futon sofa bed, and here’s where the survey answers became intriguing. I went on to ask about where they would shop for a futon, and how much they expected a futon sofa bed to cost.

Who would and who wouldn’t buy futons

What kind of person is most likely to consider a futon? She is a woman under twenty-five years old, who would shop at a futon specialty store and expects to pay between two and three hundred dollars for a futon ensemble. She would choose a futon for its ability to function as both a sofa and a bed.

And who is least likely to consider a futon? He is a male over the age of twenty-five, familiar with futon specialty stores but unable to name an expected price. He believes that futons are uncomfortable.

Through the data collected during the survey, I found that most people are persuaded that futons are a furniture item that deserves consideration. Many are already aware of the value, quality, versatility or style of a futon sofa bed. But what about people who wouldn’t consider a futon? What are their objections? How can they be brought around?

Futons- Why say no?

Here are the things the survey revealed about those who would not consider buying a futon:

People who would not consider buying a futon seem to have a low-end futon in mind. When asked, these people gave an expected price point between two and three hundred dollars. The actual average price point in this region is $475. These shoppers need to be convinced that a futon is much more than “two pallets and a mattress” as one gentleman described the definition of futons to me.

People who would not consider buying a futon do not have a high degree of product knowledge. Many of the people who said “no” could not give a reason why, could not give an expected price, and had no idea where to shop for a futon. “I just wouldn’t” was frequently their answer to why they wouldn’t consider a futon sofa bed. Here, Mr. and Mrs. Brown need to be educated about the versatility and value of futons.

People who would not consider buying a futon do not care for its style. These people find a futon’s un-upholstered arms and its informal look undesirable. One twenty-five year old respondent told me that he had come to a point in his life where he wanted to “put futons and beanbag chairs behind him.” Others commented that futons would not fit with their traditional decorating style.

People who would not consider buying a futon think futons are uncomfortable. Men, far more than women, hold this opinion. “I’m too big”, “I have a bad back”, and even “It’s too thick” are some of the comments I noted. Curiously, while some women also think that futons are uncomfortable, almost an equal number would consider buying a futon because of its comfort.

Hey, what about futon covers?

Very few people mentioned the futon cover as a reason for considering a futon, contrary to my expectations. After talking with many people about their furniture decisions, it is clear that they consider furniture an infrequent and major expense. Therefore, futon covers should be a major selling point of futons because they extend the durability and fashionability of their furniture investment.

Surprisingly, the ability to wash, change and replace futon covers appears to be only a secondary benefit of choosing a futon. At a time when seasonal decorating and slipcovers are major trends in futon home furnishings, the benefits of our futon covers are in a position to be well appreciated. Futons, with their removable covers, should be a natural choice for people with pets or children, and for people who redecorate frequently.

Customer Perceptions, Impressions and Notions

In general, I found that futons have penetrated the furniture market beyond the traditional college population. People of all ages are well informed about our niche in the furniture market. Just about every Tom, Dick and Harry, as well as every Trish, Diane and Helen have heard about futon furniture and would know where to buy it. Though people in older age brackets were slightly less aware, I found that there is considerable product knowledge even among the “over forty-five” crowd.

People did not name a large variety of store types where they would shop for a futon. Futon specialty stores were mentioned only slightly more frequently than furniture stores. Sprinkled among responses were a few who would shop at discount department stores such as Target and Wal-Mart, and through catalogs such as LLBean and Crate and Barrel.

I was surprised by the number of unsolicited responses from people who answered my first question by saying, “Oh, I just bought one”, “My friend has one,” or “I have three.” People who own futons are decidedly pleased with them. All but one of them affirmed that they would buy a futon again, for the same reason that initially attracted them.

Digging our own grave?

I found that the expected futon price of those who would shop at specialty stores was less than the expected price of those who would shop at furniture stores. 43% of people who would shop at specialty stores expected the price to be below $300. In contrast, only 28% of furniture store shoppers expected the price to be below $300.

Since certain specialty stores were frequently mentioned by name during the survey, it seems reasonable to conclude that the heavily advertised, promotionally priced products of these futon shops have influenced people’s perception of futon prices. People assume futons as a whole are priced at the $199 or $299 mark since they frequently and prominently see these price points advertised.

But by advertising the low price points of futons rather than the entire range at which futons are available, our futon industry remains linked with beanbags. Advertising only prices of promotional products and low price points is like digging our own grave. It does a great deal to lock in people’s perception of futons as furniture for people who can’t afford furniture. Since advertising greatly influences people’s opinions, it should reflect the whole futon picture, i.e. that futons are a terrific, versatile product available in a wide range of prices.

In summary

This survey showed that there’s some good news about the futon furniture market. Product awareness is high among all sectors of the population. People’s opinions about futons are generally positive. Stereotypes of futons as furniture for the college set and bachelor pad have diminished somewhat. It is troubling, however, that price expectations are considerably below actual price points.

Well, that’s what I uncovered on those delightful autumn days as I spoke with typical people about their impressions of the world of futon furniture. Until next time, this is Lauretta Converse with Crouton Life. Umm—make that Futon Life.


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