Despite a slow start in 2017, the residential furniture industry continues to demonstrate steady signs of improvement, both in solid wood and panel-based products, with the latest year-to-date figures from Smith Leonard’s Furniture Insights showing a 6% gain in new orders over the first eight months of 2016, with shipments up 5%.

This optimism was back by attendees and exhibitors at this year’s furniture markets. And while competition from imports will continue to be a challenge, the demand for custom and batch-one production, offered by North American manufacturers, will offset it.

So what’s trending? Small, multi-functional furniture and furniture that doubled as art were seen in a few showrooms at the High Point Market. Also noted in the High Point Style Report was the trend for furniture with clean lines, as well as a mixing of patterns and textures that bring to mind a retro, or even deco feel. The Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. also noted an increase in solid wood furniture showings in high-end, mid- and even lower-priced furniture pieces, “by manufacturers who have learned that consumers understand the benefits and value.”

With regards to purchasing, while consumers continue to flock to brick and mortar stores, online is fast-growing as a buying channel for furniture and home furnishings.

What to watch: the national Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act; and the federal-proposed Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act; furniture stability regulations; and amendment to California’s Proposition 65 “clear and reasonable warning” requirements.

Click to enlarge the infographic, plus find more market data in December's FDMC Wood Industry Almanac

Quick Stats
The Freedonia Group forecasts household furnishings demand to reach $34.9 billion in 2021. According to the report, Household Furniture: United States, improvements in the residential housing market and increases in disposable personal income will help spur sales.

While women typically initiate furniture purchases, the gap is shrinking, according to Impact Consulting. This could impact advertising, which has traditianally targeted women.

Maple is one of the prevalent species used in solid wood and veneered furniture, according to a report from the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc.

Market Data Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, Smith Leonard, American Home Furnishings Alliance, Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. (AHMI), Impact Consulting, Statista, High Point Market, International Market Centers, The Freedonia Group.

Category: Residential furniture includes: wood & upholstered, casegoods, RTA, bedroom & youth, entertainment units.