Character-marked Furniture: Perceptions, Critical Issues, and Barriers to Acceptance Among Manufacturers and Retailers
An important issue in the furniture industry is more widespread use of character-marks. The purpose of this research was to gain an in-depth understanding of the critical issues associated with acceptance of character-marked hardwood furniture. This information was beneficial for developing strategies to increase character-mark use by large furniture manufacturers. Although much has been said about the benefits of including more character in hardwood furniture, few large manufacturers have implemented such changes in their products.
Personal interviews were conducted with product development personnel to develop case studies for large furniture manufacturers. The case studies centered on the companies' experiences with character-marked furniture. A follow-up mail survey was conducted to validate the case studies. It was found that decisions concerning character-mark use occur throughout the product development process, and involve the design, marketing, and production functions within the company. Companies that were able to fit character-marks within acceptable product concepts, considering such factors as style, finish, and hardware, appeared to have the most success with character-marked furniture in the marketplace.
Conjoint analysis was employed to provide quantitative measures of retailers' perceptions of character-marked furniture products. This information was useful for determining the potential for push-type promotion. The dependent measure stimuli were full product profiles (actual wood samples and pictures), presented to respondents during on-site interviews. Retailers preferred furniture with no knots when evaluations were based on buying consideration and relative price. However, there was a linear relationship between preference and knot size, suggesting that opportunities for use of small knots may exist. It was found that character-marks were quite important to the product evaluations, suggesting that character-marks are a salient product feature. In addition to generating preference measures for tangible furniture product attributes, an investigation of the intangible product attributes associated with character-marks was conducted. Rustic, casual, and antique looks were most associated with character-marked furniture. Promotion of character-marked furniture based on environmental and natural material themes did not appear to hold much potential in the minds of manufacturers and retailers. It appears that promotion of character-marked furniture aimed at retailers will have to be based on what character-marks add to the look of wood household furniture.