Furniture retailers around Killeen report the last few months have been somewhat slow, but overall, the market has grown significantly over the past 12 months.
It might not be a coincidence that the furniture market seems to mirror the ebb and flow of the local housing market. In just a one-month period between August and September, area home sales dropped 34 percent. Area furniture retailers are feeling the decline.
“The last few months have been slow,” said Micah Secor, store manager at Sofa Mart in Harker Heights’ Furniture Row. “But the last year has been good.”
“Between 2008 and 2011, our sales were down by 50 percent,” he added. “We aren’t back to where things were when we were rocking and rolling in the early 2000s from the housing boom. We aren’t there yet. But we are having what I would call ‘normal good times’.”
Michael DeHart, executive officer of the Fort Hood Association of Realtors, explained the impact the housing market has on many complementary industries.
“Every time a new home is sold, the nationwide statistic is that it adds over $60,000 to the local economy right away,” DeHart said.
DeHart said a strong housing market can drive multiple industries, such as carpeting, draperies and curtains and lawn services. He said that group also includes furniture.
“Look around your own home and think about everything you would need to make a house a home,” DeHart said. “Furniture is a big part of that. Furniture makes a house a home.”
Decor estimated that about one-third of Sofa Mart’s business comes from new home sales.
“The rest of it is soldiers coming home,” he said.
Furniture for family rooms and increasingly sophisticated home theaters is a growing sector of area furniture sales. Chong Boone, owner of Furniture World in Killeen, said up until the last few months, TV stands and entertainment centers were moving very well. Recently, her customers seem to be sticking to the necessities.
“People are looking for TV stands and entertainment centers for their family rooms,” Boone said. “With the economy improving, people seem to have more money to spend.”
But she said September sales were sobering. The sudden downturn has her customers sticking to the basics. “September 2012 was really bad compared to the sales in September 2011,” she said. “And like anyone else, if you don’t have the extra money, you can’t spend it on furniture. But even with the slow month, it does seem like people have at least some more confidence to spend again.”
Sofa Mart has been capitalizing on the growing desire for family room furniture by offering a free television with the purchase of certain sets.
“Family rooms seem to be the direction the industry is headed in,” said Secor. “People want a room dedicated to family. People are spending more time at home than they used to. So it makes sense that they are buying furniture.”
According to Secor, the televisions Sofa Mart gives away are usually 51-inch plasma screens valued between $500 and $550. He said the furniture sets that qualify customers for the free TV run between $1,500 and $3,000.
“The free TV has worked very well for us,” he said. “It depends on what you get as to whether you qualify, but a free TV is obviously a big part of building a family entertainment room.”
Sandra Skinner, owner of Ashley Furniture and The Furniture Zone & Sleep Shop in Killeen, said that interest in family entertainment rooms is nothing new, but there are more options for consumers than ever before. She said powered motion furniture is now driving that sector of her business.
“Power has been added to many of the reclining sets,” said Skinner.
Power recliners and lift chairs make it possible to recline or lift with the push of a button. It seems that La-Z-Boys just got lazier.
“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” said Skinner. “But power motion is growing. There are more selections in motion furniture than there were just two years ago.”
Overall, Skinner said her businesses are growing at a steady pace despite the recent housing downturn.
“We stay pretty consistent,” she said. “We have a pretty stable economy in our town. We’ve had consistent growth for the last 10 years.”
Stephen Branch, owner of Ledger Furniture in Copperas Cove, said his store is experiencing steady growth.
But it is because he formulated a business plan that went against the grain.
“The interesting part is when the industry was going south, we went higher, not lower,” he said.
“We still sell a lot of casual furniture, but we decided to concentrate on the higher end of the business,” he added.
When other stores lowered prices and concentrated on areas such as home entertainment, Branch decided he would transform his store into a high-end option.
“We have migrated to the more traditional, higher-end furniture,” he said. “And it has enabled us to survive and do well.”
The market in the Killeen-Fort Hood area is diversifying. But as Boone pointed out, at the end of the day, the state of the economy will dictate what lines of products are hot.
“Everybody wants a family room to relax,” she said. “But not everybody can afford it. It is an extra.”