Smaller households, cafeteria style dining in the home and the rise of the television as the true focal point at dinner time have rendered dining room furniture almost obselete in many houses across Britain. Indeed, according to latest research from MINTEL, over the last five years alone sales of dining room furniture have declined by 8% to just £119 million this year. This decline defies the trend in other furniture markets such as home office furniture, where sales have risen by almost 40% since 2000 and bedroom furniture, which increased its sales by 37% over the same five year period.
"Today, dining rooms have become almost defunct as a place where a family enjoys an everyday meal together around the table. Scenes like those from the iconic OXO adverts featuring Lynda Bellingham, which ran for some 16 years, are now no longer a reflection of contemporary British family life and as a result have since been abandoned. Indeed, for many grazing or eating on the hoof have replaced meal times while for those who do sit down for dinner it is often merely a case of a 'self service' meal eaten on the lap in front of the television or a bite at a local eatery," comments David Bird, senior market analyst at MINTEL.
"But perhaps the most significant factor behind the continued decline of the dining room furniture market is the demise of the dining room itself. With the continued breakdown of traditional family models, rising divorce rates, later marriages and an ageing population more people are living alone. These smaller households are often converted properties or new builds, which often simply do not have a separate dining room and boast an open-plan living-dining-kitchen area," adds David Bird.
For those who have a dining room it is usually kept only for formal occasions or has changed its function completely. Many have made it into a home office so that some consumers are now more likely to be found working on their laptop than eating at the dining room table. All this has contributed to the decline is sales of dining room furniture.
Flat out for flatpack?
For those British adults who do buy dining room furniture flat pack or mix and match are the order of the day. Indeed, over one in three (36%) adults are happy to assemble furniture themselves and while in 1997 self-assembly accounted for just over a fifth (22%) of the dining room furniture market, it now makes up almost a third (30%) of sales.
"Championed by outlets such as IKEA, not only is the cheaper self-assembly option now regarded as normal with consumers clearly prepared to build flat pack furniture at home, it offers the immediacy that waiting for delivery of big-ticket ready-assembled furniture pieces cannot,"
What is more, individual furniture pieces have performed noticeably better than suites, where sales declined by some 10% between 2002 and 2004. The popularity of these individual pieces has grown with the trend for mass-market customisation, allowing the consumer to adopt a mix-and-match approach to tailoring their homes and furnishing to their own tastes and preferences.
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