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When you walk into a family home and engage in a grand tour, you may notice a difference in the sizing and styling of pieces of furniture, with a large dependence resting on the user of the item and their age – and with most of the items designed for children being found in children’s rooms and living spaces. The simple fact is that children’s furniture as an industry is on the rise, with retailers and brands tapping into a previously underserved market which gives children the opportunity to benefit from items as finely crafted and as infinitely stylish as their adult counterparts.
While there has been a significant rise in specific brands which exist primarily for the manufacturing and sale of children’s furniture, a large proportion of the market industry is being served by furniture retailers and department stores which have simply expanded their existing offering and drawn on the popularity of their existing brand name in order to drive forward sales of children’s furniture as well. Not only does this mean that they benefit from an already captive audience and from the reliability of a renowned brand name, but it also means that buyers can benefit from any vouchers and discounts which are applied by the retailer or brand for their full range of stock. But does this make them the best of the industry bunch? Read on to find out!
One of the questions we often see being asked in the industry is a simple one: Are children’s pieces of furniture cheaper than adult pieces, because they use less materials and are smaller in size? The answer to this largely depends on the retailer and brand, and the method of production – though for the most part we tend to find that children’s furniture is cheaper and thus more appealing to the customer, even if they will have to upgrade it at some point to something larger as their child grows.
Over the last few years there has been a significant shift in the way that children’s furniture is created and marketed, with parents and homeowners increasingly focusing their energy on the aesthetic value of their items as well as the functionality and design; especially with open plan home spaces becoming evermore commonplace and bringing children’s furniture into main spaces to sit within the overall home styling and décor, as well as in children’s rooms and playrooms.
The rise of image sharing sites like Instagram and Pinterest has led to the revamped mood board style of planning, decorating and furnishing, with parents everywhere using inspiration sites and magazines to gather together ideas and turn every room in the home into a picture perfect oasis – and children’s rooms are no different. In fact if you were to head to Pinterest and do a basic search for children’s furniture, you would find yourself confronted with countless boards and entire accounts dedicated to furniture which is not just practical but which offers additional features and add-ons, with each piece and each brand offering their own USP and their own style of decorating.
And so it seems that as general furniture has expanded in the range of styles now available, so too has the children’s furniture industry – taking hold of the “must haves” on every parents’ list and turning them into unique items of furniture which can be selected to celebrate and reflect any chosen style. You only have to look at a selection of children’s wardrobes to see what we mean – with the basic wardrobe now available across different retailers in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and designs – boasting rustic finishes, modern angular lines and charming whimsical shapes.
So, who are these retailers driving the children’s furniture industry towards something stylish and as much built around aesthetic value as general functionality?
First up, we have the retailers which are prominent in the home and furniture sector and have simply expanded their collections to now encompass children’s furniture - which is then tailored with regards to both size and appearance, as well as the usability of various features of the furniture items. User experience and usability is particularly important when it comes to the children’s furniture industry, with customers consistently looking for pieces with drawers which are easy to open, structures which are strong and reliable enough to withstand knocks and tumbles, and doors with a slow close mechanism to reduce the risk of slammed doors and trapped fingers. Thus, it seems abundantly clear that those retailers who put a focus on usability of their various items of furniture will gain more momentum from a family audience, with top retailers including:
These are the retailers most likely to include children’s furniture as part of a much wider collection – something which can serve them well in terms of footfall but can also occasionally mean that the collections and ranges lack unique selling points and thematic deviation from the standard designs which perform well across the furniture and children’s furniture market.
Moving forward towards those retailers and brands which create furniture exclusively for the children’s market, this is the retail sector where innovation and variety lies – with brands stocking pieces which are created for children and thus encompass child friendly features and whimsical designs into even the most basic items.
Some of the top examples within this child-specific sector include:
The Children’s Furniture Company in particular stocks different furniture pieces each with their own unique storage solutions which are suitable for children, for example children’s sized beds with pull out drawers under the mattress for storage, toy storage units with compartments dedicated to different toys and stuffed animals, and soft furnishings items like armchairs which are tailormade to different age groups and demographics and are covered with fabric ranging from space ships to princesses and pirates.
Of course, while all of these various elements are useful, the most important thing to note about the children’s furniture industry is that the more options and variations it provides, the more choice children are given about how they wish to express themselves within a space that is entirely their own – something which is becoming an increasingly important factor for parents and educators as well as industry professionals.
And it isn’t just about aesthetics and themes – with durability also playing a huge role in ascertaining the quality of an item of children’s furniture. A common example is children’s chairs which need to be covered with a fabric which is durable and easy to clean, as well as tailored to include a wide range of colours which could be used to fit with a variety of potential themes. While general home spaces and items of furniture are leaning more towards the neutrals and pastel shades of a modern home style, children’s furniture and children’s rooms will always be a place where vibrance is at the heart of any decorative theme.
One of the first and most important things to note about the children’s furniture industry is the fact that the top products within the industry lie in the bedding arena – that is children’s beds, cots and cribs, which together make up a huge percentage of the market. This dominance in the industry is largely thanks to the necessity of bedding in a child’s room, though can also be attributed to the distinct rise in natural materials being made to produce bed frames and cots which plays into the customer demand for environmentally friendly and durable natural products, and is also aided by the increase in children’s furniture sets which match beds together with complimentary chest of drawers, wardrobes and other key surfaces to provide the buyer with a harmonious set of furniture all available at a discount. These subsequent products are most popular when they serve versatile and multipurpose uses, with the most successful furniture brands and retailers being those which stock all manner of different sizes of items tailored to different room sizes and different needs.
As well as the commonplace items which you would expect to find in every home, for example those children’s beds, chest of drawers and wardrobes, the children’s furniture market has also seen an increase in recent years of brands which are targeting niche markets with items which offer solutions to children with very specific needs and requirements.
One primary example is the rise of sensory furniture which is designed to support the learning and development of children across all different ages and stages of their growth and education. Sensory chairs are a particular trend which is growing within the industry, supporting the concentration of children and ensuring that their emotional instincts are regulated and monitored – with brand Tink Things being one of the leaders in this particular market. Outside of this the industry also plays host to more extreme sensory rooms and pieces of furniture, giving children with varying degrees of learning and functional difficulty a chance to encounter different experiences. These are also served by niche retailers and brands in the sector, who tend to operate in both the private and commercial buying space.
Similar to this niche trend is one which is more wide ranging but encompasses many of the same focuses – using the material and construction of the chair to aid a child’s development both mental and physical, in response to parents becoming increasingly aware of the impact that surrounding spaces and items can have on a child’s outlook and growth. Intelligent chairs produced using high end materials are particularly prominent within this industry trend, leading to the rise of designer and high priced children’s furniture pieces which are designed to tap into selective and specific developmental needs. One example of a retailer tapping into this trend is Universal Furniture, which uses very functional and minimal designs and colours to create intelligent areas which use the space available in the best way possible – creating something clean and functional without the proposed need for technology which so many other brands rely on in the modern market.
Another prominent trend within the children’s furniture industry is the rise of upcycling, recycling and re-using waste in order to create standout items which not only add to the aesthetic interest of a room but also ensure that it is regarded to be as green and environmentally friendly as possible. Some brands have seen themselves facing an uphill battle when it comes to selling the appearance of recycled plastic chairs to the high end market, however clever advertising and top level endorsement plays a large part in pinpointing the right kind of buyer for this specific industry niche.
The final trend within the market place for children’s furniture, and one which is consistent without any signs of slowing down, is the growing call for pieces of furniture which create and provide their own space saving solutions, which are multi-purpose in their design and use, and which serve to elevate an area both in its aesthetic and its usability. We have already looked at how homeowners are becoming more and more invested in the design and appearance of their children’s furniture, but the idea of it being both on trend for adults and for children, as well as easy to use and practical, means that new designs and ideas are constantly being thrown around the industry. Bunk beds are a great example of how beds have evolved to create solutions to different problems, with the original bunk beds stacking two beds atop each other to reduce the footprint on the floor of the room, before developing and expanding into the concept of a midi bed which uses the same benefit of height to create an empty space beneath the mattress which is ideal for a desk or small reading space and chair.
While retailers like IKEA are creating new and improved designs every day to serve the market at affordable prices and with the flatpack design which allows buyers to easily purchase and transport various items of furniture, the rise in children’s furniture specialised retailers and brands means that the industry can keep growing and expanding to meet the growing demands of consumers – both of the adult variety and of the slightly smaller and even more demanding child shaped variety.
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