Performance fabrics gain fans among consumers
Cindy W. Hodnett -- Furniture Today, January 16, 2013
HIGH POINT - Research compiled by Furniture/Today shows that nearly one third of consumers surveyed have purchased indoor furniture manufactured with fabric advertised as stain, fade and/or mildew resistant.
Additionally, more than 60% of stationary sofa units sold at retail are contemporary or casual/transitional in style per Furniture/Today's latest Upholstery Style Survey, providing compelling statistical muscle to reported design shifts toward relaxed residential interiors.
At December's Showtime textile market in High Point, performance fabrics were prominent introductions in many showrooms. The category has rapidly become a new staple for the indoor residential furniture market, and industry leaders expect the trend to continue.
"One of the most important developments in performance fabrics is the evolution of the design, texture and style. Performance fabrics like Sunbrella are being used as ‘normal' fabrics would be used inside a home," said Greg Rosendale, market manager for Sunbrella producer Glen Raven.
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"Overall, the idea of choosing a performance fabric happens the minute customers become aware of a fabric option that works better for them than the traditional fabrics they are used to purchasing," said Randy Rubin, co-founder and president of Crypton. "The consumer who is doing their homework before making a major purchase finds things like Crypton because they want their furniture to last and stay clean. They now see performance fabric as a necessity to the home, not just an option for commercial spaces."
Crypton is reporting a 15% increase in contract fabric sales and a 45% increase in residential sales for 2012. The substantial gains underscore a growing consumer acceptance of the use of performance fabrics for interior residential furnishings and challenge suppliers to expand their product lines.
"Crypton's ability to engineer fabrics that have stain and microbial resistance at a molecular level has advanced leaps and bounds over the chemistry that was used when Crypton came to market 20 years ago," Rubin said. "Stain treatments no longer just repel, but can be made to release - which means stains are mostly fended off, but if there is a tougher stain, it is now easier to get off."
Crypton has achieved Greenguard certification and is verified to be formaldehyde free, according to company representatives. The designations are important for consumers concerned about the use of chemical treatments in fabric and highlight ongoing advances in the performance fabric industry.
"Silver ions have replaced traditional antimicrobial treatments, providing a more environmentally friendly product, and C6 chemistry has advanced to provide excellent results in a more environmentally friendly manner," Rubin said. "Fabrics are now much softer due to new capabilities of treating very heavy textures with no change in the hand."
Glen Raven's Rosendale said that while consumers have embraced performance fabrics for interior use, they also want the same type of attributes available in nonperformance lines.
"Consumers want more than just stain resistance," he said. "They also want fade resistance, a soft and supple hand and something that is easy to clean and stylish.
"Our biggest challenge, and opportunity, is to be innovative. We must continue to develop new products that are on trend and salable for the retailer."
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