I agree with ufo’s description of the furniture industry. I was amazed (and still am quite often) at the speed at which the industry, and the company I work for, changes style trends and directions. From attending the High Point furniture market a couple times, it appears to me that most furniture companies could care less about doing anything truly innovative or fresh. To give them credit, they are in business to sell furniture, not make major changes to the nature, style, or construction of furniture; as long as the customers buy their product, and comes back for more, they see no reason to gamble on something new. A few companies do push truly new product onto the market, but they are difficult to find… Throwing some new fabric on upholstery or reintroducing/reworking an old style/design seems to be enough to keep the average customer interested. I have not attended ICFF, but I would suspect things are pretty similar as in High Point.
I also dispise the current trend of having a liscensed endorsement or “designer” attached to a particular line or group; in my eyes, it is only a marketing ploy and attempt to prop up poor (or completely lacking) design. Perhaps this trend is on the decline, as I have been hearing dealers ask for “good product without liscensees” or saying the same thing I have been telling management, that well-designed product should sell on its own (not to mention the fact that I friggin’ hate having a liscensee get payed royalty just for having their name on a product line, and the true designers getting nil).
As far as conservative design goes, I think it will always have a place in the market here. We have our own tastes, as do Europeans, and as a whole, do not stray too far. Looking at other product categories should confirm this. I do think, however, that as the younger generations (my own generation, included) get older and begin to look for furniture, they will want something different than what their parents and grandparents furnished their homes with. In a decade, we may be seeing a great deal of change, but I don’t dare make any predictions. There are also niche markets that will always be lucrative but small and ever changing - that, IMO, is where new, fresh, innovative furniture will be profitable - but difficult to pin down and a large gamble that most well-established furniture companies will be unwilling to take. IKEA is really the largest, most wide-spread design-heavy (if you can call it that) furniture retailer in my eyes, and even they only put stores in specific markets, not in every town from Maine to California as Walmart, et al, does.
Oh, BTW, FurnitureToday allows anyone to register for full access to their online articles. Not a lot, really, but now and then they have a few good reads. InFurniture is another trade rag that I like.