Customers pay for value
HIGH POINT — What is performance fabric? That’s a tough question to answer quickly.
There’s no carved-in stone definition because there is such a variety of performance properties in today’s fabrics and different properties are more crucial in some
applications than in others.
For example, durability is more important in motion furniture for the family room,
light-fastness is key for outdoor furniture, and anti microbial properties may matter more in warm, damp regions.
And if spills are an ongoing cause of concern, then just knowing that water- and oil-based liquids will bead up on the surface you grab a napkin can make a consumer feel better
about a fabric choice.
For upholstery manufacturers then, performance can fall anywhere on a continuum from a
simple durability story to a highly engineered product that is touted as impervious to
liquid, bacteria, mold, mildew, stains, sunlight and bleach.
Above all, however, for upholstery manufacturers willing to invest in effective marketing,
performance fabric is a hot buzz phrase that is paying off in sales.
The performance fabric category, while an obvious choice for manufacturers of outdoor
furniture, continues to gain importance for residential indoor furniture producers like
Lazar Inds. and La-Z-Boy.
Even Ethan Allen, which doesn’t sell married fabrics and frames since everything is custom
ordered, has seen growth in performance fabrics. Jane Roberts, director of upholstery
merchandising, says that many of the company’s top-selling fabrics are performance-related.
“We’re looking for ways to market performance fabrics better,” Roberts said. “Each mill
has different performance characteristics, which makes a mixed marketing message for a
retailer or manufacturer selling product from several mills.”