I have been selling furniture since 1986, a 33-year run. In the course of that time I have seen shopping and buying habits change several times, as well as the big recession that wiped out about half the retail furniture stores and almost took out mine as well. As shopping habits change, consumers values do as well. Here's what I am seeing as we come into 2020.

* Amazon has changed the buying habits of consumers - absolutely. And there is an expectation of shoppers that most businesses should fall into that model. Quick availability, accurate arrival dates, shopping cart pricing and ease in buying. And since they expect that kind of shopping ease they gravitate to web sites that sell furniture. The better the website, the more apt they are to buy. The thing is, almost all those pieces are imports and cheaply made. The better quality furniture is not sitting in a box in a warehouse, ready to go because there are just too many choices in covers, styles and trim. Most everything is made to order unless it was brought in a container from China and they have a hundred units all identical.

* Reviews. Shopping decisions are very much influenced by reviews these days and that can be a good thing, but use your own filters to throw out those that are both too glowing and the ones too damning. You will also note that more reviews are done when the pieces are brand new, when the more relevant ones would really be after several months, or even years after ownership. Aslo, people are more inclined to write negative reviews than positive ones for the most part.

* Pets on Furniture. Without question, everyone seems to want upholstery that the family pets can be on that won't deteriorate the cover. I can tell you that fabric or leather, it doesn't exist. You can decide to let your pets on the furniture or train them to stay off (they will learn - at least dogs will) but should you choose to let them on the sofas and chair, you will not get the lifespan out of the cover that you would otherwise. Any dealer that tells you otherwise is not being truthful. As for Performance Fabrics, which are now the rage, they do not last any longer than conventional fabrics. They are just easier to clean when they soil, they're scrubbable with soap and water. Leather will last on average 4x longer than any textile if given reasonable care during its lifespan and not sitting in the sun's UV rays constantly.

* Pricing and Expectations. One curious shopping habit I am seeing more and more of, is consumers insisting on high quality product, however the budget only for low-quality product. Nobody wants anything made in China, yet they want the Chinese price. I don't have a good answer for that other than to say "Nice things cost Money". And this also makes the USA manufacturers crazy, I talk to them all. They are under enormous pressure to deliver a product for "xxxxx" dollars but their business standards and quality ethics won't let them take things out of the builds to get to that price point. Margins are so low, they can't reduce them any further. The import factories have no such qualms however. They will build to a price point and don't really care if the product has a high failure rate, that's what the customer wanted - a cheap price. The imports give you want you want. The key as the consumer is to approach with an open mind and don't set yourself hard targets on price based on something you saw on a website. Learn what makes a good piece, look at the anticipated lifespan of usage and buy accordingly. Better made furniture costs less over its useful life as its doesn't suffer the quick deterioration of inferior builds.

* Going Green. Younger clients are all about two things. Ecology and short term buys. Well, that's doesn't exactly work so well as they are not compatible. I hear often "I only need that sofa to last 5 years, because then I'll want something new, BTW, is that recyclable?". No, the cheap import sofa you are buying is not re-cycleable, its going in the landfill in 4 to 5 years because its failed. Had you purchased a high quality piece you would get 25 years out of it, and that's what helps the environment, you're not sending folmeadeye-laden and polymer-loaded sofas into the landfills every few years. Goods that last longer are far better for us all.