Exclusive Interview with Brian Donohoo of Strata Furniture

September 16, 2008 by FM · Leave a Comment 

We caught up with Brian Donohoo of Strata Furniture to get his take on the futon industry and maybe spill the beans on Strata’s next futon frame. Donohoo is the Director of Operations and part Owner of Strata Furniture. Donohoo is also a current Board Member and previous President of the Futon Association. With over 7 years of experience in the manufacturing and importing of futon furniture, Donohoo has a wealth of experience in the futon industry. He spent a few minutes with us to share his opinions on the state of the industry as well as the continuing growth of Strata Furniture.

FM:Thank you again for taking the time from your busy schedule to participate in this interview.
Donohoo: Your welcome, thank you for the opportunity.

FM: How did Strata Furniture get its start? How long have you been with the company?
Donohoo: Strata furniture started in 2000 after one of the owners bought a patent out of Tiltchair, Inc. I started helping them with their accounting until 2001 when I became their day to day manager.

FM: Talk to us about the history of the wall hugger. When did this futon really soar in demand?
Donohoo: The wall hugger mechanism was very well received in our Signature Collection. It has really been in great demand since we introduced our Carriage Collection and especially the Dillon Futon Frame.

The Dillon futon frame features an armless design that is a unique item in the wall hugger catagory.

FM: What separates the Strata wall hugging mechanism from your competitors?
Donohoo: I don’t think the average consumer realized until the past few years that on other futon frames you have to lift a heavy frame and mattress away from the wall and then convert it. Also, we sell very well in cities where real estate is at a premium and people need furniture that fits in tighter spaces but still has the features they’re looking for. The element of space saver and great design has really launched our frames.

FM: What kind of success is Strata seeing in the current economic climate? What effect do you think the relatively higher price of a Strata frame has on overall sales?
Donohoo: We have not felt a downturn in the latest economy. I also think people now understand that you get what you pay for. We went through a period of a few years where all consumers wanted was the cheapest futon frame. However, after buying the cheapest they realized they didn’t get the quality or style they wanted. If you look at the amount of extra wood we use to ensure quality and design, the extra $40-$50 retail is well worth it.

FM: Have you seen a slowdown in overall sales this year?
Donohoo: We have not seen a downturn in sales this year. In fact we have grown every year since we started and this year is no exception. We have a unique product that has been very well received.

The Fremont furon frame features a transitional design and Strata\'s famous wall hugger conversion system

FM: Have you made any changes or started any new projects to help move products more aggressively?
Donohoo: We are always looking at new products and should be introducing several in the next 6 months.

FM: Knock-off designs are common throughout the furniture industry. What is Strata doing to maintain control over its unique styles?
Donohoo: We patent our designs plus our mechanism makes it harder to copy. I think with all the talented companies and individuals out there it is a shame for any company to knock off another company’s designs.

FM: How have low cost futons and loss-leaders from big-box chains affected your business?
Donohoo: I think they have given a bad name for the product and category in general. It doesn’t help our category if someone buys a frame that breaks or a mattress that is so thin it is like a piece of plywood.

FM: What do you think is a viable solution to counterpoint these products?
Donohoo:What it has done is made the specialty shops focus on quality and design and I think that the stores that have done that are doing well. They can sell higher quality products with larger margins and less headache.

The Plantation futon frame takes a modern twist on a mission favorite.

FM: What kind of issues or growing pains have you gone through over the years?
Donohoo: Manufacturing and warehousing is always on the top of our list. It’s critical to find a great manufacturing plant and work very closely with them.

FM: Where do you see the greatest growth potential for Strata Furniture?
Donohoo: Our company has really grown in the past few years. I think we have become well known in the futon industry for a company that produces great products and has excellent customer service. People want to buy from someone that stands behind their product and that is what we do.

FM: Which of your products are you the most proud of and which sells the best?
Donohoo:I am really proud of our Carriage Line of frames especially the three new designs, the Fremont, Plantation and Denali, as they have hit the market and sold extremely well. Our best seller is the Dillon, partially because it’s great in a variety of spaces.

FM: Did you know that these products would be so successful prior to launch?
Donohoo: You never really know what will sell until it hits the market, but we run designs by industry professionals and we have a great design consultant we use who tells us what she thinks will sell and what wont. In the end though you just have to believe in the design and see what the public thinks.

The Denali futon frame features a subtle style and high quality wood finishing

FM: What advice would you give to aspiring furniture suppliers trying to grow in this economy?
Donohoo: It is much tougher than you think. With overseas factories everything takes longer and is more complicated. You really have to watch sales trends and try to predict what the public wants in 6-9 months. That is very hard to do. I think you also have to really define what your market will be and what you can offer different from what is already out there.

FM: Thanks again, Brian Donohoo, for taking the time to interview with us. We really appreciate it and we are sure our readers will too!
Donohoo: Your welcome.