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Chicago (November 28, 2011) – Americans are downsizing in many ways… smaller cars, smaller homes and generally less”stuff. ” As people cut back, their furniture purchasing habits are making big time changes. Consumers are now seeking functional and useful furniture pieces that fit well into their homes and lifestyles – and aren’t in a rush to purchase them.

According to a new Mintel report, when buying home furniture, 40% of those surveyed indicate that they choose furniture mainly based on practical needs versus only 12% who indicated price as a priority when buying furniture. While style is also important to buyers, function is the primary driver.

“Multipurpose furniture is appealing as many consumers don’t know where they will be living in a few years, due to the increasing number of Americans who are renting rather than owning homes,”notes Ali Lipson, senior retail analyst at Mintel. ” in addition, many consumers have shifted to a more simplistic mindset as a result of the recession. Bigger is no longer better. “

Not surprisingly, men are more likely to opt for practical reasons (46%) when purchasing furniture, while women aim to achieve a certain look for their homes (51%). Women are also slightly more likely than men to choose furniture based on price; some 14% of women agree with this statement compared to 9% of men.

Despite the demand for more basic furniture, people aren’t in a rush to purchase it. Thirty-four percent of those in the market for new furniture are postponing their purchase due to a lower household income, while 33% are waiting for a sale.

Online furniture shopping has never quite taken off like other online shopping segments. More than half (56%) of Mintel respondents like to see and touch furniture before purchasing it and 46% don’t want to pay the high shipping fees that are often calculated by weight. However, 28% of buyers like to browse online before hitting the pavement.