Furniture is a $100 billion per year industry in the United States, and has been growing consistently. While the overall percentages of eComm versus traditional retail hovers around 16%, the furniture industry has been seeing an abrupt shift in recent years. Top furniture brands across the industry are seeing consumers more engaged with online retailers like Wayfair—which has seen record-breaking growths for several consecutive years running. In a time when brick and mortar furniture stores are going extinct, some of the more savvy furniture brands are adapting quickly and meeting consumers where they are beginning to dwell the most—the internet! After all sometimes the best furniture is the furniture that you can find for the cheapest price!
Outdated Business Models
Furniture, as a whole, is a technologically lagging industry. Computers only hit many design firms 10-12 years ago, and much of their distribution and manufacturing process are still organized and geared towards that pace of work. Those furniture brands that are adapting the quickest are seeing the most powerful changes of anyone, and will likely become role models for others in the industry. While many of the largest furniture manufacturers are family-ran outfits that have been in business for 100+ years (yes, furniture is an old industry in America) there are still many newer brands that have been able to thrive by finding gaps in the market. Liberty furniture is a good example of how a technologically-bedridden outfit has been able to outpace many newer furniture brands. They’ve been in business since the 90’s, and specialize in low-middle range priced furniture. They manufacture in large numbers, and outsource cheap foreign labor from countries like China and Vietnam. You’ll find they offer a superior product, not comparable honestly, to the types of furniture you’d expect to find in BitLots! or other ‘discount’ type stores. Liberty Furniture keeps their prices ranges low in many cases, and can offer a 4 piece bedroom set that is very attractive in the $500 range. Of course, if you want a $2000 bedroom set they’ve got something for you as well.
Another great example of how some brands are learning to adapt can been seen by Bassett furniture, which offers their customers a free customization studio to work from
The best furniture brands such as Lexington, Bassett, and even Stanley Furniture have all been around a really long time. These brands have seen trends come and go, have rode the waves of in-and-out—and have learned to adapt to changing market conditions. I joke that furniture brands are antiquated in their technology application, though their appreciation seems to be on par. The design-centric industry seems to have had no problem adopting a strong presence on social media channels such as Instagram and Pinterest—which still remain a mystery to many businesses. I’d chalk this up more to furniture’s inherent obsession with the visual and stylish, though some companies have been rolling out 3d product viewers on their online storefronts. The take away is that the top furniture brands know that in order to survive they have to connect with their buyers on their terms, not the company’s. If that means breaking out on Instagram, so be it—though the ones that don’t quite ‘get it’ can come across much like an ad still. Another great example of how some brands are learning to adapt can been seen by Bassett furniture, which offers their customers a free customization studio to work from. This idea is in partnership with HGTV, and has been regarded by many as an overwhelming success.
Buying Furniture Online
That’s one of the scariest phrases for many older people, but millennials are starting to hit their professional primes and have some expendable income to start dolling out. As mentioned, online furniture retailers like Wayfair.com are now able to make a hefty living by offering customers a safe, well-organized, and customer-catering shopping experience. Typically-speaking, online furniture stores offer the same products (often shifted straight from manufacturers warehouses) at a cost that’s easily 35% less than you’d find in stores. For consumers willing to buy big-budget items online, this approach is a no-brainer. For those less-willing, it seems that their resolve is slowing wearing down as we progress into a more technologically comfortable society. After all, the internet has really only practically been around for like 20 something years—imagine where it’ll be in another 10!