Even though the global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the retail industry as a whole, furniture retailers—both online and brick and mortar—haven’t taken nearly as big of a hit.
There are several reasons for this, not least of which being that people are spending more time at home! And, with that, they want to do so in comfort.
Furthermore, with heavy competition within the furniture industry, retailers are keeping prices low to retain customers.
According to Research and Markets, “the home furniture market in the US is poised to grow by $8.08 bn during 2020-2024 progressing at a CAGR of 2% during the forecast period.”
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
The biggest change I’m seeing is the transition from brick and mortar locations to online stores.
Even the biggest players in the industry with the most market share—IKEA, Ashley Furniture, LaZBoy, and Raymour & Flanigan Furniture—are moving toward an online model.
While the movement toward online shopping is a trend in and of itself, other trends will define the direction of the industry in 2021 and beyond.
1. Physical Stores Will Continue to Lose Foot Traffic
This trend isn’t new to 2021, but it continues to pick up steam.
Physical furniture stores with a typical showroom experience—those that used to drive the furniture industry—will continue to give way to online sales.
In addition to established brands (see above) moving toward an online model, new entries into the industry are carving out a niche.
Take, for example, the growing number of people buying mattresses online. Brands such as Casper, Purple, and Tuft & Needle have taken a big chunk out of brick and mortar store sales. Amazon and Wayfair are even getting in on the action.
More people than ever are considering buying a mattress online and actually making a purchase via the internet.
As physical furniture stores continue to lose foot traffic, they only have two options: expand to ecommerce sales or go out of business.
Loves Furniture, a once major player in the northeast region of the United States, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Loves interim CEO Mack Peters shared his thoughts on the reason for the chain’s recent troubles:
"While initial sales were strong as compared to the projections, sales fell significantly in light of Loves' difficulty locating, obtaining and delivering merchandise to its customers. Many of Loves' suppliers refused to ship further product, much of which had been ordered in May and June, so that items that were expected to be received on which customer deposits had been taken were not longer expected."
The growth of online ecommerce furniture sales isn’t the only reason for less foot traffic at physical stores, but it’s a strong trend with no end in sight.
2. The Pandemic Effect
There are no two ways about it: the COVID-19 pandemic turned the retail world upside down.
With discretionary spending down and stores closed throughout the world, retail sales took a nosedive in 2020.
However, there’s good news on the horizon. Not only are things looking up in regards to getting the pandemic under control, but the retail sector is poised to be more resilient than ever before.
The retail sector will remain rocky in 2021, as operators continue to do whatever they can to remain in business. This often means discounting products to attract more buyers, which results in smaller profits.
On the plus side, there are a few reasons to be excited about the months to come:
- A third stimulus package in the United States is in the works, which will provide tens of millions of consumers with money for discretionary spending, such as on furniture.
- As companies return from remote working, the office furniture niche is likely to experience an increase.
- With people spending more time at home, comfort is more important than ever. So, as money allows, these consumers are upgrading their furniture.
3. Contactless Commerce
People still want and need to buy things, ranging from groceries to home furnishings and home goods.
However, with safety and social distancing concerns, consumers no longer want to shop in the traditional manner.
The pandemic put contactless commerce into overdrive, forcing many brands—including those in the furniture sector—to change their business model. Combine this with millennials who were already trending in this direction and you have a movement.
According to McKinsey Insights, “household categories have seen an average of over 30 percent growth in online customer base across countries.”
And even when consumers aren’t buying online, they’re trending toward stores that offer curbside pickup. This is another form of contactless commerce.
During the period from April 1 to April 20, 2020, the number of orders placed online and picked up at local stores increased by more than 200 percent.
Even when the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, contactless commerce is likely to remain an important part of the retail sector.
With contactless options—such as picking up furniture curbside or having it delivered—consumers don’t have nearly as many concerns about their health and well-being.
Final Thoughts on Furniture Ecommerce Trends
As you can see, the top furniture ecommerce trends of 2021 are driven by two factors:
- The shift from in-person showroom shopping to online and contactless shopping
- The COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Furniture Today, more consumers—regardless of category—have plans to continue to shop online even after the pandemic is over. With more people choosing to stay safely and comfortably at home, even the alcohol ecommerce industry is looking up.
If you’re operating an ecommerce furniture store or thinking about joining this sector, let these trends guide your business and marketing plans in 2021 and beyond.
It’s clear: more people than ever are buying furniture online. It’s up to you to follow these industry trends to boost your sales growth and reach new heights. And if you're looking to stay ahead, check this article out: The Top Ecommerce Technology Trends Of 2021.
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