The novel coronavirus has likely blessed your news feeds lately. The usually fickle news cycle has turned into a conveyor belt of coronavirus related news, to the chagrin of those of us who have other interests thank you very much. So here’s another one of those COVID-19 articles, with a bit of a twist to freshen things up. Its affects on a lesser seen industry, furniture. Even though you’re probably reading this on a comfy armchair or your bed (because, lets face it, working from home in an office chair doesn’t quite feel right), furniture doesn’t get nearly the coverage it deserves. Consider this a remedy.
The online side of the furniture business has been almost entirely fine, with the notable exception of disrupted supply chains in Asia – wherein a plethora of companies source their goods. Manufacturing companies’ factories are being shut down, causing a ripple affect that’s causing lack of supply closer to home. This is really a vindication of the drop ship furniture strategy, there’s little chance of external factors being significant if you simply directly ship the furniture to the customer’s doorstep, not to mention the increased convenience. Wholesale furniture companies lose out, their massive warehouses unvisited and their supply chains shaken due to the furniture manufacturer’s own crises. Drop ship appears to be the feature, and it’s a leap of faith traditional wholesalers have to make if they’re to survive this new era.
It’s, unfortunately, another nail in the coffin of the old British high street, and out of town shopping centres that plenty of us have fond memories off. But that’s just it, they’re seen with rose tinted glasses. Like so many childhood memories, we rarely remember the bad bits. Those centres were miles away from the town centre, taking hours to make a round visit. No one really has the time anymore for a trip to buy gran’s new nightstand and a spot of McDonald’s. It’s infinitely easier, and less stressful with the kids in the back groaning about traffic, to look up something on your handy little iPad and wait for it to be delivered. All COVID 19 shows that it’s only a trend that’ll get worse, while it was just plain inconvenience – and laziness, admittedly – that prevented us from visiting furniture stores before, it’s now a global pandemic; But the underlying principle remains clear as day, the death knell of the furniture high street has been sounded and e-commerce appears to be the only answer. Chuck millions of people at home with nothing better to do and they’ll spend money on unnecessary things, it’s the human condition. Indeed, a not insignificant proportion of us probably thought “I could really use a new armchair, if I’ll be staying at home all day”. Replace ‘armchair’ with anything short of a new double bed, and you can see why e-commerce will be just fine when all this over. The same can’t quite be said for the high street.
The winners are absolutely clear, those who do not depend on footfall in their physical stores – it was inconvenience and apathy before, it’s a veritable pandemic now. Indeed, new habits are likely to be ingrained further and spell a gradual death, suffocated by chronically low footfall, unless they embrace drop ship with a side of e- commerce. But before then, we have other things to worry about – a global pandemic tends to permeate the public consciousness more than the woes of any particular industry. So safe stay and stay home. See you on the other side.