Furniture retailing. Times are changing
According to CSIL, around one-fifth of the World’s home furniture consumption takes place in Western Europe, a large and profitable market boasting around 425 million consumers.
During the last six years, the European furniture market followed an upward path, benefitting from an improved economic environment in Europe, showing a yearly average growth of +2.2% between 2013 and 2019. In 2019, the European furniture market (at retail prices) reached about Eur 130 billion.
Western European home furniture market is characterized by a high degree of trade integration within the countries belonging to this region, but it is opening fast to home furniture imports coming also from extra-WE countries, favored by both the internationalization strategy operated by local manufacturers, locating plants in countries with low cost of labor, and by global sourcing strategies operated by large scale retailers.
FURNITURE RETAILERS’ ROLE IS CHANGING
The diffusion and the new possibilities opened by digital technologies do not simply entail the emergence of a new distribution channel (the online one). It also led to a major change in consumers’ purchasing patterns, which affects both pure online retailers and brick-and-mortar ones.
Customers can look and try furniture products in a store, shop online and collect it in-store, or have it delivered to a nominated address; research online and shop in-store; phone the order in; view prices of competitors on a smartphone whilst standing outside a store.
This behavior has lengthened the purchasing process and forced retailers to adopt a multichannel approach and to make clear strategic responses including deciding the proper number, type (format) and location of stores, choosing how to integrate fully their physical stores, the online sites and other channels such as social media with a coherent strategy.
WHAT IS CRUCIAL TODAY
Providing easy and integrated ways of shopping and services that consumers can trust is crucial today. In addition, consumers’ purchasing decisions are increasingly influenced by the speed of product delivery.
The expectation of flexible and tailored choices for both ordering and delivery is high. In this context, the physical store remains a relevant institution that has proven historically powerful and longlived, but its role has undeniably changed.
The growth of e-commerce, in fact, frees the store from the mere function of distributing products: retail stores are not only places for transactions of goods and services; they are becoming experiential venues where customers can live an effective and rewarding experience.
Stores will probably increasingly become places that we visit, not simply to pick up mass-produced articles but also to design and co-create special things with the personal assistance of experts. Stores will be the point of collaboration and customization. These elements of customization will make for unique personal and physical experiences.
E-COMMERCE IN EUROPE
E-commerce accounts for about 5% of the European furniture market. With regards to e-commerce penetration, the UK and Germany are the largest marketplaces: the United Kingdom with a penetration of around 8% and Germany with a 6% share of the total furniture sales.
France and Italy are relevant markets in terms of volumes, but e-commerce penetration is still below the European average.