Imagine that 20 years ago someone had told you that you would purchase your music, car insurance, airline and hotel tickets, stocks, books and even shoes on a computer that fit in your hip pocket. That you would not have an agent or broker between you and the stock exchange or the airline or insurance company. And imagine that you could do all the comparative research needed to execute your transaction in your pajamas! You would have told that person they were dreaming.
Well, lately I have been dreaming as well. As my generation (the baby boomers) settles into its post-nesting years, less and less of our disposable income will go to durable goods such as home furnishings. Instead, once college for the kids is taken care of, our disposable dollars will go back into bolstering our retirement accounts, and then to travel.
Our absence leaves the future of home furnishing consumption to the next generations: Gen-X, Y and soon, the Millennials. This generation, many of whom grew up with a cell phone as a birthright, will have no qualms about not sitting on a sofa before they buy it. This generation put companies like Zappos the online shoe retailer on the map. They grew eBay into a monolithic clearing house for everything from rare coins and dolls to automobiles and airplanes.
Buy a pair of shoes online without even trying them on? Sure, this generation can reconcile the relatively benign inconvenience of returning something, with the huge convenience of carrying on with their multitasking. Think of this: these “kids” watch T.V., carry on a live chat on the computer, text message friends from their smart phones, reply to Facebook posts AND do their homework at the same time! These power users of all things tech will drive the explosive growth of home furnishings online.
All that is good news for an ailing industry. But, the glacial pace at which the Home Fashion Industry moves may keep us from a fully realized online presence a bit longer, but it will eventually change. The early adopters may unfortunately suffer some ridicule and perhaps a backlash from the traditional forms of distribution, e.g. walk-in Furniture Stores. However, the momentum toward adopting online furniture sales is inevitable and moving forward. Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma Home and other large furniture retailers report faster than expected growth within the online sector.
The ultra-lux online retailer Gilt is adding Home Fashion as major new growth campaign on its invitation only website. Gilt is a luxury online retailer of fashion and jewelry. Eventually and by necessity, the Home Fashion market will have the perfect vehicle in the Web to remove the multiple layers between the manufacturer and the eventual consumer. This will of course spell bad news for the middle-men. What to say about that is another topic altogether.
The online Home Furnishings future also portends a new egalitarianism for the small independent Interior Designer. In the past, the small or “housewife” …Read more