I’ve spent about a year getting to know the furniture industry as part of my work in content marketing. It is a fascinating industry that has gone through significant change in the last 30 years. The number of US furniture manufacturing jobs went from the peak of employment in the 1980s to rock bottom in 2011. North Carolina, the furniture capital of the United States is probably the best indicator of the industry throughout history.
There is an interesting similarity in the furniture industry at the turn of the 20th century compared to today. In the early 1900s, “The industry was also given a boost when several national mail-order companies, including Sears, Roebuck & Co., purchased large lots of North Carolina furniture to market nationwide through their catalogs,”according the Encyclopedia of North Carolina.
Twice a year I visit High Point Market, one of the largest furniture showcase events in the world, I see the impact of social media with sites such as Pinterest on the industry. Much as the Sears, Roebuck & Company catalogue was an information channel of pictures and words, Pinterest is that to the tenth power in the furniture industry.
The proliferation of style and furniture design posted on websites including www.houzz.com , www.wayfair.com, www.furniture.com and hundreds of retailer and manufacturer Pinterest pages, is giving the furniture industry lift. According to Internet Retailer magazine, “there are 39 housewares/home furnishings retailers in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Top 500 Guide that last year accounted for just 4.04% of all U.S. sales in the category, which totaled $138.9 billion.” Some may concede this is a very small portion of the total amount of eCommerce sales.
This would be short-sighted to believe the impact of the internet on furniture sales is limited to percentage of ecommerce sales. The fact is, for many consumers, high dollar, longer-term purchase decisions are conducted across digital and physical channels of information, experience, and the perceived value of individual buyers. From brick and mortar showroom to mobile search, from customer reviews to discovery of interesting furniture pieces on an interior designer’s Pinterest page, the furniture industry is a great laboratory for consumer behavior in the new, always connected marketplace.
More highlights about the furniture industry can be found on a series called Orion Air Ride Vidcast