As the U.S. housing market continues to heat up, so do sales of furniture and home furnishings. And increasingly, American consumers are looking online for their decor choices.
Last year e-retail sales in furniture and home furnishings rose 11.8 percent, and this year they’re slated to grow another 11.3 percent to reach a slated $38.5 billion. That number is expected to represent some 12.5 percent of all retail e-commerce sales.
Much of that market is driven by millennials, who are notoriously adept at using technology and naturally more trusting of online sources. And while they’ve been slower to buy homes and establish permanent households than previous generations, as they age they’re increasingly furnishing those homes through online purchases.
“Consumers of all ages are getting more comfortable with buying furniture online, but naturally the trend is skewed toward millennial and Gen X buyers,” notes recent research by the Fung Business Intelligence Centre. “Younger consumers view traditional stores as much more limited, both in style and selection, than older adults do, something retailers should consider as they evaluate their brick-and-mortar infrastructure going forward.”
While online stores disallow shoppers from touching and trying out furnishings before they buy, they offer one major advantage: They can ship their products right to your doorstep, allowing you to bypass the logistics involved with transporting the items yourself or waiting at home for delivery. Further, many offer free shipping and hassle-free returns. And budget-conscious shoppers often appreciate their ability to compare costs online before making a purchase.
Some of today’s most popular online outlets for home furnishings:
- Amazon: Shopping for furnishings at the online behemoth works particularly well once you’ve narrowed down what you’re looking for. Many savvy consumers visit local retailers and peruse catalogs to narrow down their choices, then compare prices at Amazon — often finding the same brands for less, then enjoying the benefits of free and easy home delivery.
- Target: Need something basic and relatively inexpensive, but well designed? Check out Target.com to see if anything fits the bill. The national chain’s penchant for partnering with big designer names often produces delightful results; right now, an online search reveals several modern pieces created by Nate Berkus in conjunction with Project 62. Bonuses: Delivery is usually available and returns are easy.
- Pottery Barn: Thoughtful, sturdy design featuring clean lines, great quality, beautiful fabrics and finishes — what’s not to like? “Our products are built to stand the test of time,” notes the website. “Drawers pull smoothly, performance fabrics are easy to clean and finishes are forgiving, holding up to daily wear and tear.” You may pay a little more, but expect to get what you pay for.
- Home Depot: This may come as a surprise, but the building supply giant carries an impressive line of good-quality furniture, including solid wood dining tables and linen-upholstered chairs and couches. A recent search there under “home decorators collection furniture” turned up 740 items. “Things you never buy at Home Depot, but absolutely should: sofas, chairs and tables,” read a recent article in Architectural Digest . “They're not outrageously expensive, either. It might be hard to believe now, but Home Depot is going to be your new home decor go-to.”
- Wayfair: For astounding variety, you can’t beat this rapidly growing vendor that boasts about offering “a zillion things home.” Carrying more than 8 million products from more than 10,000 suppliers, Wayfair offers (mostly) free shipping and does its best to set reasonable prices.
- Etsy: When you’re looking for something that’s one-of-a-kind instead of mass-produced, this online artists’ and crafters’ mecca is well worth a look. With a little sleuthing, you can find masterfully handcrafted furniture, art and decor items at very attractive prices while supporting the talented people who make them.
- Snowe: The claim to fame at this relative newcomer is “cutting-edge craftsmanship” from European and American factories, resulting in “luxury-quality made affordable.” As Architectural Digest put it: “This may be your new favorite for home essentials.”
Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? There are many other excellent online options, including these: Ikea, Crate & Barrel, A+R, One Kings Lane, Uncommon Goods, Pier 1 Imports, World Market, and Overstock.com.