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From Home Furnishing Business

The Rise of E-Commerce in the Furniture Industry

With the sophistication of the internet has come the booming growth of e-commerce. The combined furniture and home furnishings industry has been one of the big recipients of this growth second only to the clothing/footwear industry. It is estimated that 2015 internet sales of furniture alone now totals an estimated $14 billion or 15 percent of furniture industry sales. (Source: Impact Consulting Services, Inc. proprietary industry model and U.S. Census Bureau’s E-Commerce Report issued June 2016 covering years 2004 to 2014.)

Furniture Industry Sales

Since the bottom of the recession in 2009, total furniture industry sales have grown 24.1 percent, and much of that growth can be attributed to the rise in e-commerce. Actual brick and mortar store sales of furniture are up 13.8 percent since 2009 while e-commerce has grown by 168 percent. (Table A)


In 2004, e-commerce sales were inconsequential in relation to brick and mortar store sales which accounted for 93.4 percent of the total furniture industry. Over eleven years, the share of e-commerce has grown from 3.2 percent to 15.3 percent in 2015, while brick and mortar sales fell to 82.9 percent of total furniture dollars (Table B).

Along with furniture e-commerce sales, other home furnishings products – floor covering, window treatments and home accessories – have grown at an even faster pace than furniture. The table below shows that while furniture e-commerce sales have grown 440 percent since 2004, home furnishings have growth 697 percent to $13.9 billion (Table C).

Brick and Mortar Stores e-commerce

Retail sales of furniture and home furnishings products are sold through three avenues – brick and mortar stores, internet shopping (e-commerce) and finally mail order and other miscellaneous non-store retailing. In the first instance - brick and mortar stores -consumers can physically visit the store or they can often visit the store’s website and make an online purchase. Many of these retailers offer expanded product offerings on their websites not available in stores. While some large brick and mortar merchants have been successful in online retailing of furniture and home furnishings products, furniture and home furnishings stores as a whole have been much less successful with online attempts. These websites serve as much to draw the consumer into the store as to generate online sales. And while e-commerce sales among furniture and home furnishings stores almost doubled from $330 million to $651 million 2004 to 2014, this only increased internet sales to less than one percent of furniture stores volume in 2014.

Comparing furniture and home furnishings stores to other retail brick and mortar companies, furniture and home furnishings stores lag behind in percent of e-commerce sales to total sales, though none are exceeding three percent of sales via e-commerce (Table D).

E-Commerce Retailers

The phenomenon of e-commerce has been the rise of what was once called “Non-Store Retailers”, now referred to as “E-Commerce Retailers” – companies without physical stores competing with brick and mortar establishments. The new Census Bureau study reports sales of furniture and home furnishings through e-commerce retailers increasing from $4 billion to $24.3 billion in ten years (2004 to 2014) – a growth of 503 percent (Tables E).

Along with furniture and home furnishings, other consumer merchandise lines dramatically increased sales through e-commerce retailers. At $46.9 billion in sales, clothing/footwear leads e-commerce retailer sales in 2014 up from $7.1 billion in 2004. By far, the fastest growing products sold by e-commerce retailers, clothing/footwear increased 561 percent over the ten year period. Furniture and home furnishings experienced the highest growth among e-commerce retailers coming out of the recession 2009 to 2014 – jumping an average of 20 percent per year. Sporting goods sold through e-commerce retailers also experienced high growth in the last few years, but electronics and computer hardware have tapered off with sales increasing a yearly average of five percent since 2011 (Table F).

Of the five selected merchandise lines in Table G, clothing/footwear holds the highest share of e-commerce retailer dollars and grew from 13.3 percent share in 2004 to 18.4 percent share in 2014. Furniture and home furnishings also saw a gain in share – finishing 2014 at 9.3 percent. As more merchandise lines like clothing and furniture have increased their internet presence, two broad product areas have lost share among e-commerce retailers -- electronics and appliances and computer hardware. Once the king of e-commerce, computer hardware fell from 15.1 percent share to 6.3 percent in ten years. Electronics and appliances slipped down from 10.8 percent share of e-commerce retailer sales to 9.2 percent.

Retail Trade Total

While internet purchases have made major inroads into many consumer product areas, e-commerce is still a small part of overall retail sales. According to the new government e-commerce report covering years 2004 to 2014, sales from e-commerce for all U.S. retailers, both brick and mortar retailers and e-commerce, for all consumer products excluding gasoline totaled $298.6 billion in 2014. This reflects an increase of 14.3 percent from the year before and a 311 percent change over ten years (Table H). Meanwhile total retail sales, excluding gasoline, grew 30.3%.

According to the Census Bureau, the internet claimed 7.3 percent of all retail sales, excluding gasoline, in 2014, up from 2.3 percent ten years before (Table I).

While the growth of internet sales of some products appears to be slowing, other product areas, like food, are still in their e-commerce infancies. The rapid growth of furniture industry sales by successful e-commerce retailers are challenging the brick and mortar stores and presenting a distribution dilemma for manufacturers. In the next issue Statistically Speaking will continue to address e-commerce and the future customer.

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