Here’s why the second-hand market should keep you up at night | Cindy Hodnett

Our industry is built around the ‘new’, tapping into the voracious appetite of consumers to spend their discretionary cash on the latest sofa, chair or table. The model has worked for decades and will no doubt continue to be the norm, but anyone paying attention to the self-proclaimed interests and lifestyle preferences of future consumers might want to have a backup strategy ready for customers who embrace the market. of the occasion.

Here are some things to consider when thinking about the future of your store:

Opportunity is big business

Some analysts predict that the furniture resale business will reach $16.6 billion in sales by 2025, a 70% increase from 2018. In a recent Fast Company article on NeoCon, the trade show for Chicago Merchandise Mart author Elissaveta M. Brandon featured an exhibitor on the show who started a business around used office furniture – Reseat – a business described by owner Brandi Susewitz as an “online marketplace for second life office furniture”.

Brandon notes that Reseat’s client portfolio includes Oracle, LinkedIn, Rivian and Yelp, and since launching in 2020 as Clear Office, Reseat has tripled its sales and diverted more than 3 million pounds of furniture from landfills.

Certainly, the continuous flux of the commercial real estate landscape provides a healthy slate of potential clients for Reseat via business owners who are reducing office space to accommodate new work-from-home models. However, the juxtaposition of its empty booth exhibit space at NeoCon against a trade show environment filled with “new” is worth noting, as is the company’s strategy of offering cost savings and options for sustainability to its customers..

Of course, for furniture retailers, sustainable initiatives require more ingenuity. That said, in an age where customer data is gold and engagement translates into brand awareness and loyalty, Reseat’s membership-based model that allows customers to sell or give their furniture on a user-friendly dashboard is intriguing.

Takeaway idea: Develop a members-only resale page on your website that allows your customers to list furniture they are willing to replace. Think of it as a type of Etsy service for your local buyers with transactional and delivery coordination left to the individual buyer and seller, but also positioning you as a sustainability partner while building your database and by interacting with regular potential customers.

Conscientious consumer behavior

The furniture industry has been talking about sustainability for years, but developing strategies to support it that generate comparable profit margins continues to be a challenge. Perhaps one of the billion dollar questions for the next decade is whether the next generation of consumers buying into the home furnishings category will draw a line in the sand and put their money behind it. his ideals. If they make this commitment as they reach peak years of revenue and purchases, it could be an unprecedented seismic shift in our industry.

At NeoCon, Brandon noted that furniture powerhouse Steelcase showcased a sofa made with 70% recycled foam from discarded mattresses and upholstered in recycled fabric. The Flex Perch collection of stools, made from 70% recycled electronic waste, was also presented at the show.

Mattress waste + sofa design = sustainable. E-waste + saddle design = sustainable.

While only part of the Steelcase offering, these products exemplify commitment to the cause, a narrative that is likely to continue to grow in importance over the next decade, including for home furnishings consumers. .

Takeaway: Emphasize your manufacturing partners’ sustainability stories to attract customers who want to buy new, but also want to support environmentally conscious businesses. The second-hand category will always attract shoppers looking for bargains or vintage icons, but a segment of the durable consumer market also wants new furniture for the home. The marketing message could be the difference in a sale for you versus a sale for a competitor that tells a stronger lasting story.

Get inspired by fashion

Pop-up shops selling vintage items – mostly high-end brands – in better clothing stores have been part of the retail scene for several years. But the model doesn’t have to be limited to second-hand Louis Vuitton or Gucci handbags. In fact, a significant number of consumers say they consider their preferred style of home design to be “eclectic,” an ideal demographic mix for new and vintage.

Takeaway idea: Create a pop-up shop of vintage furniture and decor in an area of ​​your store or as part of your website if storage capacity permits. Tell the story of old icons and offer suggestions for new pieces in your store that complement retro designs. Mix the old with the new, just like your customers do at home.

How the used market continues to evolve is, at best, an educated guess. However, with companies like Chairish, 1stdibs and, now, Reseat continuing to enjoy a dedicated consumer market, it might be time to consider second-hand enthusiasts as potential new customers for your store.

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