Time spent in a furniture store – picking out a sofa and dealing with sales people – can feel like an eternity. Especially for younger people who came of age shopping online.
It’s exactly that restless market that several L.A. online furniture retailers are hoping to tame.
Promising the relaxed, low-pressure sales environment of shopping from home, office or a local coffee shop, at least three local startup e-commerce furniture stores – BachelorHaus, which went live last month; Apt2b; and Luxeyard Inc. – have entered the online furniture market, each taking a different approach toward creating a niche.
“The next generation of buyers are so used to buying anything online,” said Mat Herman, co-founder of Apt2b. “I’m 40. I’m at that cusp where I don’t buy everything online. But for people younger than me, buying online is all they know.”
These startups are engaged in a delicate dance. They aim to offer value to customers while creating and maintaining relationships with furniture manufacturers, which at the same time are inclined to protect their big brick-and-mortar retail clients wary of being undercut by online vendors.
The competitive price advantage that online furniture stores like Apt2b and BachelorHaus offer comes in part from their lack of large showrooms and the cost of staff to maintain them. Though Apt2b has a warehouse from which it ships consolidated sets of made-to-order furniture, BachelorHaus does not. It ships finished pieces to customers direct from the manufacturer’s warehouse.
This allows the companies to run on small staffs: Apt2b has five full-time employees, many of whom work from Herman’s Mid-Wilshire home; much of the logistics work is handled by a third-party contractor. BachelorHaus works with about 14 freelancers; founder and Chief Executive Adam Acheson, 34, is the company’s only full-time employee.
That cost advantage, however, created a hurdle for the upstart. Manufacturers feared they would strain longtime relationships with traditional brick-and-mortar retailers by offering their products through e-commerce businesses.
Acheson recalled a 2012 trip to a Las Vegas trade show in hopes of meeting manufacturers when BachelorHaus was still in the planning stages.
“I probably met with 200 showrooms,” Acheson said. “Half of them kicked me out saying, ‘E-commerce is destroying our brick-and-mortar clients. We’re not ever interested in working with you, ever.’”
Acheson said he convinced manufacturers that his company’s smaller market would not conflict with their more traditional clientele. BachelorHaus now carries product from 12 manufacturers.
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