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Consumers Point to Savings, Service, and Sustainability as Top Priorities for Furniture Resale in 2022

Online sales of furniture and homeware are estimated to generate 55 billion US dollars  in revenue  in 2021. Home goods also rank as the retail ecommerce category with the highest annual growth rate between 2018-2025, beating key segments like apparel and electronics.


And, as online furniture sales have grown, consumer expectations for hassle-free online returns have grown in kind, But unlike areas like books or apparel,  oversized returns have traditionally been difficult and cumbersome for consumers and a logistical nightmare for sellers.  


But now, as consumers increasingly demand sustainable retail options (a priority for up to 80%of consumers according to new research from First Insight and the Wharton School of Business), returns now represent a new way to differentiate your brand and future proof your business  – through resale. By offering returned and lightly used merchandise for resale, large goods can not only find new homes, but retailers and manufacturers can connect with new customers.


The concept of resale is already wildly popular with shoppers, especially younger ones, and has completely transformed apparel sales. Last year, 33 million people purchased second-hand clothes and accessories for the first time, and three-quarters of them (76%) are planning to increase resale spending in the next five years. Online thrift pioneer ThredUp estimates that resale will grow 11 times faster than the apparel sector overall by 2025.


This growing appetite for used T-shirts and handbags is leading to something bigger – literally. Fully 92% of consumers have bought merchandise that was previously opened or returned, thrifted, or consigned, including large items like furniture and exercise equipment, according to 2021 consumer survey data.


More than half, 52%, say they bought used living-room furniture, while 37% purchased second-hand pieces for the dining room and 36% furnished their bedrooms with resale goods. The survey also revealed that three quarters of consumers (76%) plan to buy resale furniture in the next year or two.


The survey indicates that value and sustainability are driving consumer interest in furniture resale. Another major factor is fulfillment. Resold furniture is available immediately, unlike new items, which may take many months to be delivered due to persistent supply chain challenges. And thanks to cutting-edge technology, furniture sellers can quickly match returned merchandise with new buyers nearby, further shortening fulfillment time.


Of course, the logistics of reselling a pair of jeans look very different from the complexities of  pickup and re-delivery of oversized items. But with FloorFound forecasting that 50% of what brands sell will be second-hand by 2026, it’s crucial for manufacturers and retailers alike to tackle the challenges now. The top components of a successful resale operation:


Quality, quick-ship merchandise at a (moderate) discount.

Saving money is a top reason consumers seek out resale goods: 95% of FloorFound survey respondents said they would be interested in buying used items directly from brands at a discount. Such offerings are beneficial to sellers on multiple levels: for one, a branded resale micro-site can alleviate pressure to discount new goods, protecting sellers’ margins.


That doesn’t mean furniture retailers need to offer rock-bottom prices for resale items. During the 2021 holiday period, the furniture resale items that sold fastest across FloorFound’s clients were the highest-priced, lowest-discounted items in the best condition.


That’s because resale appeals to shoppers who have aspirational tastes and entry-level budgets. By offering certified used merchandise, furniture sellers enable new customers to experience the quality of their offerings at an affordable price point; as their disposable income grows, those customers can “graduate” to purchasing new goods. Sustainable furniture manufacturer Floyd found that 75% of customers using its resale website were new to the brand, and 25% have returned to buy new goods.


Robust customer support and white-glove service.

In addition to cost savings, hassle-free orders are a priority for consumers considering resale furniture. Fully 89% of FloorFound survey respondents say they’d expect the shopping experience, delivery, and customer support for resale goods offered by brands to be on a par with new furniture purchases.

Not only can delivery of official resale merchandise be faster than ordering new goods, but brands can excel compared with peer-to-peer used furniture markets by extending white-glove service to resale customers. Rather than gambling on questionable merchandise quality and dealing with the hassle of coordinating pickup with individual sellers, customers using branded resale sites can access tools such as delivery scheduling and order status lookup, and access official assembly instructions, user manuals, and how-to videos.


The potential for a superior experience can also be a powerful motivating factor for existing customers to participate in resale programs, rather than trying to find buyers for their old furniture via peer-to-peer markets. Removal service with trade-in is a popular option: 88% of FloorFound survey respondents would be interested in sending their used furniture back in exchange for a credit towards future purchase.


Sustainable reuse and redelivery.

Four in five consumers (81%) say sustainable practices are important or very important for furniture brands, compared with just 5% who say sustainability doesn’t matter, according to FloorFound’s survey. Yet 12.1 million metric tons of furniture are discarded every year and 80% of that total ends up in landfills.


Brands can reduce that total by offering resale – but to make a still bigger impact, they also need to focus on the sustainability of their returns and resale logistics operation. More than half of FloorFound survey respondents, 52%, say it’s very important for companies to consider the environmental impact of packaging and delivery.


Leveraging a network of returns processing centers rather than trucking items hundreds or thousands of miles back to a central warehouse is one way to reduce the carbon footprint of resale. Improving sustainability surrounding delivery and returns is so important to consumers that three-quarters of survey respondents said they’d be willing to help by holding on to returned items until a new buyer is found.


Brands can lead the way to furniture resale growth

Consumers are already buying second-hand furniture, and brands that sell resale goods have an opportunity to lead this growing sector of the market. While the logistical hurdles may seem daunting, manufacturers and retailers with resale offerings can satisfy consumers’ expectations for savings, service, and sustainability – winning new business and building lasting relationships.



Furniture Industry News and in depth magazine articles for the furniture retail, furniture manufacturers, and furniture distributors.

Read other articles by Chris Richter

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