The past year has seen us all get very well acquainted with our homes, as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept the world in lockdown. Where once home and work were separated, the two suddenly had to share a space – and the homewares industry saw the impact of that. The Washington Post was one of the earliest publications to report on the soaring demand for home-office furniture, including desks, lamps and other home-working essentials. HERO® has the latest data on how homewares trends have changed one year on, shining a light on what the industry can expect in coming months.
The evidence we’ll see below shows that consumers have refocused their interests when purchasing homewares and ecommerce businesses should begin to focus on promoting home comforts rather than home offices.
A Decline in Home Office Sales
Hero has reviewed shopping data from a leading homewares brand to better understand the changing trends in consumer spending in the sector. The results are clear: the market is beginning to see a move away from the home office spending that has dominated the past year. Comparing Q4 2020 sales to those of Q1 2021, we’ve seen a drop in sales of ‘office/work’ homewares.
But there are other signs too; there have been similar drops in the sales of lamps, shelving and storage – all of which constitute vital parts in a functional home office environment. There are two likely reasons for these drops. Firstly, now that the pandemic is increasingly under control, many people who have been working from home for the past year will be anticipating a return to their normal workplace in the coming months. At the same time, though many will continue to work from home at least part of the time, they’ve already had a year to build their office space – most people won’t need to buy new furniture for a room they’ve only recently bought items for.
Refocusing on the Home
Whilst office-related sales slow down, Hero’s data also shows a rise in sales of other homewares. Dining and kitchen sales have increased, suggesting that focus is shifting from breadwinning to breadmaking – or at least making dinner and getting it onto the table. Retailers can take this as a cue to refocus their promotional energies away from home office products, looking instead at products that sit at the centre of our lives at home – kitchen and dining furniture.
People expect to spend less time at home over the coming months, as workplaces open, and social events in bars and restaurants are accessible once again. So it makes sense that sales in homewares reflect this and focus on improving the areas of our homes that we spend most of our time in.
A Move to the Sofa
We can see this focus on home comforts in recent trends in seating sales. There has been a significant drop-off in sales of chairs – a segment that has been dominated by desk chair sales over the recent months. But people still need a place to sit – and so the leading sales category across the homewares sector has been sofas and armchairs. Following closely behind this are stools, benches and ottomans.
Is Seasonality More Important Than Ever?
Alongside comfortable seating and kitchen and dining solutions, another area that has seen an increase in sales has been outdoor furniture. There is certainly an element of seasonality to this growth – very few people are shopping for hammocks in Q4. But it’s also worth thinking about outdoor furniture whilst bearing the pandemic in mind.
As restrictions have slowly been eased, the new rules have repeatedly favored people meeting outside. Seasonality has no doubt played an important part in outdoor sales during the first quarter of 2021 – but so will the consumer’s desire to meet with friends in a safe environment. Seating everybody outside and socially distanced has been the best way to achieve this, and created the perfect excuse to invest in some new patio furniture.
The home office has enjoyed a golden age during the COVID-19 pandemic, but consumers are eager to move their focus elsewhere in the home. Whether it’s because they anticipate a return to the workplace, or they’ve simply created their perfect office at home already, sales in this area are beginning to decline.
Ecommerce managers should look to highlight the traditional comforts and functions of the home – an armchair to relax in, somewhere to gather with your friends and family to eat and enjoy one another’s company. After all, consumer trends are already showing us that it’s time to make your house a home again.