Work from home is here to stay. Guess which category has recently piqued consumer interest? Beyond dishwasher or a vacuum cleaner, people are now investing in a study/computer table or an ergonomic office chair. Ashish Shah, Co-Founder and COO of furniture brand, Pepperfry claims that demand for tables and chairs has gone up by 175 per cent and 135 per cent vis-a-vis June last year. Subodh Mehta, Senior Vice-President (B2C), Godrej Interio, says that office furniture, which comprised about 3 per cent of his company's sales, has increased to 15 per cent. "Most people are working from home, offices have limited attendance, hence, a proper work station at home has become a necessity," says Mehta.
In fact, a recent report by the Retailers Association of India, says that the furniture industry is experiencing winds of revival. Compared to industries such as apparel retail, beauty or F&B which are experiencing a de-growth upwards of 70 per cent, the de-growth in furniture retail has been in the region of 40 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the $30 billion furniture market in India is unorganised, and with many carpenters going out of business during the pandemic, Shah of Pepperfry says that organised players (such as Ikea, Godrej Interio, Pepperfry and Urban Ladder) see a huge growth potential. "Last week we got back 80-85 per cent of our pre-COVID volumes and as we speak now, we are at 90-95 per cent of our January volumes," he claims.
While tables and chairs are the best sellers, consumers are also buying dining tables and couches, and a bulk of these purchases are happening online. Mehta of Godrej Interio, says that online sales have increased by over 40 per cent in the last one month. "People are spending 40-50 per cent more time browsing my web site," Shah further explains.
Is the surge in furniture sales a function of pent up demand? Mehta says that pent up demand is mostly coming from people who were supposed to shift homes and were unable to do so due to the lockdown. "Work from home furniture investment is more a factor of a lifestyle change. Its not pent up demand," he says. "Had it been pent up demand, it would have lasted for 15-20 days, but we have been operational since mid-May and the demand has been consistently on the rise," adds Shah. He believes that by 2025 the organised furniture market will contribute 20-22 per cent of the overall furniture market in India.
On the other hand, Godrej Interio, is in the process of innovating products that would make work from home easier. The innovations include couches and beds that would come with platforms that would enable people to place their laptops and a host of other WFH accessories.