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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Online furniture brands gain from work-from-home regimen

As personal space collided with office work, people scrambled to redesign homes

When Pooja Khanna Jain moved to Mumbai in August 2019, little did she know that the global pandemic will bring her and her husband right back to her hometown Ambala in less than a year. A psychologist and leadership coach, Jain returned in June as the prolonged lockdown prevented the couple from attending office. With companies enforcing remote working for most staff, the duo packed their bags and opted to work from home from Ambala.

Back home, she had to reorganize the house to make space for two separate workstations for herself and her husband in a house she shares with her in-laws. She ordered a simple work desk on Amazon.

But then she added a crockery and TV unit to do up the place to her taste. “They are beautiful pieces from another startup which delivers furniture in sheesham wood," she said.

Jain has not spent a penny on buying clothes, shoes, accessories or makeup in the last six months. “I am not much of a spender, but happily invested in furniture," she said.

Jain’s story may resonate with thousands of Indian consumers who may not be reverse migrants like her, but may still have had to reorganize their living spaces to accommodate covid 19-induced remote working.

In fact, as the lockdown eased, a fairly large number of senior executives working for companies across sectors took to Twitter asking for recommendations on good work desks and chairs. A sizeable number also searched for study tables for children with online classes becoming the new normal.

As personal space collided with office work, people scrambled to redesign their homes to create boundaries between the two.

The biggest beneficiary of this have been furniture firms, especially, those who sell online.

Kashyap Vadapalli, chief marketing officer & business head at Pepperfry, said that when lockdown regulations were relaxed, the company witnessed an unprecedented increase in demand for furniture, especially home-office furniture.

“This is because businesses, educational institutes and individuals across the country opted to operate from home, which accelerated the need for proper home-office infrastructure," he said.

Lokendra Ranawat, founder & CEO at WoodenStreet, agreed: “Initially, when operations had come to a standstill, there was a grim decline in every segment of the market. But as work-from-home wrapped the nation, the demand in furniture peaked, especially in study-related furniture categories."

Post-covid, the company’s sales increased by 35-40% compared to pre-covid times, Ranawat said.

For Pepperfry, home office furniture, specifically study tables and ergonomic office chairs, grew by 185% and 175% respectively in June, in comparison to pre-lockdown levels. By August, these number had jumped to 250% and 400% respectively.

Interestingly, during this period, consumers also invested in space-saving and mobile products like bean bags and recliners.

“Since people spend all their time at home, the need to curate a home environment which is functional and aesthetic, both to boost work productivity and for leisure time with their families, is increasing," said Vadapalli.

This led to an increase in demand for furniture and home products such as beds, wardrobes, dining tables as well as décor and furnishings items like curtains, lights and lamps.

“Currently back at 100% of our pre-lockdown sales volumes, our sales run rate in September is on a par with our January numbers," Vadapalli added.

WoodenStreet, which is expanding in south India beginning with two experience centres in Hyderabad, has also launched an affordable range for people whose incomes have been impacted.

“To make sure that people still have access to furniture that they are looking for, we recently launched a new affordable range of engineered units across various categories," said Ranawat.

However, with 70-80% weddings being postponed, the furniture category is likely to take a hit.

“The number of newlyweds shifting to new homes has significantly fallen, and this has directly affected our wedding furniture range," Ranawat said, adding that this, however, does not spoil the larger picture.

The festival season is expected to boost demand.

Pepperfry claims it sees a 60-90% jump in sales during the festive season months over the previous quarter’s monthly average and this time it is expecting a 100% increase.

Jain, who is mulling adding a bookshelf and a storage cabinet to her home office, may just contribute to the sales spike in the category.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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