Up­ping The Ante In Fur­ni­ture Re­tail

Fur­ni­ture re­tail in In­dia is in a tran­si­tion mode to­day. Un­branded or un­or­gan­ised play­ers who ruled by dik­tat for decades are now chal­lenged by brands who are strength­en­ing their pres­ence in the mar­ket with as­sured qual­ity, bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice & de­liv

VM&RD - - Contents - Satarupa Chakraborty (with in­puts from Chanda P Ku­mar & Nabamita Chat­ter­jee)

In­di­ans are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing ‘house proud’ to­day. With the avail­abil­ity of qual­ity fur­ni­ture and de­sign-in­spired home decor prod­ucts grow­ing rapidly, new home own­ers are tempted to not only dec-up their liv­ing spa­ces but re­fresh them reg­u­larly. The sud­den turn around in the home fur­ni­ture and fur­nish­ing mar­ket in In­dia came about with the boom in on­line mar­ket­place over the last decade. On­line fur­ni­ture and home decor stores such as Pep­per­fry, Ur­ban Lad­der, HomeLane and Fab­fur­nish propped up and changed the way peo­ple shopped for their homes. The on­line play­ers lured the shop­pers with myr­iad de­sign op­tions, cus­tomi­sa­tion, easy of pay­ment, home de­liv­ery and in­stal­la­tion. At the same time, off­line re­tail­ers spruced up their of­fer­ing to tap the cus­tomer.

How­ever, sell­ing fur­ni­ture as a com­mod­ity was not (is still not) enough to woo the In­dian home maker any­more. Brands and re­tail­ers in the cat­e­gory re­alised the im­por­tance of sell­ing fur­ni­ture as a life­style, an as­pi­ra­tion and a dream that shop­pers were look­ing for.

Break Down The Walls

On­line has gone off­line, and some in the off­line for­mat have boarded the on­line route. Its sim­ple… you got to go where you’re con­sumers are. High rentals, space crunch and the in­abil­ity to dis­play the ex­ten­sive of­fer­ing in cat­a­logue pushed many com­pa­nies to the on­line chan­nel. But over the last cou­ple of years, these play­ers have opened their phys­i­cal stores or ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tres, cater­ing to the con­sumers’ need to ‘touch and feel’ prod­ucts be­fore buy­ing them. Look at two lead­ing play­ers in In­dia – Pep­per­fry and Ur­ban Lad­der. Pep­per­fry to­day has 21 stores and slated to take the

count to 46 in a few years time. They have also rolled out the fran­chisee roll­out model re­cently.

On the other hand, Ur­ban Lad­der opened its first ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tre in Ban­ga­lore and plans to open 10 more by March 2018. Ashish Goel, CEO & Founder, Ur­ban Lad­der, ex­plained, “The com­pany plans to build mul­ti­ple ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tres around the coun­try, which will be the hub for new prod­uct ranges and col­lec­tions.

The ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tre will be dis­tinc­tive on three front: co­he­sive cat­a­logue ex­pe­ri­ence, seam­less buy­ing process and in­spir­ing vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing.” The cen­tre will also be the hub for new prod­uct ranges and col­lec­tions. The com­pany plans to in­vest $10-$15 mil­lion over the next 18 months to build its off­line pres­ence.

A com­par­a­tively smaller player Wood­box, who also en­tered through on­line mar­ket­place, has re­cently opened a stu­dio in Mumbai. Ro­hit Mehro­tra, Part­ner, Wood­box, told, “Though it’s chal­leng­ing to open off­line spa­ces spe­cially for fur­ni­ture cat­e­gory as it gen­er­ally re­quires big­ger space, it’s a must to­day. In­no­va­tions on­line is cer­tainly a crowd puller but show­rooms are the places where pur­chase de­ci­sions are made.”

Get The Real Pic­ture

Colours, pat­terns, textures, height, width, length…phew… it’s a bit com­pli­cated to buy your sofa or bed than pick­ing up a dress on­line. Eas­ing the cus­tomers’ de­ci­sion to pur­chase a piece of fur­ni­ture, on­line play­ers have adapted var­i­ous tech­nol­ogy to up­grade the ex­pe­ri­ence. Pep­per­fry was one of the first few com­pa­nies in the coun­try to lever­age aug­mented re­al­ity to bridge the gap be­tween vir­tual and phys­i­cal pur­chase through the launch of a highly in­ter­ac­tive mo­bile app. San­jay Ne­tra­bile, Chief Tech­nol­ogy Of­fi­cer, Pep­per­fry, ex­plained, “Our cus­tomers can vir­tu­ally place prod­ucts from the Pep­per­fry cat­a­logue in their homes to see how a par­tic­u­lar piece fits with the rest of the set-up and make an in­formed de­ci­sion. They can also change the colors of the walls to check which pieces work bet­ter with the am­bi­ence us­ing the app.” Pep­per­fry’s See it in 3D is a next-gen­er­a­tion vi­su­al­iza­tion tool that al­lows a user to see an item in 3D, and in­ter­act with it mean­ing­fully, with­out the need for any spe­cial soft­ware or plug­ins. See it in 3D is a prod­uct cre­ated us­ing the lat­est 3D ren­der­ing tech­nolo­gies that the web has to of­fer.

Aug­mented Re­al­ity and Vir­tual Re­al­ity are in­creas­ingly find­ing their place in fur­ni­ture re­tail­ing in In­dia. Ur­ban Lad­der’s ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tre will soon have the com­plete ex­pe­ri­ence of prod­ucts through AR & VR

gear tech­nol­ogy. Goel of Ur­ban Lad­der said, “Our stores at present of­fer the op­tion of us­ing an app through which shop­pers can cus­tomise fur­ni­ture, browse for dif­fer­ent looks, try var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions for cre­at­ing an en­tire room con­cept.”

Mean­while, pre­mium fur­ni­ture re­tail chain,

Dash Square, re­cently launched the sec­ond

Ash­ley Fur­ni­ture

Home­store launch in South In­dia

(Ban­ga­lore). For first time in In­dia, Ash­ley

Fur­ni­ture brought its

VR ex­pe­ri­ence at this show­room. The VR tool lets shop­pers de­sign a new room with the brand’s fur­ni­ture and vir­tu­ally stand in the newly de­signed space while shop­ping at a store lo­ca­tion. Speak­ing on the same, Am­ruth Sampige – Man­ag­ing Part­ner – Dash Square, said, “It def­i­nitely helps and sup­ports the sale due to the frame­work we present to the end users for ac­tu­ally know­ing the kind of theme they are work­ing with and the de­ci­sion mak­ing

be­comes so sim­pler.”

Setting the Stage

With con­sumers be­ing more con­scious about dec­o­rat­ing their homes to­day, re­tail­ers and brands are cre­at­ing a larger pic­ture with the help of vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing el­e­ments. A Frenchthemed liv­ing room or the desk of an evolved reader, VM not only tells the story but sells it too. By us­ing in­ter­est­ing props and home fur­nish­ing el­e­ments, the fur­ni­ture stores can cre­ate themes, com­bine prod­ucts in a more rel­e­vant man­ner, pro­mote new launches and also nudge the shopper to ex­plore more prod­ucts. Shonak Agar­wal, Direc­tor Skip­per Fur­nish­ings, “When any cus­tomer se­lects the prod­ucts, our de­sign­ing team

cre­ate the en­tire mock up rooms or win­dow dis­plays and cus­tom­ize it ac­cord­ing to the re­quire­ments of the clients. Be­ing in the busi­ness of space styling, our stores must help cus­tomers vi­su­alise how they can write a new story by cre­at­ing a mix and match with our up­hol­stery, wooden floor­ing op­tions, wall­pa­pers, dif­fer­ent fab­rics, mat­tresses, blinds which they can get all un­der one roof.”

All in all, shop­ping for fur­ni­ture has never been this fun in In­dia. But the game doesn’t end here, re­tail­ers and brands have got to up the ante as shop­pers are evolv­ing by the minute now! And not to for­get emer­gence of new brands and big box in­ter­na­tional re­tail­ers en­ter­ing this space.

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