The home and small office furniture segment is going through a metamorphosis of sorts, one that has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. but that has its roots in consumer lifestyle transitions and professional workstyle transformations that have been progressing for a generation.
The excitement that has driven the home and small office segment over the past few months has been evident, and HOMEWORLD BUSINESS, in research including on and off the record interviews with retailers and vendors, has traced developments that identify how the COVID-19 crisis has acted as a catalyst that has propelled trends in the sector and that signal where developments may lead over the next few years.
Much of the change in how consumers approach their small and home office organization has been facilitated by advances in electronics that have given people a greater ability to communicate and share data, as well as in audio, image and video technology that allows remote workers access to more sophisticated professional applications. Those working from places such as home and small commercial and satellite offices have become enabled to an extent that may have been thought impossible a generation ago. In the course of the COVID-19 outbreak, people who work in many if not most office functions, and even in jobs where personal interactions and transactions used to seem crucial, have built on know-how they’ve accumulated to switch from actual to virtual spaces, and at a pace that, under normal circumstances, might have taken a decade.
Consumer purchasing patterns as demonstrated in the coronavirus crisis support the idea that consumers believe they’ll be doing more work at home. The tremendous run on office products that occurred across mass-market retail as coronavirus-prompted government-mandated restrictions on consumer movement and the store retail operations was certain evidence of consumers preparing to work from home in a more thorough manner. However, given the range and depth of purchasing, the demand surge also affirmed that consumers believed preparing the home for additional professional and, in many cases, scholastic endeavors was an investment in the future.
Some retail channels have benefited from the COVID-19 outbreak because an essential-business designation allowed them to keep serving consumers even as other sectors suffered closure orders. In food retailing, supermarkets and warehouse clubs got a boost not only in terms of sales but also because consumers essentially familiarized themselves with their current array of products and services during shopping restrictions, some of which they might never have used otherwise. In a similar vein, office superstores could see longer term benefits from the fact they were allowed to remain open.
Although the pandemic accelerated trends, home and, in many cases, small business offices have been changing since the 1990s as the notion of needing a big desk with expansive drawer storage and an imposing silhouette began giving way to more functional thinking. The advent of the personal then the laptop computer drove the trend. The evolution of home lifestyles, and office workstyles, guided it.
For more of the Home & Small Office Furniture Report, see the June 17, 2020, issue of HOMEWORLD BUSINESS.