And for companies like Continents Apart, which provides drop-shipping services for home furnishings retailers and suppliers, that has meant a boom in business.
“Last year there was a huge amount of business for e-commerce in furniture and home decor,” said Steven Husack, CEO of Florida-based Continents Apart. “We grew about 600 percent, and we held onto most of that this year.”
With people stuck at home for months during Covid lockdowns, the e-commerce home goods business has soared over the past year. According to Statista, online furniture sales represent one of the strongest e-commerce sales categories in the U.S. Even before the pandemic, furniture e-commerce revenue amounted to $65.12 billion in 2018. By 2022, it’s forecasted to increase to $99.87 billion.
Companies like Continents Apart work as a middle men between furniture manufacturers and e-commerce retailers, helping the former place product with the latter. But its business goes beyond simply acting as a go-between. The company helps manufacturers provide the information and imagery necessary to sell online.
“I asked Wayfair, ‘What’s your biggest pain point?’ and they told me these vendors and suppliers don’t know how to get us the data and images we need to go online,” Husack said.
Continents Apart works with Wayfair, along with a host of other major retailers such as Overstock, Pier 1 and Macy’s. The company navigates the various consumer search algorithms on each retailer’s site to maximize sales while holding good margins and not jeopardizing the brick-and-mortar business. They negotiate favorable payment terms, add new products, update inventories, plan promotional calendars, drive traffic to the products on the various sites and provide appropriate data in different formats for each site’s requirements.
For furniture supplier clients, Continents Apart helps the companies get their products on retailer sites and updates their listings as needed. The goal for both suppliers and retailers is to create a seamless process without having to hire or reallocate resources to maintaining e-commerce business.
“We work on this stuff every day,” Husack said. “We have offices open 24/7 in Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States—we’re providing 24-hour service.”
Husack said the volume of demand for e-commerce home product orders coupled with supply chain and logistical disruptions due to COVID have impacted Continents Apart’s business over the past year. But things have recently started to even out a bit, and the company has been able to help clients amass inventory in several categories.
“I’ve got warehouses full of outdoor furniture, I’ve got warehouses full of wall art, I’ve got warehouses full of lamps,” Husack said. “We don’t have an issue with that right now—we did about 45 days ago when we were running low on inventory in two or three categories.”
Husack, who has worked in shipping and logistics for decades on several continents, has tapped his connections to help get freight through.
“I’ve been able to help my vendors get their stuff here,” he said. “I knew the shipping agents and we could jump the line and get stuff here.”
Husack said the business continues to grow, and as it does, he hopes to help other furnishings companies find success in the e-commerce channel.
“We have helped businesses that have tried on their own or with other ‘reps’ that did not specialize in home furnishings, décor and furniture, and we have documented sales improvement of 87 percent to 590 percent in their first year with us,” he said. “We also love to ‘pioneer’ lines that have never been sold online.”