Photograph: The Straits TImes
Indie home accessories and furniture retailers are opening online to let shoppers browse and buy anytime It must be daunting to plonk down money for a sofa online without sitting on it.
But new independent retailers of furniture and home accessories, who are entering the online sphere, hope shoppers will enjoy browsing a greater spectrum of products at leisure – even as the sellers themselves save on the hefty costs of doing business in Singapore.
Retailers say the online route helps them save on rental and manpower, which in turn allows them to pass on the savings to their customers.
Adjunct associate professor Lynda Wee from the Nanyang Business School, who lectures on retail management, says the number of online furniture retailers here appears to have increased.
Being online lets business owners save on renting a physical showroom or shop, she notes, especially when furniture can occupy large amounts of space. Online retailers save on paying sales staff as well.
For customers, going online lets them shop at any time and browse items at a much faster pace.
She adds: “Since many people already use online sites and mobile apps to buy air tickets, order food and book Uber trips, they are less likely to be resistant to buying furniture online.”
However, adjunct senior lecturer of marketing Regina Yeo from the National University of Singapore Business School cautions that customers may not trust an e-shop if it has no physical presence. “Especially with news of retail fraud and the rise of scams reported in the media, consumers are now more wary.”
In reverse, some online stores have branched out to open physical stores. Castlery, for example, started as an online furniture store in 2013, but opened a showroom at Delta House last year. The showroom was expanded last month to 12,000 sq ft.
Its co-founder Declan Ee, 33, says: “We noticed that while our consumers appreciate being able to access our full catalogue online – and are able to speak to our customer relations officers if they need help – many prefer to see and test the product before buying, especially when it comes to bigger-ticket items like furniture.”
Music producer Edric Hwang bought a desk, a sideboard, a lamp, two bedside tables, two sofas and two armless sofas from Castlery’s online store this year.
The 29-year-old says: “Shopping online means I can browse the catalogue whenever and wherever. It is more convenient than going to a store.
“For the tables and the sideboard, I feel I don’t need to try them. For the sofas, I saw what I liked on the Castlery website, went to the showroom to sit on them and then went online again to buy.”
This story was originally published on The Straits Times.