Furniture: Amazon eyes premium retail

By Matt Balmer
April 10, 2018

Through direct sales and third-party vendors, e-commerce giant Amazon is said to already generate more than $2 billion (£1.42 billion) in furniture sales.

It is fair to assume the bulk of this is represented by inexpensive products, such as guest beds, with consumers valuing the convenience Amazon offers both in terms of price and delivery.

Late last year, the retailer announced the launch of its own house brands, putting together its first curated in-house furniture collection with the introduction of the Rivet and Stone & Beam brands.

Rivet is a mid-century, contemporary living room collection comprising upholstery and other décor, while Stone & Beam – pitched at a higher price-point – includes transitional and modern living room furniture.

The result of collaborations with a series of furniture makers, there are hundreds of SKUs in each brand’s programme. For the moment, both brands are available only in the US, but it’s only a matter of time before we see these brands, or others like them, in the UK.

At the Brussels Furniture Fair in November, high-end suppliers confirmed they had been approached by Amazon to that end, with a view to them manufacturing white-label products for the retailer’s own-brand collection.

Can Amazon successfully muscle in on the mid to upper echelons of the furniture retail sector? Perhaps the best clue comes from Wayfair, one of the other major U.S ecommerce brands to have emerged in recent years.

Heavy advertising and infrastructure spend helped Wayfair become a major UK player, with sales here estimated at around £100 million. But how much of this comes from premium, luxury goods?

The answer perhaps lies with Wayfair feeling the need to launch its own, separately branded, top-end e-commerce offer under the label, rather than try to crack the market under its flagship Wayfair brand.

At present, Rivet and Stone & Beam are merchandised online through the Amazon website. The prices, though a step up from some of those offered from third-party vendors via the Amazon Marketplace, remain well below those of Perigold.

Acquiring a rival, or launching completely independently of the Amazon name, remains the retailer’s likeliest route to top-end success.

Richard de Melim has reported on interiors and property for national newspapers and the trade press for nearly 20 years. Since 2008, he has been the editor of business website The Furnishing Report.