At Transalis, we know that EDI software has the capacity to transform business performance, especially during more challenging periods, with the furniture sector being no exception.

Coronavirus and the resulting lockdown undoubtedly transformed many retail businesses over the last 12 months. This seismic shift in the way they were allowed to operate put huge pressure on sectors that were so heavily reliant on the high-street, including furniture, to rethink their business strategies and respond quickly.

Despite these challenges, total turnover for UK furniture manufacturers was up by nearly 10% in November 2020, (British Furniture Manufacturers). Some furniture brands have outshone others and even reaped the rewards of their agile responses to both changing business operations and shifting consumer behaviours, ultimately strengthening their positions for the transition out of lockdown. We look at how this is made possible with the help of EDI software.


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The “new normal”

So what exactly changed for the furniture sector over the last 12 months?

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges to businesses across the board, with the furniture sector being no exception. Some industries have felt the effects of this unprecedented period differently, however, it is clear that all have had to adapt in some way to survive. Although, some have also found opportunities for growth.

The challenges for the furniture retail sector

For the furniture sector, like most other retail sectors, the last year has involved a shift of focus to online.

Naturally, with the high-streets closed and consumers confined to their homes during subsequent lockdowns, online purchases have been the only feasible way to buy some products, with brands either expanding their capacity for home deliveries or adapting to click and collect.

Another challenge for furniture retailers, was keeping up with the increased consumer demand for home/garden improvements and furnishings.

Consumer behaviour changed drastically following the new government guidelines; with schools/restaurants/bars/gyms/salons closed, a work-from-home directive put in place, and flights cancelled. As the time spent in the home increased, the likelihood of money being spent on travel and leisure decreased.

In addition to these challenges, the new COVID restrictions had also impacted the furniture manufacturers, who have been running at reduced capacity.

Therefore, due to the longer lead times, furniture retailers are having to source product from elsewhere. Some retailers have even been forced to look for new suppliers outside of the UK, presenting the need for more frictionless order processing.

Where does EDI software come in?

All of the above outline the significant obstacles for furniture retailers over the last 12 months, as well as highlight how EDI software with automated documentation processes could make navigating these challenges a lot easier. Ultimately, if their supply chain is not fully automated, human error and other processing inefficiencies could cost furniture retailers dearly.


The brands that got it right

The most successful furniture retailers in the sector will have supply chain automation solutions. From the challenges outlined above, retailers have needed to be agile in their response to changing consumer demand and manufacturer lead times.

Being able to switch to other, or even new, trading partners quickly has been a vital component in maintaining and improving profits, reducing costs, and speeding up customer deliveries.

Some brands have realised the opportunities that the situation has presented, and made the most of their supply chain automation to remain agile:

Furniture Village

With the rise in D2C sales online across the sector, Furniture Village reported a 90% uplift in online sales, with their total sales also up 25% (as reported in the Retail Gazette). These successes have allowed the business to expand further; creating another 150 roles and planning for two new store openings by the end of this year.

IKEA

“IKEA has hailed ‘resilient’ trading over the past year as soaring demand for homeware from locked-down shoppers helped it to shake off some of the impact of store closures.” (Retail Gazette)

The Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA, has also seen accelerated growth in online sales – with a 31% jump! Their online market now represents 27% of the company’s total sales in the UK, compared to 19% in the previous year (as reported in the Retail Gazette).

DFS

The UK furniture retailer has seen exponential growth during the second half of 2020. DFS emphasises that their digital channels were a key factor in their pre-tax profit, which had increased by £56.2 million to £72.1 million, with the group revenue climbing by 17.3%.

DFS chief executive, Tim Stacey, attributed much of the challenge for the company during the pandemic to their supply chain difficulties, but he also highlighted their resilience and praised employees for their hard work during this period.

“The investments we’ve made in our digital channels have generated exceptional revenue growth.” DFS chief executive, Tim Stacey.

“Our business has proven to be resilient throughout the period, despite showroom closures and a significant amount of external disruption in our supply chains.” DFS chief executive, Tim Stacey (Retail Gazette).


Future-proof the supply chain

One key element to take away from each of these examples of relative success during the pandemic, is that these companies were able to switch their attentions to their online markets rapidly. Being this agile in the face of a pandemic, or even other possible difficult periods of the future, has proven vital for businesses regardless of industry and this is something that everyone will need to keep in mind in order to ‘future-proof’ their business.

One way to do this would be to ensure that supply chains are managed online with EDI software. DFS has demonstrated how overcoming supply chain difficulties can impact revenue and profit, emphasising their need to invest in digital channels. This would not have been limited to providing a quality online service for their consumers, but also importantly, managing their order processing digitally. Being able to automate their processes undoubtedly would have put them in a strong position whilst facing store closures, changing trading partners, and managing an influx of online orders.

Transalis makes all of this possible with our cloud-based EDI solutions.

As shown above, EDI software has the capacity to transform a business’ performance during a challenging period. By implementing EDI software, you can automate the supply chain management quickly and easily whilst being tailored to suit individual business needs.

For more information of our EDI solutions visit https://www.transalis.com/edi-software/. Alternatively, you can buy online and be saving money & time within 24 hours with Transalis eDI Essential, it’s as easy as 1,2,3.

You can also get in contact with our expert team on 0845 123 3746 or +44 1978 369 343 (if you’re calling from overseas), or reach out to us via email sales@transalis.com