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Buying furniture without seeing it first

When buying furniture, it is important that pieces look great and will last for many years. With loads of different brands to buy from and styles to choose between, you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice when searching for pieces for your home, but is it important to see the furniture with your own eyes before you part with your hard-earned cash?

This is the issue that many consumers face today due to the rise in online stores. There may be plenty of places selling furniture, but very few offer the chance to see it before you make your purchase.

John Lewis - see in store
As a result of feedback from frustrated shoppers, John Lewis are now listing on their website where you can see the items in-store.

This doesn’t cause a problem for many people, but others don’t feel comfortable buying furniture, especially high value pieces, without viewing it in real-life. This is completely understandable, as you want to ensure that you get what you pay for, but it can cause a dilemma when trying to find new pieces for you home.

In the past, people would buy mail order furniture which follows the same principle as online shopping. You’d see an image in a catalogue, magazine, or newspaper, and either call the company or send them an order form. In addition to this, the introduction of Argos to the high street in the mid-70s saw people happily purchasing furniture based purely on seeing a catalogue image.

So, what is the best way the buy furniture?

Finding a compromise

When you consider the options, the best of both worlds would involve finding a compromise between in-store and online shopping. It could be argued that Ikea has found this perfect balance through having showrooms full of their products for people to see, but stock issues and store locations can cause issues for many.

Other high street retailers, such as M&S, John Lewis, and Next have also found this compromise (to an extent) by showcasing some of the products from their most popular ranges in store for people to see before they order.

Realistic room set images (via John Lewis) at least give an idea of how the furniture looks in an actual room.

The problem here is that shops are often limited for space, which means that they are unable to display all that they offer. Before the days of eCommerce, furniture retailer MFI changed the market by setting up showrooms full of their furniture which people could buy and take home with them the same day.

Although this worked for a while, the novelty soon wore off and MFI struggled to stay afloat due to rising rents, the fact that their furniture wasn’t particularly high quality, and competition from copycat companies – like Ikea.

It seems that the ideal furniture company would offer local showrooms, great availability, high quality products, and low prices, but is this simply a pipe-dream?

Increasing customer confidence

The key to running a successful furniture company is surely having the ability to improve customer confidence. If customers feel comfortable buying products without seeing them first, the business can run their store online without worrying about increasing rent and the costs involved with running multiple showrooms.

Some companies have taken this idea forward by offering customers the opportunity to see their desired furniture in situ using virtual reality mock-ups and, although this isn’t the same as seeing it in person, it can provide a better idea of what they can expect.

Ikea are working on a virtual reality showroom concept where you can see how your choice will look in your home.

Realistic images, customer reviews, and a great reputation are also integral in increasing customer confidence. If you know that you can purchase your furniture, easily return it if you don’t like it, and have the knowledge that others have bought the same piece and are happy enough with it to leave a review, buying it for yourself feels a lot less daunting.

Don’t be put off by bad reviews if the company has responded to them in a prompt and measured way. Issues happen sometimes, but how the company deals with them can promote enough confidence to go ahead with a purchase.

It may simply come down to the fact that some people will never feel comfortable spending money on a high value item that they haven’t seen, and they may just have to accept the fact that they might end up paying more than they would if they bought their furniture unseen.

Buy furniture online vs in-store

As with everything, there are pros and cons involved with buying furniture both online and in-store. When buying furniture online, you can enjoy the fact that there’s no pressure to buy, you can take your time reading customer reviews and comparing products, there will be a wide range of items to choose from, and you can often arrange delivery within a few days.

However, you will only be able to see a photo of the products, you might have to wait a while for answers to any questions you have, and returning items can be awkward and expensive.

When shopping in-store, you can see the items you’re hoping to buy and there will people around who can answer your queries. However, there’s often pressure to buy associated with furniture showrooms, and this can include being pushed into purchasing costly extras, such as insurance or high interest finance products.

In addition to this, you might have to wait ages for your furniture to be delivered, and it’s frequently made on demand.

If you’re buying online, we suggest ignoring special offers which are likely to be repeated, checking a variety of different websites to see the range of products available, and paying close attention to customer reviews. In contrast, when buying furniture in-store, it is best to go without the intention of buying on your first visit. This can help to deflect any pressure that might be put upon you by salespeople, and will limit the chance of you ending up with costly, unnecessary extras.

Buying furniture does take a lot of careful consideration, but whether you’d prefer to buy online or in-store, you’re sure to find a method of purchasing it that suits you. Just ensure that you do your research beforehand as this will help you to make the right decision.

See Also
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