Inspiration? Walmart finally getting it right online

Walmart finally woke up and smelled the coffee.

Furniture cannot be sold online like paper towels or Fancy Feast cat food. Walmart’s new senior vice president of e-commerce home division, Anthony Soohoo, admits that furnishings and décor are inspired purchases. To that end, Walmart is launching a new website for furnishings and home décor.

The new website will feature collections of furniture that are grouped by trends and put together by in-house stylists. Consumers can choose from nine styles: modern, midcentury, traditional, glam, industrial, bohemian, farmhouse, transitional and Scandinavian.

“Over the past year, we’ve nearly doubled our home assortment and introduced a wide variety of furniture and home décor items, like a new Scandinavian line of furniture and a refreshed assortment of modern furniture,” Soohoo said. “Now, it is going to be that much easier for customers to shop these items and more.”

Walmart might be a little late to recognize that most consumers have little imagination. And most consumers will admit that they can’t articulate what they want, but they know it when they see it.

Furniture retailers with extensive experience romancing the consumer “in store” have long recognized they need to inspire online, as well. Consumers need to see what they are buying in the context of a room setting or style. Fierce competition exists online between Target, Wayfair, IKEA, La-Z-Boy and Amazon. And it’s about to heat up even more with Walmart’s inclusion of more upscale brand offerings and a newfound understanding that everyone—and I mean everyone—responds positively to great design.

So don’t write this monster off in the home furnishings category. The new site launches soon. It will be interesting to see the results.

The best news for panel processors in the furniture and cabinet categories is that our industry’s full complement of decorative surfaces, and the composite panels that go hand in glove with them, are seen in virtually every Walmart style category listed above. And that’s just for starters. Target, IKEA, Wayfair, et al. are selling similar panel-processed products, made with our industry’s materials. It’s great news for everyone. Decorative surface and composite panel materials, processing technology and improved furniture and cabinet designs have collectively made a quantum leap. In doing so, I believe, they have pulled the industry along with them.

For 15 years, the Surface & Panel tagline has been “uniting materials, technology and design.” I’m proud to have witnessed the heights this industry has reached, and it’s rewarding to know we just might have been right in believing that a small industry niche could become a global phenomenon.

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