Furniture is something that everybody uses. Commercial and residential buildings are furnished to meet the needs of the people that spend time in those locations. Since these products are regularly used and styles evolve often, the demand for furniture remains consistent.
As an entrepreneur, a way that you can supply that demand is by selling furniture in bulk to furniture retailers.
In this post, we’re going to talk about how you can start a wholesale furniture business of your own. We will provide a little bit of background on wholesale furniture businesses and the furniture industry before we dive into 7 actionable steps for starting one of your own. To wrap things up, we will discuss how wholesale furniture businesses can leverage Alibaba.com to connect with new buyers.
Table of Contents
A wholesale furniture business is a company that supplies products to retailers. Wholesale furniture businesses use a B2B model, which means they sell to other businesses rather than directly to buyers.
As a wholesale furniture distributor, you’ll mostly sell your products in bulk quantities. Bulk orders are subject to discounts when compared to retail prices. For example, dressers may retail at $500 apiece, but they could be purchased in bulk quantities at $300 apiece.
Some wholesale furniture businesses partner with dropshipping companies. In this situation, the wholesaler would also be responsible for order fulfillment. This is definitely a bit different from normal furniture wholesaling but it has become a bit more popular in the past few years.
The furniture industry is booming, so there’s never been a better time to get into the industry. In fact, the furniture market is anticipated to be valued at more than $750 billion by 2026.1
Part of this massive industry growth was likely sparked by COVID-19-related lockdowns. Since people were spending more time at home and less time out and about, there were shifts in personal budgets. Many people took the extra money that they would’ve spent on vacations, going out to eat, and other activities and spent it on revamping their living spaces with new furniture and home decor. Home office furniture was also a huge hit since working from home became the norm for a while.
Although the industry is projected to grow at a healthy rate, some COVID-related trends were less than favorable. Since new constructions halted and new construction often correlates with furniture purchases, the industry took a hit from that angle.
Something else that is worth noting is that some major furniture companies, including IKEA, are publicly shifting towards sustainability. Although sustainability does not matter to all potential buyers, it does to some. If that is an area that you’d like to compete in, that is something to keep in mind.
There are many things to consider as you start your wholesale furniture business. Wholesaling can be quite profitable, but it takes some serious planning and preparation.
Let’s take a look at the 7 steps that you can follow to start a furniture wholesaling business of your own.
Starting a wholesale business is a major undertaking, especially in an industry with high-ticket items. We recommend doing your due diligence and learning about both the furniture industry and wholesaling, in general. Experience in either of these areas will definitely give you a leg up, but if you’re totally new to the game, you can learn quickly.
Closely study the history of the wholesale furniture market. Take a look at both past and current trends, because this will help you prepare for a variety of situations. Also, take some time to look into seasonal effects on the wholesale furniture industry.
While there is money to be made in wholesale furniture distribution, it is really important to understand the business that you are getting into.
As a furniture wholesaler, your target audience is businesses that sell furniture to consumers. You’re likely going to target furniture stores or general stores. You also have the option to target budget stores, high-end stores, or something in between.
Since there are a lot of potential businesses that you could target, it is important to get crystal clear about who you are serving. That will allow you to better market your wholesale services and reach paying customers.
Narrow your audience down based on criteria, including:
The clearer you get on who you want to serve, the better.
Once you’ve determined which audience you’ll serve, you have to determine how you will best serve them. As a furniture wholesaler, there are a few ways you can go with your offerings. You could specialize in a specific type of furniture or furniture for a specific room or area.
For example, you could position yourself as the go-to business for sofa sourcing. To do this, you’d offer a wide selection of couches. You could focus on what material or style if you wanted to, or you could do it all.
Alternatively, you could be the go-to supplier for living room furniture. Rather than just offering couches, you could sell sets that are complete with sectional sofas, love seats, TV stands, coffee tables, and end tables.
Since there is such a wide variety in types and styles of furniture, there are truly so many ways to go. You can niche down or stay more general. It all depends on what you want to do.
Something to keep in mind as you choose your products is the expectation of quality. Selling to budget-friendly furniture retailers comes with different expectations than when you’re selling to luxury furniture retailers.
The specific products you sell should reflect the budgets of your customers’ target audience. You can always sell good quality items, but higher-end items may be made of better materials.
There are a few ways that wholesale furniture companies source their products. Some manufacture them in-house and other sources them from other wholesalers. Both approaches have pros and cons.
By manufacturing your own goods, you have more control of the product, and you’ll likely have better profit margins since you have more control over the operating costs. Purchasing from another wholesaler is much simpler, but it will likely cost you a bit more and decrease your profit margins.
Manufacturing in-house adds another layer to this process. You have to set up and operate a factory, which requires support from potentially dozens of workers. This may require extra licensing and insurance, depending on where you’re operating.
If you decide to source your products from a furniture wholesaler, you can search on B2B eCommerce platforms like Alibaba.com. Alibaba.com makes it very easy for buyers and sellers to connect (which will also come in handy when it’s time for you to sell your products).
Alibaba.com is set up like a search engine. Buyers can browse different sellers and listings based on their preferred search criteria. These results can be filtered and sorted in a variety of ways.
An online storefront is absolutely essential in today’s eCommerce-driven environment. Wholesalers have the option to build an independent site for a storefront or to create a storefront on a B2B marketplace, like Alibaba.com.
Each of these approaches comes with unique pros and cons, and many wholesalers opt to set up both channels to take advantage of all of the benefits.
As you set up your online storefronts and curate your product listings, you are going to want to pay close attention to a few specific things. The first thing is optimizing your storefront to connect with your audience. You’ll want to make sure that your branding is at the forefront.
Upload high-quality photos with accurate descriptions for each listing. Fill in as much information into the fields provided so that buyers know exactly what you have to offer.
We recommend optimizing each product listing with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. This is what will help your audience discover you since Alibaba.com and other B2B marketplaces function as search engines.
If you are selling sofas, use more adjectives to make it crystal clear what type of sofas you are selling. For example, “brown leather L-shaped sofa” is more descriptive than “sofa.” Include dimensions, color variations, style type, material, and any other relevant information.
While it’s possible to launch a storefront on a B2B marketplace and let the sales roll in organically, many wholesalers use other marketing and sales strategies to jumpstart the process.
Some tips for increasing your wholesale furniture sales include:
Be sure to prioritize sales pipeline management so that your closing rates remain high and your business continues to grow. Identify leaks so that you know how to prevent qualified leads from falling off.
After all, bulk furniture purchases can come with a hefty price tag, so leads may need to be nurtured a bit in some cases.
Many wholesalers think that once the products have been delivered and the invoice has been paid, the sale is final. However, this is a serious mistake.
There is a lot of value in retaining clients, primarily because onboarding new ones is more expensive. A successful wholesaler nurtures their customers, especially after they’ve made a purchase.
Follow up with a call soon after the order has been delivered. Ask how the delivery went and welcome any feedback on the entire process. Make sure they are happy with the quality of the products.
Determine about how long it should be until the client needs to restock and be sure to follow up again close to that time. If you follow up and the client doesn’t seem eager to buy again, come up with some incentives or bonuses for repurchasing orders to sweeten the deal and to remain their first choice of a supplier.
Alibaba.com is a great place to find and connect with buyers. In fact, there are 14 million buyers from around the world registered on Alibaba.com.
The main functionality of Alibaba.com is a B2B marketplace, but the advantage of this platform over other B2B marketplaces is that it is fully equipped with a wide range of selling tools. Some of these tools include demand projecting tools, ad support, 90-day onboarding, professional services, and more.
You can make your products discoverable on Alibaba.com by customizing your storefront and optimizing your listings. That way, buyers can browse your offerings and reach out to you for a quote.
Alternatively, you can take advantage of the Request for Quotation (RFQ) area of the platform. The RFQ feed is a place where buyers can make posts to indicate their specific needs. If you can fulfill their needs, you can respond to their listing with pricing and other information.
As you can see, Alibaba.com can be leveraged in many ways to connect with buyers and grow your business.
Are you ready to start your wholesale furniture business or take your existing business to the next level? Sign up for an Alibaba.com account and indicate “Seller” as your trade role to get started.