Wayfair Goes Click-and-Mortar™ as Furniture Shoppers Seek Physical Touchpoints

Wayfair store

Wayfair is going all-in on brick-and-mortar as furniture shoppers prove hesitant to fully embrace eCommerce.

The home goods online marketplace announced Thursday (May 23) the opening of its first large-format physical location in Wilmette, Illinois, occupying two stories and 150,000 square feet.

“We are committed to providing our customers with unparalleled shopping experiences, tailored to their preferences, whether they choose to shop online or in-store,” Liza Lefkowski, the company’s vice president of merchandising and stores, said in a statement. “Our store is thoughtfully designed to be both inspirational and practical, empowering shoppers to create spaces that are just right for them.”

In its most recent earnings report earlier this month, the company reported a slight year-over-year dip in sales, with consumers pulling back across the category. On a call discussing these results, Wayfair Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer Kate Gulliver described the then-upcoming opening of the store as part of the marketplace’s “offensive playbook” to drive performance going forward. Yet Wayfair is cautious.

“We’re only launching a couple stores for each of our brands and then iterating to make sure that we really dial it in before we then scale [to] make sure that the unit economics work the way we expect, that the customer loyalty that it engenders and creates, which would be both online, offline works the way that we would expect,” CEO, Co-Chairman and Co-founder Niraj Shah said on the earnings call. “We don’t necessarily expect that you get that right out the gate.”

Turning to brick-and-mortar could make a difference, given that the majority of consumers still prefers to shop for furniture in stores, per PYMNTS Intelligence research. The study “Tracking the Digital Payments Takeover: Catching the Coming eCommerce Wave,” created in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, drew from a survey of more than 2,600 consumers last year to understand their digital shopping behavior. Supplemental findings from the report revealed that the 53% of consumers strongly or somewhat prefer to make home furnishing product purchases in stores. In contrast, only 25% prefer to do so online.

Plus, overall, across retail categories, the majority of shoppers continues to seek in-person experiences. For the study “2024 Global Digital Shopping Index: U.S. Edition,” created in collaboration with Visa Acceptance Solutions, PYMNTS Intelligence researchers surveyed more than 2,400 U.S. consumers to understand recent trends in retail customers’ behavior. The results showed that roughly three-quarters of shoppers prefer to visit the store at some point in their shopping journey.

Specifically, 1 in 3 U.S. consumers are Click-and-Mortar™ shoppers, engaging with both retailers’ digital tools and their physical locations. These consumers either opt to use digital capabilities to support their in-store journey or make purchases online for on-site pickup. Another 44% of consumers prefers to shop in stores without any digital assistance.

Yet even retailers with a strong brick-and-mortar presence have noted challenges in home goods right now, with shoppers’ budgetary pressures prompting cutbacks in big-ticket categories.

For instance, Target highlighted “softness in home” on its earnings call Wednesday (May 22), per comments from Christina Hennington, the retailer’s executive vice president, chief growth officer. Similarly, Urban Outfitters Co-President and COO Frank Conforti noted on a call discussing the retailer’s recent earnings report Tuesday (May 21) that “furniture remains negative.”