Facebook joined Google and other big tech companies this past week by letting employees continue to work from home until mid-2021. As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, remote work has long become the alternative to meet social distancing measures, even in Latin American countries such as Brazil, and if the usage of tools such as Zoom and counterparts soared, so did the consumption of furniture and home appliances.
At least this is what shows data from the Brazilian consultancy firm Compre&Confie. According to the firm, e-commerce orders for furniture in the country accounted for 2.5 million orders during May and June – a 207,2% growth compared to the same two months of the previous year.
MadeiraMadeira, an e-commerce platform focused on household articles that mixes products of their own with a marketplace operation, followed this growth pushed by the pandemic. Since March, categories such as office and bedroom furniture have stood out with a 200% sales increase, while appliances – mostly air conditioners and ventilation, as well as small appliances – grew by an average of 300%.
“People are adjusting their homes,” says MadeiraMadeira’s cofounder and COO Robson Privado. In the first moment, it was the sales of desks and office chairs that have increased led by the need for adaptation. Shortly after, not only office items pushed the demand but also articles belonging to those areas where people were spending most of their time on, such as living rooms.
“Couches, chairs, racks, vacuum cleaners. There was a new arrangement of the house for that moment, related to the time you spend there,” he adds. Privado reveals that MadeiraMadeira’s sales volume grew by 61% per month since March.
According to Compre&Confie, furniture categories in the e-commerce sector reached as much as BRL 1.5 billion in revenues (about $ 278 million) during May and June, a growth of 196.1% year-over-year. As for the top-selling products, wardrobe heads the list, followed by beds, chairs, couches, and mattresses.
Chinese retail giant AliExpress also felt this movement. The company told LABS that, in Brazil, a country that is always among AliExpress’ five largest markets, it saw double-digit growth between March and July on sales of home-related categories, comparing to the same months of 2019.
“Some of our fastest-growing products in Brazil are webcams, home cleaning appliances, and laundry products,” AliExpress further added. “All of them have grown more than three times year-over-year during March-July.”
New workstations, new homes?
In spite of the fast rise of remote work adoption, Luciene Magalhães, head of human capital at KPMG, does not believe in a complete shift from offices to work-from-home offices. “We understand that it will be a hybrid model. Companies should do a study, map opportunities, to see a solution that will benefit the business and the employee.” For her, people must also be incorporated into work organization studies, as personal and professional development are areas impacted by the remote work.
But when it comes to home setups, updates are likely to happen. “Circumstances will determine the need for a space [at home] to work. There are so many considerations, open webcam during videoconferences, time for starting and ending activities. The fact that you need to be reachable 8h a day, for instance.”
As Brazilians managed to adapt to changes imposed by the pandemic, a closer look at home setups and new arrangements for spaces also impacted Mobly, another e-commerce firm focused on furniture. While in late April, sales were already at the same level as before the pandemic, during May and June, they reached an 80% growth in relation to previous months.
Categories such as office chairs and desks, were also the main drivers of growth, recording a 250% rise in sales between May and June compared to the period pre-pandemic. “These have always been among the top ten categories, and now have moved to the top two,” adds Mobly’s founder and CEO Victor Noda.
“The emergency demand is gone, but people are now seeing that companies are migrating to home-office or adopting a hybrid model. So it’s a matter of ‘I will invest to have a better structure at home’,” he ponders.
While office chairs and desk categories recorded a slight reduction in the past month or so, Mobly says that they continue to drive 200% more sales than before the social isolation measures. On a year-over-year comparison, the exec says that sales hit a 120% growth.
More people at home with reduced leisure and mobility options, followed by an increase in the share of wallet, a greater assortment of products, and a competitive pricing point, were, for MadeiraMadeira’s exec, the reasons behind the company’s growth in the period.
Whether for technical, cultural, or relationship purposes, Magalhães points out that the rise of work from home will not mean the closure of offices. “I believe in a hybrid model, there are human traits that benefit from in-person interactions, besides the aspect of reinforcing the company culture,” Privado ponders.
Whether adapting by emergency or in a structural way, new arrangements on work models and other house setups are rising. “There are several relations that are changing between consumers and their homes.”