This bedroom is from Flexsteel’s Home Styles online platform. The e-commerce program grew sales 86% in the recently completed fiscal fourth quarter.
DUBUQUE, Iowa – With online furniture sales coming to the fore during the COVID-19 era, Flexsteel Inds. has aggressive growth plans for its Homestyles e-commerce platform. The full-line manufacturer and importer is targeting the whole home program at brick-and-mortar customers seeking to expand or establish their own online presence.
Already this year, Flexsteel has added 40 new Homestyles retailers, and the program plays an important role in more than 70 new products on the way, including bedroom, dining, home office, outdoor and upholstery.
Homestyles has been around a while, but with the pandemic putting a spotlight on home furnishings e-commerce, the program will take a similar higher profile at Flexsteel.
“Some people think our drive towards e-commerce, like so many others’, was sparked by the business crisis the world felt when the COVID-19 pandemic set in earlier this year,” President and CEO Jerry Dittmer said. “The fact of the matter is our Homestyles brand has quietly been delivering double-digit year-over-year growth for several years running.”
When he came on board in 2019, Dittmer recognized that Flexsteel’s path to continued prosperity involves developing and refining a seamless retail experience between digital platforms and brick-and-mortar stores. Flexsteel recognized that consumers today want and expect a shopping experience that pairs the ease and convenience of online shopping with the opportunity to touch, try out and purchase in store.
While 40 new retailers have signed up for Homestyles this year, the company says more are coming on weekly, and Flexsteel already has a 1,200-strong network of brick-and-mortar retailers to approach.
Building on momentum
In October, the company will devote an entire wall of its High Point Market showroom to explaining the Homestyles concept to retailers, many of whom are searching for a way to compete with pure-play online e-commerce sites.
“It would not surprise me if we doubled the number of new retailers by year’s end,” said Director of Marketing Ron Hernandez. “Retailers are understanding how easily they can build an e-commerce capability with a manufacturer they already know and trust.”
In its recently completed fiscal year, Vice President of Marketing and Product Development Tim Newlin noted that Homestyles revenue grew 36% and was up 86% in its fourth quarter ended June 30, which included months of brick-and-mortar pandemic-related retail closures. That was on top of double-digit Homestyles growth in the prior year.
While Homestyles is heavy on flat-pack case goods, around 10% of the line comprises soft seating.
“That’s an area we plan to grow tremendously in the next couple of years,” Newlin said. “I would expect over the next three to five years, there’s no reason why upholstery couldn’t be more than half this business considering Flexsteel’s expertise in soft seating.”
Homestyles is designed as a turnkey system for retailers to grow their online business, even if they aren’t doing much e-commerce right now.
“They might already have the ‘plumbing’ in place, but they aren’t doing a lot online,” Hernandez said. “Flexsteel has established a team solely dedicated to helping retailers put this program in place. We’re currently working with people like MicroD and FurnitureDealer.Net who work with retailers’ websites, but many dealers have their own systems, and we can integrate with them as well.
“While we’re targeting retailers we already do business with, but we’re seeing growing interest from non-Flexsteel dealers,” he added, “so we see an opportunity to work with new customers as well.”
Good content is critical to selling online, and as a turnkey program Homestyles places great emphasis helping retailers tell its story on screens.
“The key to this is not just content, but also making it rich content, and we’re making digital content for our products available across a multitude of platforms,” Hernandez noted. “Flexsteel now is not only a home furnishings company, it’s a home furnishings and content company.”