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How the Pandemic Pushed Furniture Makers to Take a Second Look at Packaging and Delivery

The furniture manufacturing and packaging industry will need to adapt following the pandemic’s rise of direct-to-consumer furniture delivery.

Executive summary:

  • Furniture shipping and manufacturing underwent a seismic shift when the 2020 pandemic hit — the effects of which will be seen far into the future.
  • The rise of direct-to-consumer furniture companies combined with the pandemic (which caused increases in home sales, renovations, and redecorating coupled with closed stores and wood shortages) has necessitated furniture packaging and delivery changes.
  • Furniture makers need to transform the way they package furniture for an e-commerce/shipping-first approach.

Some aspects of the furniture industry have remained constant over the years, such as the need for well-built, well-designed furniture. But recently, external factors — most notably, the 2020 pandemic — have necessitated a kind of evolution in furniture manufacturing and packaging.

COVID-19 shook the furniture retail industry in ways few could have predicted. As the pandemic wore on, furniture consumers turned to online outlets in droves to replace the showroom experience. By the end of 2020, ecommerce revenue for furniture and home decor grew by 14.5 percent. Looking ahead, e-commerce growth for home categories is expected to grow until 2023 (at least) as people continue to work from home. Plus, the rise of home furnishing e-commerce has translated to an even greater focus on last-mile delivery, as a damaged or improperly packaged product can quickly destroy consumer trust.

Therefore, furniture packaging must be rethought to fit these new market forces. Brands and their suppliers will have to work together to create innovative protective packaging solutions to meet an industry that’s eager to evolve.

 

Furniture Packaging Then and Now

In previous decades, furniture packers and distributors dealt with a great deal of wooden furniture, which needed to be wrapped for delivery. Now, there’s an emphasis on upholstered products. This trend has pushed lamination lines to grow wider, necessitated foam lamination, and created a market for furniture bags.

Laminated bubble bags, such as Pregis’ CenterFold Laminations, can offer a cushioned alternative to more fitted furniture packaging, offering oversized items protection throughout transport and storage. The recyclable bubble covering defends against scratching and abrasion on surfaces, corners, and edges, without needing to be designed for a specific product — this is just one example of how furniture packaging can adapt to the direct-to-consumer model.

Furniture has also increased in size along with the average home, removing some design constraints but forcing packaging and logistics companies to work together to find the best method to ship and package these new pieces. McKinsey & Company consultants have noticed this shift as well, reporting a greater amount of collaboration between furniture designers and packaging companies. The company also noted retailers and the packaging industry have looked to alternative packaging materials, lightweight formats, and shelf-ready packaging to combat margin compression.

Pregis Furniture Guard® Bags, both lightweight and industrial recyclable, are an example of how packaging has been tailored to fit new conditions. They can be heat sealed to package a multitude of product sizes and shapes, giving furniture makers another option as they review their packaging guidelines. Many expect post-pandemic distribution models will lead to more touches throughout the shipping line.

 

The Rise of Direct-to-Consumer Furniture

One of the main reasons brands have turned their focus to shipping protection is the rise of online furniture sales. It’s one of the most successful online categories, expected to make up 14 percent of total online retail sales by 2022.

A problem has emerged with the rise of furniture e-commerce, however. Furniture designers don’t always adjust their products to fit logistics and supply chain needs, leaving little direction for distributors on how to pack and ship them. This has led to increased collaboration between packaging companies and furniture makers, requiring new solutions and increased flexibility from packaging products.

One such design is Pregis’ ProFlex® Profiles, polyethylene packaging foam that can conform to fit a variety of product contours. This foam can limit or prevent damage from the various shocks and vibrations a furniture product might encounter as it travels through a factory for assembly. ProFlex can conform to nearly any shape, limiting the amount of extra work and resources that might be otherwise needed to pack large, oddly-shaped furniture or to design specific packaging.

Pregis Microfoam® is the only low-density polypropylene sheet foam available on the market today, giving manufacturers and retailers alike the ability to protect large objects such as furniture on the production line and in transit to a customer. A high coefficient of friction means the foam can protect a variety of surfaces from scratches without adding significant weight to packaging.

 

Taking a “Shipping First” Approach

Adapting to a direct-to-consumer shipping model will likely require more packaging since most of these products will be traveling through a common carrier and not through a furniture company’s distribution centers. Products like the AirSpeed® ChamberPak, made with a sustainable LDPE film that arrives deflated to save space at packing stations, have been developed to secure products like furniture through shipment.

If more packaging is needed for a D2C-dominated furniture market, lightweight packaging like this — which can reduce manufacturing costs compared to engineered packaging — will be critical to offset constrained shipping margins. Pregis engineers can also design ChamberPak’s to fit a specific application, if necessary. Pregis PolyMask®, a protective film that can be applied to solid surfaces without leaving marks or residue, can also be used to protect products during storage, transportation, and installation, limiting defects and damage before home furnishings ever get to the consumer.

With a distribution model moving away from local fulfillment centers and toward a more “just-in-time” ordering approach, packaging companies will need a more diverse product line. Specialization is still valuable, but furniture makers require more options than ever before to ensure their hard work designing and manufacturing products for today’s consumers pays off.

 

Check out Pregis’ packaging solutions for furniture and contact a sales representative for more information.