Starting a furniture business is similar to starting any other form of business. Before you begin pondering issues like choosing a location, developing a business plan, and obtaining licenses and permits, you should consider your motivation for starting a business. Write a mission statement, and consider a reasonable price point for your furniture and whether that is viable for your income needs.
A formal design education or years of carpentry experience are both acceptable, but you must understand what your customers want and how to modify your craft to match those needs. It is the beginning point for a custom furniture business. Here, we look at some things you should prioritize if you want to start your own furniture business.
1. Research Your Intended Market
It is necessary to organize your furniture manufacturing business with a comprehensive evaluation of the market and the level of demand for your items. Your customers may include:
- Furniture retailers at the local, regional, and national levels, as well as professional internet traders
- Architects and interior designers who commission contract work on behalf of enterprises such as bar and hotel chains
- Wholesalers that specialize (although these are not commonplace in the furniture industry)
- Members of the general public to whom you sell directly or provide a customized or tailored service
- local businesses that place orders for either conventional or custom-made furnishings
Furniture makers must keep up with trends and provide what buyers need in fashionable forms, finishes, and textiles in popular colorways. When putting together new ranges, it’s a good idea to collaborate closely with your retailer customers wherever possible. Retailers will also want to ensure that orders placed rather than selected from stock arrive within a reasonable time frame.
2. Demand Forecasting
Determine whether there will be sufficient demand for the furniture lines you intend to produce.
The furniture manufacturing industry consists of many small enterprises and large corporations that produce in bulk for the retail market. The sector is highly competitive since several companies manufacture low-quality furniture at low prices. There is also a sizable demand for low-cost, mass-produced foreign furniture. These forces exert downward pressure on pricing throughout the sector, making it difficult for a new furniture producer to compete at the mass-manufactured end of the market.
Manufacturers who provide lines for a “niche” market can be prospects. As an example, consider the following:
- Creating fashionable lines for young professionals
- Handcrafting products utilizing traditional methods – items that will become future antiquities
- Providing a bespoke or tailored service in which you develop and manufacture products exclusively for a customer
- Develop and produce high-end office boardroom furniture
Examine your target clients (if you intend to sell through retail outlets) to discover if they already sell furniture lines similar to the ones you intend to manufacture. Why will yours succeed more? Determine what aspects of your pieces will make them more appealing to customers. For example, you might join the Furniture Ombudsman scheme to let customers know that your furniture is of high standards, and you could purchase your wood from sustainable sources.
Regardless of the distribution strategy, you should be ready to discuss your ranges with retail buyers, so consider your range information and samples. You’ll need photos of your prototypes and samples of various finishes or materials to show retailers. Maybe you could make a smaller version of one of your pieces to show off the design and quality qualities.
When you show prospective clients your advertising materials, you could use the chance to outline your business terms and how much trade is likely to come your way.
3. Study Current Trends In Addition To Legal And Tax Issues
Trends In The Furniture Manufacturing Industry
People’s spending on furniture and furnishings is influenced by the state of the economy and the property market. When the economy is doing well, individuals move more frequently and are willing to repaint and renovate their homes. Businesses that do well have money to spend on improving their facilities, such as updating goods like desks, seats, and storage units. When the economy is in recession, consumers (and businesses) just put off upgrading furniture until they can afford it. During periods of austerity, federal and municipal governments cut spending on furnishings for places like schools, hospitals, and government offices.
E-commerce has grown in popularity and has influenced nearly every retail sector. While many individuals still prefer to see and try on furniture, an increasing number of people are willing to acquire products online. E-commerce has been adopted by both merchants and manufacturers as a means of reaching a larger market. Some manufacturers are adopting it to sell directly to the public. Many professional sellers utilize eBay in addition to, or in place of, their e-commerce website.
Customers became more sensitive about ethical issues and the environment in the 2000s. Some manufacturers responded by offering repair and reconditioning services to consumers who would use old furniture than throw it away. There have also been industry movements toward repurposing old furniture parts and components in manufacturing new items. Manufacturers can improve their environmental and social credentials by sourcing materials from sustainable sources and using recycled wood products such as chipboard and MDF.
Legal Issues For Furniture Makers
Many furniture products are subject to particular restrictions to ensure that they meet fire safety standards. Fabrics and fillings must be tested by manufacturers to ensure they meet legal criteria, and findings of the tests must be documented. You should also ensure that new upholstered furniture has an appropriate fire safety display label.
Manufacturers must ensure that their products are free of flaws. Any components purchased from other vendors should be recognizable so that if a finished item is defective and a claim is filed, the damaged item may be tracked down. Your local Trading Standards Department should be able to address any questions you have regarding how consumer protection legislation applies to your company.
If you intend to sell your furniture directly to members of the public, you should be aware that a plethora of consumer protection regulations applies to merchants. Things and services, for example, must not be misrepresented, and the retail price of goods must be properly indicated.
Anyone who hires employees must follow employment laws. Recruitment, employment contracts, wages, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, complaints, dismissals, redundancies, and employment tribunals are all areas of regulation.
If you want to start a physical store, a location is necessary, just like it is for practically any other business. You must consider the following factors:
- The premises space: If you are selling custom-made sofas or cabinets, you will need to find a large enough room to demonstrate the furniture you manufacture to maximize sales potential
- If your target market is families and residents, you will want to ensure that the location is conveniently accessible, in addition to the fact that the area itself can accommodate families who come into the store with pushchairs, for example
- Whether or not you also require warehouse space to store furniture materials is up to you. It should be big enough for suppliers to readily pick up and drop off materials
5. Services To Provide
You could offer a number of services in addition to creating a broad range of furniture. For instance:
- Producing custom-made furniture per a customer’s specifications could include everything from free-standing items to fitted bedroom, office, or kitchen furniture.
- Providing customers with a finish option on generally conventional ranges, such as stained wood instead of polished wood.
- Fixing, restoring, and re-upholstering—an increasing number of ethical and environmentally conscious buyers prefer to repair or recondition furniture rather than toss it away.
You may also be able to provide specialized services to other furniture producers, such as French polishing or veneer preparation. If you’re making furniture, such as sofas, you’ll almost certainly need to provide a delivery service. Depending on your target market and how you sell, you may need to make deliveries to a small number of stockists or a large number of end-user consumers.
If you offer some variety, your retailer’s consumers will want samples of different finishes or materials. Don’t underestimate the cost of generating and renewing these when introducing new lines.
People expect furniture to last for a long time; hence, the industry has historically suffered from a high proportion of products returned to the retailer or manufacturer due to flaws. Think about your return policy so that your retailer customers know what steps to take in the event of a consumer complaint. Set out the terms of any guarantees you provide, such as a five-year guarantee against faulty workmanship and materials.
6. What To Manufacture
The furniture manufacturing sector encompasses a diverse range of product kinds, many of which aim at distinct buyers. You may make furniture for the domestic market, the contract furnishings industry (for businesses such as pubs, hotels, and other public venues), or office furnishings. The domestic market is the largest, accounting for over 70% of total sales, while the contract and office furniture sectors account for approximately 30%. Remember that homes are becoming smaller; therefore, if you want to target the general domestic market, try designing smaller pieces of furniture. You will need to consider which market(s) your furniture lines will be marketed at.
The following step involves deciding on the type(s) of furniture you will make, such as wooden or upholstered, fitted, or free-standing.
Wooden items include:
- Wall and floor cupboards, chests, bookcases, and other storage units are examples of cabinet furniture
- kitchen cabinets and others that stand alone
- tables, chairs, and stools
- furniture for special occasions
- outside furniture
Solid wood and man-made items such as chipboard, plywood, or medium-density fiberboard can be used to make wooden furniture (MDF). Natural or synthetic materials can be used to make veneers. The object can then be polished, oiled, lacquered, stained, or painted.
Upholstered furniture, the largest sub-sector of the furniture industry, consists of:
- chairs, upholstered stools
- three-piece suites
- some types of bed
As with wooden furniture, upholstered pieces are likely to be made from different materials, including wood, metal, and plastic for frame construction and a number of textiles and leather for coverings. Foam, polyester fiber, or feathers can fill cushions. Domestic furniture is subject to fire safety legislation, which establishes flammability criteria for the outside fabric and fillings used to make an upholstered object.
You can think about providing a bespoke service in addition to creating product lines. It could include custom-made bedroom furnishings and wooden kitchens.
7. Marketing Your Business
You must consider how your prospective clients will learn about you and your furniture products. You have the option of marketing and selling your products directly on your own or through furniture merchants.
You can advertise your business and market your furniture in a variety of ways, including:
- Contacting buyers at both chain and small furniture retailers
- Advertise your product lines in the trade press
- Participating in the furniture industry trade exhibitions
- Creating your website, possibly with an online ordering system
- Making use of social media, forums, and blogs
Don’t forget to include things like your membership in the Furniture Ombudsman Scheme or that you buy your supplies from a sustainable source in any promotional materials you send out.
8. Pricing Policy
It is important to get the price right. You must ensure that the gap between the cost and selling price of your furniture products is sufficient to cover all your running expenses, including your drawings.
Set aside some money to invest in new equipment and technology. Not only must you be able to replace machinery when it fails, but you may also wish to purchase labor-saving equipment to assist you in keeping your unit costs down.
Your biggest expenses are most likely to be:
- Raw materials, such as wood, upholstery fabric, and components
- Costs of personnel, including specialists such as external polishers
It is essential to track your raw material costs and ensure that your personnel remains productive, that wasteful processes are reduced to the greatest extent feasible, and that the number of returns is maintained at a minimum. Keep in mind that if things were damaged during delivery, you have to replace them frequently.
To track your performance, examine the relationship between your raw material costs and your turnover, as well as your direct labor costs and your turnover regularly. If you plan to make high-end, bespoke wooden cabinet furniture, labor costs are likely to be significant since craft production is particularly labor-intensive.
Remember that if you want to sell to both trade clients (such as retailers) and the general public (through mail order or online), your trade customers will demand a trade discount off the recommended retail price.
If you sell directly to the public and have a shop and an e-commerce website, consider whether your prices will be different for each. Will you price match for in-store consumers who request it if you offer cheaper web pricing? If you also sell to the retail trade, don’t undercut your stockists’ prices with your web prices if you want to keep them.
You may elect to offer your retailer’s consumers various promotional discounts, such as:
- Early settlement discounts are given for the timely payment of invoices.
- Retrospective bonuses or rebates based on the number of purchases made over months
- For significant purchases, bulk discounts are available.
- Free shipping
Keep a tight check on any discounts and special offers you provide to ensure they’re effective. After all, while this kind of promotion may increase sales, it will also decrease the profit you make on each transaction.
9. Making A Name For Oneself In The Marketplace
The furniture industry is highly competitive and can be difficult to distinguish in a crowded marketplace. Especially when large corporations sell low-cost, mass-produced foreign pieces that aren’t truly built to last and foster a “disposable” attitude toward furniture instead of investing in one that lasts.
While individuals have become more at ease with purchasing beds and mattresses online, they are still ‘considered’ purchases. With that in mind, we must be completely confident in the quality of our beds and provide free shipping and favorable return and warranty policies to earn our clients’ trust.
A professional qualification in any field multiplies your credibility 100 times over. As a result, you may choose the best furniture-making courses accessible online that are tailored to your interests and business.
It will help you make your point on why, despite your inexperience, you can be trusted. Your customers will understand that you know what you’re doing. If you want to establish a small furniture business, this could be a good method to get consumers.