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Friday, October 23, 2020

Here’s How One Retail Business Pivoted During Covid


In response to COVID stay-at-home restrictions, consumers are increasingly turning to the internet to purchase household furniture and decor items. While this trend is bad news for the growing list of retailers closing doors such as Pier 1 and Sur La Table, it presents a tremendous opportunity for ecommerce retailers–especially those that help consumers filter through millions of options and then deliver the products through a direct-to-consumer model that keeps costs down.

Alfred Chehebar, founder of Genius Pack and CEO of Genius Brands LLC, a portfolio of digitally native ecommerce brands, is breaking into the online furniture market by launching ObjectsHQ, a direct-to-consumer furniture company promising “a new kind of ecommerce experience for modern furniture.”

The Market for Online Furniture Sales

The U.S. market for online household furniture is booming with annual revenues of $45.7 billion and annualized growth of 15.9% between 2015 and 2020, according to IBISWorld. But the sheer number of options makes purchasing decisions difficult.

Having recently renovated his Brooklyn, New York home, Chehebar had experienced the frustration of online furniture shopping firsthand. “After clicking through online catalogs of so many overpriced products, I knew there had to be a better way to purchase furniture and renovate our living spaces.”

Shopping for furniture online is frustrating because consumers struggle to filter through millions of products spread across hundreds of websites. Chehebar explained that with ObjectsHQ, their design-first curation team scours through thousands of products, selects only the best of the best, and provides direct-to-consumer pricing so that consumers can shop designer looks and premium products without paying middlemen margins.

The Direct-to-Consumer Model

Since 2013, Chehebar has been refining the direct-to-consumer model. He founded Genius Pack, which offers high-quality luggage and travel products focused on extreme functionality to eliminate the hassles of travel. With rave reviews for the innovative, space-saving luggage and its patented compression technology, the company enjoyed skyrocketing sales and healthy revenue growth each year since launching. Then COVID hit.

Travel restrictions in response to COVID sent the travel and tourism industry–and many ancillary businesses–into a tailspin. “We saw an immediate drop in demand, so we rolled up our sleeves and made incremental changes to weather through what has become a new reality,” says Chehebar. “We don’t know if or when travel demand will return to recent levels, nor are we relying on the matter. The launch of our newest project couldn’t come with better timing.”

Customer Acquisition Strategy

In anticipation of the October launch, ObjectsHQ created buzz by inviting prospective customers to participate in a prelaunch contest to win a cash prize of $10,000. Through the point-based raffle, people earn 10 points for every referral. Runner-up’s receive e-credits ranging from $250 – $500.

In many ways, the initiative is similar to Jet.com, the popular launch strategy that propelled Jet’s subscriber growth and ultimately was acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion.

Leveraging the Parent Company’s Portfolio

The company will leverage it’s existing infrastructure already in place at Genius Brands LLC, a portfolio of digitally native ecommerce brands, founded by Alfred Chehebar in 2011. The  portfolio consists of Genius Pack, ObjectsHQ, Aer de Aer and Marcy McKenna.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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