Home Furnishings Association member Sheely’s Furniture & Appliance dipped its toes into e-commerce this month, selling in-stock appliances through its website. Sheely’s takes the plunge this fall when it adds furniture.
The move had been talked about on and off at the North Lima, Ohio, company for years, but it accelerated in 2017 with the closing of HHGregg and later Sears – companies that did a significant amount of appliance sales in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania – the past two years. “We felt it (the store closings) was the perfect time to enter the market because we wanted to capture their customers,” says Jimmy Elenz, Sheely’s operations manager and controller.
Selling appliances also allowed Sheely’s to wade into e-commerce slowly, given that appliances frequently come in only three colors.
Sheely’s projects 1 to 5 percent of its annual sales in the coming years will originate online, Elenz says. The site opened Aug. 12. Five days later, Sheely’s recorded its first online sale when a customer who had been in the store earlier in the week shopping for a refrigerator went home to talk with his wife before making a decision. Instead of coming back to the store, the man bought the refrigerator online.
“That’s an example of a sale we might have lost to another store because he had left and could have gone anywhere else,” says Elenz, who joined Sheely’s in 2017 to help start its online business after doing the same for Gasser Chair Company, a manufacturer of high-end gaming chairs for casinos and resorts.
But it’s not just the “be backs” Sheely’s is going after. Unlike past generations, Millennials don’t feel the need to see and feel a sofa. They’re more at ease buying furniture online than were their parents or grandparents.
“Their buying habits are going to change the way we do business with them,” says Elenz. “Everyone knows the real shopping journey starts online long before the consumer steps into your store. If you’re not showing your products and prices online, you might be eliminated before (the journey) even starts.”
Elenz says Sheely’s will only sell appliances in stock to ensure immediate availability. “When someone’s in the market for a new refrigerator, it’s usually because the one they have is broken and they need one now. We’re not going to sell something we can’t deliver immediately.”
Sheely’s wants to sell furniture online later this fall. The company has made space in the warehouse to build a photo studio to shoot the hundreds of pieces of furniture with different upholstery and finishes. Elenz said Sheely’s officials traveled to fellow HFA member El Dorado Furniture last year to get an idea of the photo studio they wanted to build. “They were very helpful,” Elenz says about El Dorado. “They took a a day to show us around and gave us great advice.”
The company will also offer online financing options through Synchrony later this fall.