One Year On, This Filipino Startup Is Making Shopping for Furniture Online Easy and Hassle-Free
Many of us buy nearly everything we need online. From groceries and apparel to gadgets and ready-to-eat food, e-commerce has altered and is continuing to reshape the way we purchase our needs and wants.
But one sector that many of us probably never imagined would thrive online is home furnishings. Although there are still those who need to touch, see and feel a chair, table, bedframe, or lamp before they buy, data suggests more and more people are willing to make these big-ticket purchases over the internet.
According to a report, the global home furnishings industry was worth $106.16 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow to $116.97 billion this year at a compound annual growth rate of 10.2 percent. Meanwhile, the online home decor market is expected to grow by as much as $52.95 billion between 2020 to 2025 at a CAGR of nine percent.
That’s a huge pie that major global players are fighting to take a major slice of, including familiar names such as Amazon.com, Bed Bath and Beyond, Herman Miller, Ikea, and others. In the Philippines, the big retailers such as SM and Ikea are getting in on the action, providing online retail services to customers, especially during the pandemic that forced many of us to stay indoors.
We can add a local e-commerce startup that aims to be the marketplace for all things related to home style and design to that list. Itooh Homestyle curates an assortment of furniture and home décor pieces, many of which are from Filipino designers and manufacturers, for anyone looking to design or remodel their homes or living spaces. Launched one year ago this month, Itooh Homestyle now has over 3,000 furniture pieces from about 70 merchants.
At a casual lunch to mark its first anniversary, the three co-founders of Itooh Homestyle laid out where the company is now in its journey to become the go-to site for all things related to home furnishings online.
“We have generated product market fit,” said co-founder and CEO Jules Veloso. “We’re now getting a lot of organic orders. We have yet to launch the B2B model, but we’re getting inquiries about it and are now talking to interior designers and procurement officers.”
Although the founders declined to mention specific growth numbers, Veloso did say the company has seen a 60 percent growth average in its gross merchandise volume month-on-month since it launched one year ago.
The founders says that what sets Itooh Homestyle apart from its bigger competitors in the online furniture retail space is its focus on local brands and manufacturers, giving Filipino ingenuity and craftsmanship a bigger platform to reach more people here and abroad. There's also a wider variety of pieces and styles on the platform compared to other single-brand marketplaces.
“Essentially what we’re doing is putting together all of these unique brands and giving people that option,” said co-founder and COO Andrew Bercasio. "Ikea, for example, has an inventory of about 100,000, but it’s all representative of just one specific design which is Scandinavian. They’re all about things like natural wood color. We have much more varieties.”
The third co-founder of Itooh Homestyle is Enah Baba.
Itooh Homestyle co-founders Andrew Bercasio, Jules Veloso, and Enah Baba
Aware of the limitations of shopping for furniture pieces online versus in real life, the company also invested heavily in making the shopping experience on its platform as easy and as frictionless as possible. That means including precise and detailed measurements and descriptions and high-quality photography on all of its products. The site will soon offer 3D product visualizations and image scripting to further guide customers before they make a purchase.
And to dispel any notions about Itooh Homestyle being exclusively for higher-priced items, the founders say the merchandise items offered on the site pretty much covers nearly every price point: from P40 ceramic votive candle holders all the way to a bedframe worth about P275,000.
“It’s a full range,” Bercasio said. “You don’t have to be on a certain spending trajectory in your life to be able to afford what we have. You just have to know the color that you like or the kind of material that you like.”
Most of the merchandise on Itooh's platform are Philippine-made
Asked about the current fiscal position of the company the founders chose to play coy but did say that they are focused on growing the business further. The startup is currently looking for investors to participate in its seed funding round and the founders say they are reaching out to venture capital funds to finance its expansion.
That expansion includes offering interior design services to its clients through a partnership with Grupo Santamaria, as well as the aforementioned foray into the B2B vertical. The founders also announced partnerships with CITEM and the Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines and is now venturing into art pieces, opening a gift registry, and introducing product customization to respond to feedback and suggestions from clients and customers.