This Los Angeles-based company, founded in 2011, is what’s known as a “manutailer” — it’s a manufacturer and a retailer. Owning your own furniture factory has its advantages. In addition to hands-on quality control, Thrive Furniture has a fast turnaround time: A sofa can be ordered and delivered in as few as five days. The company’s founder, Christopher Laudadio, who also owns Versa Products, a commercial furniture business, stresses the local craftsmanship that goes into the sofas, as well as the locally sourced “eco-friendly” materials. There is a store in Los Angeles, and for those who would like to see their sofas being made, factory tours can be scheduled.
When you buy a five-figure sofa, you’re buying more than just the down-filled cushions and hand-tied springs. Behind every sofa from high-end companies like B&B Italia and Vitra is a network of high-rent showrooms and warehouses, a big-budget ad campaign and often a big-name designer. Is it any wonder they charge a premium?
It is possible, however, to produce a sofa close to the same quality for a fraction of the price, as a handful of direct-to-consumer companies have recently shown. Their business model? Warby Parker.
Like the online eyewear retailer, these companies focus on producing a great product at a great price, providing exceptional customer service and cutting middleman costs by doing most of their business online and aggressively marketing themselves through social media. That translates to higher profits, and it means they are able to control the way their products are presented and sold.
But are consumers really willing to buy a big, expensive piece of furniture without seeing it in person? As Sekar Sundararajan, a senior manager and retail strategist at the global management consulting firm Kurt Salmon, pointed out: “Many customers are already used to buying from catalogs without visiting a brick-and-mortar location, so ‘sight unseen’ isn’t really a big deal.”