Buying Furniture Online vs. Retail


For entrepreneurs in the restaurant and hospitality industry, any way to save money helps the bottom line. After all, there are a lot of expenses when opening a new restaurant. There are many expenses involved including paying for the business license, leasing or buying the property, building or remodeling the structure, hiring staff, buying equipment, insurance and of course buying restaurant furniture. It’s fair to say that buying commercial furniture online is cheaper than going to a brick and mortar store, even if it advertises itself as wholesale. The question is, is it worth the savings to buy furniture online?

The main advantage of buying furniture online is that you will almost always get a lower price. This is because the online retailer usually doesn’t have all the expenses of running a store. They don’t have to pay rent for the showroom and don’t have many of the other expenses of having a store. Of course there are some websites that cater to high-end customers so it’s not always a given that  the price will be cheaper online, but if you are buying premium quality furniture, most likely the price will also be high in a retail store.

The other main advantage to buying restaurant furniture online is that there is usually a larger selection. Many online websites have the furniture stored in warehouses or they source them from the manufacturer once the order is placed.  Retail stores usually have a limited selection of furniture on stock and can only display a limited selection in their showroom, if for no other reason than lack of space. You will typically not be able to see dozens of different models of restaurant chairs or bars stools like you would online at a restaurant furniture website.

In addition to the selection when you browse online, many websites will let you see different option such as different finishes, upholsteries and styles. The more sophisticated websites will generate the images with different options, while most will at least show you the different colors and stains. Of course the disadvantage to this is sometimes the colors look different online than they do in person. This is one of the main advantages to buying furniture directly from the store. Another issue is quality.

It’s often difficult to determine if the furniture is good quality unless you visually inspect it in person. For this reason and to ensure that the color is what you expect, it’s a good idea to request a sample if you are planning on buying online. Many online retailers are willing to do this. They will often send you a free sample. Some will not ship out free samples but will refund the customer if they are not happy with the furniture once they ship the sample back. Some online retailers will have a showroom, but to see the entire selection of their products, you will need to go their website.

If you plan on buying commercial furniture online, it’s a good idea to research the company before you purchase from them. Read the about section on their website. Also read their policy section carefully. What is their return policy? How do they charge for shipping? Check for their warranty policy.

One of the disadvantages to purchasing online is the shipping costs. If you buy from a store, you will still have to transport the furniture and unless you own a truck, it will still be expensive, but not as expensive as if you bought the furniture online and the order has to be shipped a long distance.  Some website will offer free shipping on certain products. The other disadvantage to buying online is the shipping time is usually longer. It typically takes 2-3 weeks to receive an order online whereas a store can usually deliver in a few days if they have the product in stock. If you are buying online, call and ask when delivery can be expected. Also ask to be notified once the order is shipped and request a tracking number.

In the end, as a business owner, you will need to decide if the pros of buying online outweigh the cons of buying in a store. If you want to save money and have a bigger selection you should buy online, but know the risks. If you need the furniture fast and want to inspect the quality and are willing to pay more, it’s best to go to a store.

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