Leon’s Furniture Limited, Canada’s largest furniture and appliances retailer, is investing heavily in e-commerce to grow the company’s business in that platform.
It announced last week that Shopify will power all of its portfolio of online stores, including leon’s.ca, thebrick.com and furniture.ca on the Shopify Plus platform, which powers large and growing online stores and brands.
Edward Leon, President and CEO of Leon’s Furniture, told Retail Insider that the company has been in the e-commerce business for well over 20 years.
“Our sister company The Brick started in it before Leon’s did,” said Leon. “So we’ve had experience growing up in the business. It’s undeniable. Obviously there’s continued increased interest and awareness around what the web can do for both the retailer and the consumer at large. It’s something that we’ve embraced and wanted to expand our capability.”
Leon said the company is also working on the development of dedicated apps that will significantly improve customers’ online shopping experience. Some of these enhancements include intelligent room planners, virtual decorating, and augmented reality capabilities where shoppers can place items from the online store against a backdrop of their own rooms. Additional features that will be offered to customers on LFL’s online stores include instant deferred payment options, and enhanced delivery features.
“Emerging technologies and changing shopping behaviour forces retailers to re-think how they operate and transform their business to create a truly seamless shopping experience between the online website and traditional brick and mortar store. To win in the retail space, and specifically in the industry segment in which LFL operates, requires mastering both our chain-wide in-store customer experience and our e-commerce offerings across all of our online properties,” said Leon.
Leon’s Furniture Limited is the largest retailer of furniture, mattresses, appliances and electronics in Canada and operates under the following retail banners: Leon’s; The Brick; The Brick Mattress Store; and The Brick Outlet. With the Midnorthern Appliance banner alongside the Appliance Canada banner, it is also the country’s largest commercial retailer of appliances to builders, developers, hotels and property management companies. LFL has 304 retail stores from coast-to-coast in Canada.
Leon said the company selected Shopify partly because of what it could offer Leon’s but also because of “their willingness to want to be the leaders in terms of refining that customer experience.”
“It aligned itself well with what we were trying to do and so right from the get go it seemed like a very natural partnership,” he said.
“Times are changing especially with the demographics of a younger crowd. More tech savvy. More comfortable dealing over the web than perhaps more traditional customers. It was very obvious to us that we had to be strong because we are Canada’s leader. We are the largest retailer in our category of goods and we’re obviously very protective of that and we don’t want to go backwards. We want to lead the way. So that’s what this whole initiative is about.”
In Canada, in Leon’s industry, e-commerce sales are tracking less than five per cent of the overall business that’s being done which is about half of what it is in the U.S., explained Leon.
“If you want to include accessories and all home furnishing like products, if that’s a $17 billion business, you can do the math to find the size of the market today and potentially where it can be,” he said. “I think we’ve lagged behind the U.S. for many years but I think you’re going to see in the next few years us shortening that gap – the difference between what percentage of business is done online in our industry here versus what it is in the U.S.”
Leon said there are still markets in the West, particularly for Leon’s, and in the East, for The Brick, that the company can grow its physical footprint across the country.
“We might downsize some of our physical requirements from what we have historically done because part of the e-commerce strategy is to augment the in-store experience by means of opening up a virtual unlimited showroom to consumers and therefore not requiring the size of the showrooms that we had in the past which all plays well because in retail your cost of operation is critical to your success and unfortunately rents aren’t coming down too quickly any time soon,” said Leon.
“We have to be mindful of always expanding in a profitable, long-term way that makes sense. And we believe a smaller footprint in addition to whatever augmentation we can add through the web or digital experience in-store is something we’re going to invest in a big way.”