How sofa racks solve issues for furniture retailers

Each year, around 84 million tonnes of furniture is thrown away. Many of these items are sofas that people are replacing to make room for new ones. With so many sofas made each year, this also creates a high demand for sofa racks for furniture retailers.

The increasing demand for sofas

A number of changes to how people live have created a high demand for this living room essential. For a start, there has been an increase in the number of small one- or two-person households.

Over the last five years, the rented sector has shot up by 28.3%. A typical renter stays for 13 months compared to a homeowner’s 17 months. Many rented homes are unfurnished. Even when a home is furnished, renters often want some of their own furniture. A sofa is one of the key items in a living room and many renters want to buy their own.

Most sofas are bought from furniture retailers’ stores. This is mainly because people like to sit on the sofas before making a purchasing decision. However, there has been an increase in online sofa buying, especially ordering directly from sofa manufactures who offer the item at discount prices.

Where retailers store sofas

Major furniture retailers like Sofology, SCS and DFS have large retail stores in out-of-town retail parks where lots of sofas are displayed. These stores do not carry stocks of sofas, apart from those on display, so customers cannot take a couch home with them. There are exceptions to this though – some couches are available directly from IKEA and stores that sell surplus stocks of furniture will deliver directly to purchasers.

Usually, when you order a sofa, it will be manufactured in the retailer’s own factory or made for the retailer by a third-party manufacturer. The sofa will be dispatched directly from the manufacturer or via a warehouse owned by the furniture retailer.

Unlike most goods, many sofas are manufactured in the UK. For example. DFS sofas are made at its workshops in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

After a sofa is made, it has to be stored before the vehicle arrives to deliver it, so this is another point for the seller to consider.

How retailers store sofas

There are a lot of sofas that need to be stored before dispatching. The challenge is how to store them in an organised and efficient way in the available space. Unlike many items, sofas cannot simply be stacked one on top of the other. This is because of their shape and weight. If a sofa is placed on top of another one, it could damage the sofas. Also, should there be a need to remove the bottom one, you have to take off the top one first, making it an awkward process.

The solution is sofas racks. These are available in two- and three-tier models and are made from strong and durable tubular steel. They do not have solid shelves, and the top tiers have protruding tubular steel supports. Sofas can be easily lifted on or off any of the sofa rack levels with manual handling equipment or mechanised handling vehicles.

Bespoke solutions

There is no standard size sofa. Sofas can fit two, three or more people, and sofa backs differ in sizes between styles. Cushions depths vary too.

Sofa racks, like sofas themselves, are largely manufactured in the UK. Manufactures make racks in small batches using skilled metalworkers who bend and weld lengths of tubular steel to make storage equipment. This makes it economical to have bespoke sofa racks made to for non-standard sofas.

The best storage equipment manufacturers have in-house designers who visit furniture retailers to observe their sofa storage needs. They look at the types of sofas that are manufactured and the available storage space. They can make a prototype bespoke design in a short time. This can be tested out to see if it matches the requirements of the furniture retailer. After the prototype has been tested and approved or modified, a number of bespoke sofa racks are fabricated.

Why tubular steel?

Tubular steel has been used for decades. Tubular steel furniture was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Though there have been developments in the production of tubular steel since then, the way tubular steel is produced today remains very similar to how it was made in the early parts of the 20th century.

Tubular steel has four qualities that make it ideal for sofa racks:

1. It is lightweight – tubular steel is made from rolled sheet steel. It is hollow too, so for its volume, does not weigh a lot.

2. It does not rust or corrode – the tubular steel is powder coated, which protects it from rust and corrosion.

3. It is strong – as long as the welded joints are skilfully made, equipment fabricated from tubular steel is tough and durable.

4. It is economic for small orders – skilled metalworkers can quickly fabricate sofa racks. It is easy to modify designs, adjusts sizes and so on. No expensive retooling is needed for small production runs.

Tubular steel can easily be bent and shaped, and welds are strong so that lengths of tubular steel stay fixed together.

Other speciality equipment for the furniture retailer

Manufactures of sofa racks also make other specialist storage and manual moving equipment for the furniture retailer. Equipment to store chair components, mattresses, beds and flat-pack furniture is made by British manufacturers.

To move furniture around the warehouse, specialist trolleys are supplied to make moving easy and above all safe.

The future

Technology has changed many areas of life, but it is doubtful that people will stop using and buying sofas. There are futuristic chairs with inbuilt sound systems, massage features and electric reclining mechanisms, but many people would rather sit back next to their loved ones on a traditional sofa, or perhaps lie down or use a footstool for extra comfort.

Faced with a high demand for their sofas, furniture retailers will need more sofa to make their storage organised, efficient and safe.

Posted by Katrina
7th January 2019
Retail & Warehousing

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