Amazon got its start selling things that were easy to store and cheap to ship: books, CDs, DVDs, and while the online giant quickly expanded to offer just about anything, the website is still an afterthought in many shoppers’ minds for expensive, hard-to-ship items like appliances and furniture. That could soon change, as Amazon invests in infrastructure to ease the pain of storing and delivering these bulky products.
There are good reasons why furniture and large appliances haven’t been more of Amazon’s business. Aside from the inability for customers to try before they buy, there are issues of logistics. Shipping a sofa or washing machine often requires using delivery services other than Amazon’s typical USPS/UPS/FedEx arrangements. That usually translates into delivery times that are a lot longer than the speedy 2- or 3-day windows that Amazon touts for many of its offerings.
These sort of challenges are why many furniture and home appliance retailers — both bricks-and-mortar and online — charge substantial fees for deliveries, even if they take weeks to arrive.
In spite of these challenges, the Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon is making some big investments to become a bigger player in the home furnishings sphere. This includes building at least four new warehouses explicitly for these larger items. The company believes it will be able to deliver items in as few as one or two days in certain markets.
While Amazon is sinking a lot of effort into the bulky items business, logistics experts tell the Journal that speedy deliveries nationwide would require about 12 such warehouses, plus more than 100 local facilities to break down and handle final delivery.
Amazon and others may also benefit from freight companies that are responding to the online retail boom by offering nationwide solutions for delivery of larger items. Some long-haul carriers are now offering “last mile” service to their customers, saving them the step of having to offload items to yet another company for final delivery. Some retailers, like Wayfair, have even launched their own delivery services for furniture. The hope for the industry — and consumers — is that as more retailers try to fulfill online furniture and appliance orders, shipping should become faster and more affordable.