In late 2019, four Vancouver-based Canadians came together to form the brand now known as Sundays, based on making furniture shopping feel like a Sunday morning. It offers free delivery on all items and free assembly on oversized items, and its showrooms are uniquely boutique, showcasing a limited and less intimidating variety of products—all to make the furniture shopping process stress-free.
Soon after Sundays’ establishment, the pandemic started, leading many businesses to struggle. Many retailers had to close stores or saw declining sales as demand for unnecessary items fell. For example, in December 2022, demand for soft goods like apparel, footwear, and accessories was down 15.7% from 2019. According to UBS, store closures were also at all-time highs in the early days of the pandemic, with an average of 1,800 stores closing each quarter in 2021. However, sales thrived for those in the home goods and furniture space, including Sundays’, and by September 2020, the founders realized they had a real opportunity to grow their business. What started with localized advertising, influencer partnerships, and a pop-up in Vancouver eventually led to expansion into Toronto, other Canadian cities, and the US.
The Showroom Impact
Last year, the company did a pop-up in New York City and at Shopify’s retail space in Los Angeles. In LA, it started to see the traction and opportunity for a more prominent presence in the US. So, about a month ago, the brand opened its first permanent store and US flagship in Seattle, a few blocks from Pike Place.
“We get lots of tourist traffic, but because we’ve got this sort of triple prong strategy where we’re driving advertising digitally, we find the traffic isn’t super high, but conversion is strong because people that come in have also often heard about us. They sort of know what pieces they’re after, and we also find in our showroom that AOV is about 30% higher than online,” shared Barbora Samieian, co-founder of Sundays. After the showroom’s opening, the company has also seen a ripple effect across channels in Seattle and around the US, indicating a more significant impact on the overall market.
In addition, these showrooms are not the typical furniture store. Many are, in fact, showrooms, meaning they display products but are not packed with inventory. The Toronto and Vancouver showrooms are significantly smaller than most furniture stores at only 2,500 square feet, which is a size usually attributed more to apparel brands.
In Seattle and Vancouver, the brand has partnered with local companies that display their products in the showroom. For example, Wilet (previously Flax Home), a bedding and linen brand in Vancouver, is used throughout the store on its beds. And in Seattle, Notary Ceramics has bowls, plates, and lighting on display and for sale in the showroom.
The US Market Opportunity
The pandemic massively inflated demand for home goods, and the industry is now seeing a correction; both TJX and Target have recently shared that home goods sales are declining or softening after a couple of years of immense growth. RH also touched on this in its latest financial report stating that “it’s clear that the stay-at-home restrictions of the pandemic created an exponential lift for home-related businesses, and it’s also clear the lift, like the pandemic, was a temporal isolated event versus something structural or systemic.” The company’s sales in 2022 were $3.590 million, down 4.5% from 2021’s $3.759 million.
However, for Sundays, despite seeing a similar effect in Canada, it has seen continued strength in significant part to its expansion into the US market. “We positioned it [Seattle showroom] as our flagship US location, and I think there is that halo effect of building more trust with customers when you have a physical location. So our US business continues to grow. We’re about 3X from where we were last year, and the US is still only about 30% of our total business. So, we’re primarily still in Canada, but the goal is to significantly grow into the US,” stated Samieian.
At the same time, the brand has improved its bottom line with the increased demand in the US market and the introduction of showrooms. In addition, there’s an efficiency effect of greater order values and more orders in the US market on shipping costs. Therefore, an immense opportunity awaits, providing the company can compete with existing furniture retailers across the US.
For a retailer that only came to life a few years ago, it’s shown impressive success in Canada and now in the US. It certainly had an advantage, but it has also proven it knows how to pivot and continue to grow when times become challenging. The company currently has four showrooms, and although it hasn’t shared plans for any other permanent showrooms, it will open another pop-up in NYC from July 5th to 15th.
Correction, May 31st, 2023: A previous version incorrectly stated the new NYC pop-up to be open from July 1st to 15th.