Home furnishing malls turn to smart scenarios amid pandemic
Self-adjusted lamps, as well as television sets and domestic appliances blending IKEA-style furniture arrangement have become a common configuration at local furniture and decoration malls amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus has driven people to pay more attention to home life. After Shanghai's long COVID-19 lockdown this year, residents' demands are now veering towards comfortable, convenient and healthy home products.
At a local smart house experiencing center of tech giant Huawei, the HarmonyOS system for its smart phone is applied to various automated home scenarios for dining, entertainment, bathing and sleeping.
After recognizing the voice of the master, the artificial intelligence system can quickly shift between different scenarios by adjusting the lighting, music and temperature as well as curtains.
Shanghai's furniture and home decoration firms are shifting to intelligent and high-end services to jointly cope with the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 resurgence.
Amid the pandemic, local brick-and-mortar furniture malls are turning to online platforms, while home furnishing companies are promoting life experience and smart home scenarios rather than just selling separate products, according to an action plan for the home furnishing sector released in Shanghai on Thursday.
As part of the city's Double Five Shopping Festival, hundreds of leading domestic furniture firms and malls, including local Yuexing and Global Harbor, set up a "Better Life Alliance" in Putuo District to get through the hard times together and try to restore businesses affected by the coronavirus.
Due to the COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai, the peak of household decoration consumption during the Spring Festival and Labor Day holidays vanished this year.
As the city emerged from its long lockdown in June, some furniture malls, such as a popular IKEA outlet in Xuhui, still had to suspend operation for a time to contain the spread of sporadic community cases.
Despite the great losses to the industry, the coronavirus has also brought new market opportunities, according to Xu Jinghong, vice president of Yuexing Group.
"Compared with the losses of the catering and tourism sectors, the demand for furniture consumption will not disappear but has just been delayed," explained Xu.
This has driven the "digital transformation" of the industry. For instance, many manufacturers have shifted their market promotion to new platforms such as Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) and other livestreaming sites.
China's major furniture manufacturers reported rising profits in the first half of the year. Their total profit stood at 17.48 billion yuan (US$2.6 billion), up 2.6 percent year on year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Four ministries jointly released an industrial guideline in August to support the high-quality development of the nation's home furnishing industry.
According to the guideline, about 50 famous home industry brands will be developed by 2025 with 500 "smart home experiencing centers" nationwide. A batch of intelligent furniture factories based on the 5G communications technologies will also be built.
"It is an unprecedented opportunity for the home furnishing industry," said Ding Zuohong, president of the China Furniture & Decoration Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Yuexing.
"Furniture and decoration companies should enhance cooperation with upstream and downstream partners to meet the personalized demands of customers."
The group has announced that all its 200 furniture malls and nearly 100 Global Harbor malls nationwide will shift their focus to home customization and intelligent services as well as high-end household appliances, such as central ventilation and heating and water purification systems.
Households in old residential communities and the Generation Z, or the tech-savvy youth, will become the new core customers of the group.
The city's ongoing Double Five Shopping Festival has given a powerful lift to the transformation of the home furnishing industry.
Sales of Red Star Macalline, another leading furniture and decoration mall in Shanghai, reached 300 million yuan in July and 400 million yuan in August during the local annual shopping frenzy.
Zhang Guohua, deputy director of the Shanghai Commerce Commission, noted that "home consumption" is an important part of the city's construction of an international consumption center.
Electrical appliances, home decoration, automobiles and life services are gradually upgrading and trending towards becoming intelligent, digital and environmental-friendly, Zhang added.