It’s no secret that online searches for furniture and furnishings have gone through the roof since the UK first went into lockdown – but which terms have outperformed the rest, and where does consumer interest currently stand? John Warburton investigates …

It’s fair to say it’s been a mad old 12 months. Thankfully, for those of us in interiors, which is my specialist sector, we have had the chance to experience a little of the silver lining of this big, fat, horrible cloud that still lingers.

To be more precise, it’s online where we’ve seen some record-breaking growth in the last 12 months – from those retailers with the infrastructure to fulfil orders remotely and continue operating throughout the corona-fart.

An interesting way to look at how consumer activity has changed over the last 12 months is via the Google Trends platform, which shows data relating to specific search terms – there are 3.5 billion Google searches per day, and while these searches aren’t actual sales, they are a great indicator of consumer interest and purchase intent, as well as increased use and trust of online platforms for researching and buying furniture. 

The following findings are based on normalised Google data from the last five years. By way of an explanation, normalised data measures the popularity of a term – not the actual number of searches. A value of 100 is the peak popularity of the term, whilst a value of 50 would mean the term is half as popular. When I refer to percentages below, it is within this frame of values. 

Also, the data is specifically for UK searches within Google’s Home and Garden category. This is important to know – when we look at the keyword ‘home office’ below, we’re not seeing data skewed by people trying to find out how to send rude letters to Priti Patel. 

Dining furniture

Immediately following lockdown one, interest in dining furniture fell off a cliff. For the previous three years, searches for ‘dining chairs’ and ‘dining table’ had been increasing steadily at around +3% per year, but in March 2020 they plummeted to a new low – which is understandable, as entertaining was at the bottom of pretty much everyone’s list.

However, in May, as soon as the end of lockdown was in sight, people started looking to refresh their dining spaces (we’d had a long time to look at them!) and began searching for these items again, taking ‘dining chairs’ to a new high and showing a +45% increase against the same time in 2019. 

The term ‘dining table’ followed a similar trajectory in June, showing an identical +45% increase against the previous year as it became a hot search term.

But that wasn’t the end of it for dining furniture. In fact, this year, things have continued at a rate. December 2020 saw ‘dining table’ reach peak popularity. In 2021, January, February and March have seen a drop in interest, but the term is still being searched more than any other time in the last three years. 

Searches for ‘dining chairs’ have followed an almost identical trajectory. 

Cabinets

As far as furniture search terms go, ‘cabinet’ is a great one to look at – it can be combined in Google searches with many terms, such as ‘kitchen’, ‘bathroom’, ‘maker’ and ‘wooden’. 

In a similar manner to dining furniture, ‘cabinet’ saw a drop-off in March 2020, but then an immediate pick-up, reaching its highest-ever popularity as a search term in December 2020/January 2021. With only a couple of exceptions – August and Christmas week – searches including the term ‘cabinet’ have been consistently at their highest point for three years since March 2020.  

Home office

Searches for ‘home office’ began to grow steadily after the first lockdown and then jumped to a high in October 2020 – a +78% increase YoY. Interest then dropped sharply throughout November and December, until the announcement of Lockdown 3 took it to another high – +2% over October’s figure. Interest is currently waning, but still higher than almost all the previous three years. 

Home accessories 

Searches for the term ‘home accessories’ were on the decline throughout the second half of 2019 and the start of 2020, but, immediately following lockdown, interest surged. Within three weeks, searches for the term had doubled, and the upwards trend has continued into 2021, peaking at a five-year high in late January.

Bedroom furniture

The term ‘bedroom furniture’ traditionally peaks in the last week of December, but had been in decline for the last three years – falling an average of -8% YoY. That is until December 2020, when it bucked the trend and saw +24% growth against 2019. 

This article was published in the April 2021 issue of Furniture News magazine (see related).