When COVID-19 hit in 2020, many manufacturers closed. Skyline Furniture Manufacturing, which creates furniture for Top 1000 retailers such as Wayfair, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Target and West Elm, turned to augmented reality technology. AR offers opportunities beyond the retailer-consumer relationship. It helped them keep up with the surge of demand for furniture as people stayed at home and were eager to upgrade their home furnishings.
Augmented reality has shortened the manufacturing lifecycle, says Meganne Wecker, president of Skyline.
“With AR technology, we’re able to do so much more and faster,” Wecker says. “We can show retailers detailed renderings of possible designs and view close-ups of fabric.”
The Top 1000 is Digital Commerce 360’s database ranking the largest North American online retailers by web sales. Target ranks No. 5, Wayfair ranks No. 7, and Bed Bath & Beyond ranks No. 30.
Virtual renderings replace Skyline Furniture’s static photography
Skyline Furniture uses 3D rendering technology from vendor ALL3D. Using this technology, Wecker says the company was able to show its buyers/retailers virtual walkthroughs during a period when retailers shut down physical locations. . And while many retailers still don’t include virtual walkthrough visuals on their website, Skyline was able to use the virtual renderings to create lifestyle photography as static content for its clients like Wayfair.
“It is much more visually interesting than a plain white background and the product up front,” Wecker says.
Skyline Furniture creates proprietary products for retailers like West Elm or Wayfair, and demand is still high. With supply chain delays and raw material shortages, Wecker says Skyline positioned itself to source materials within the U.S. early on. Overall sales have increased 40% from 2021 compared with 2020.
To offset supply chain delays, Skyline Furniture shifts to U.S.-based suppliers where it can
Wecker says shifting to suppliers within the U.S. has allowed the furniture manufacturer to remain somewhat insulated from many of the disruptions happening worldwide. Based in Illinois, Wecker says Skyline is winning business from those looking to buy domestically.
“We spent the larger part of 2020 and 2021 really trying to onshore a lot of our big raw materials from overseas,” Wecker says. “We do still buy some materials from all over the world — we buy wood from Vietnam, for example — and in those cases, we just buy more at once, so we have it.”
“Retailers want to avoid supply chain issues,” she says.
Skyline has started doing more business with higher-end retailers in the last year.
“We were very focused on mass retail,” Wecker says. “But we have recently moved toward specialty retail that hits a higher price point.”
The manufacturing lifecycle is changing because of augmented reality technology, says Amra Tareen, CEO and co-founder of ALL3D. Manufacturers can adjust chair legs or fabric colors with a few clicks. They then send the rendering instead of manufacturing a chair and hiring a photographer, she says. ALL3D charges $110 per 3D model with customers ranging from thousands of SKUs to smaller clients with 20 SKUs.
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