Anyone who has purchased furniture for their office, apartment or home would agree it can be a long, arduous process. Once you’ve gone through the time and effort to measure the space, compare and select the pieces you need, you often have to wait weeks, even months, for them to arrive at your doorstep. But new direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands like Sundays are designed to streamline the process and develop multipurpose products that can adapt as consumers’ needs change.
Sundays was founded in November 2019 by Barbora Samieian, Noah Morse, Sara Samieian, and Moe Samieian Jr., all of whom are retail and design veterans with 20+ years of furniture industry experience. But it was the stress Barbora Samieian felt while shopping for furniture after the birth of her first child that made her think there was an opportunity to completely rethink furniture design and merchandising.
“When we moved back to Canada from New York, we had our first kid, so our place was slightly bigger,” Samieian shared in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “And even though I was married to someone who had worked in the furniture business for a long time, I found the whole experience of shopping for furniture so overwhelming. You walk into these stores and there’s so much variety — different qualities and different styles.”
Samieian wondered if a more curated approach to furniture design, like when designers release capsule collections, would provide an attractive alternative. “I find myself to be a bit of a minimalist,” Samieian noted, “so we thought we could curate a high-quality collection where all the pieces could either work together or on their own — and that could reduce the overwhelm.”
The co-founders took the idea and ran with it, meeting on Sunday mornings to develop their brand vision and collection. Beyond the obvious tie-in to our “day of rest,” the name Sundays is inspired by the ease and feeling of home Samieian and her co-founders hope to create for consumers: “We love the idea of how Sunday morning feels: it’s just such a great day because you feel most at home,” she said. “That’s why the ethos behind our brand is making every day feel as relaxing as Sunday morning.”
Owning the Entire Customer Experience
The founders’ strong furniture design chops has allowed Sundays to develop more than 50% of its products in-house and to prioritize simplicity and multifunctionality. By building its products with high-quality materials, Sundays has been able to build trust and scale its business. As a result, it has been able to maintain its DTC model and ensure it can keep its competitive pricing and own the entire customer experience — from delivery to installation.
In fact, Sundays offers free shipping for every piece of furniture delivered, as well as free white-glove service. “We love doing this for a few reasons,” Samieian said. “Obviously, it makes for a better customer experience but we also believe that it helps reduce returns, because it eliminates the frustration that people feel when they have to put together a piece of furniture on their own.”
To get products from point A to point B, Sundays has developed relationships with local delivery partners in its key markers: Toronto, Ontario, Alberta, New York and Los Angeles. “The focus will be on taking a market-by-market approach so we can build those relationships with delivery partners and build some efficiencies as well,” noted Samieian. A logistics director who was hired in January 2022 focuses on assessing service-level agreements for these partners, conducts competitive analysis and examines customer data to gauge how fulfillment providers are performing.
Sundays was initially launched as an online-only DTC brand, and the co-founders had no plans to venture into physical stores. But because Samieian had another lease in Vancouver for Field & Social that she didn’t build out due to COVID-19 challenges, Sundays “popped in” to the space for approximately four months.
“We saw how much the brand resonated with our customers and how they could see the quality of the woods and see how well-made the sofas were,” Samieian explained. “Since then, we’ve opened permanent showrooms in both Vancouver and Toronto.”
Both showrooms started as pop-up concepts but have extended into long-term leases due to the significant growth Sundays has seen over the last two-plus years. During that time, Samieian and her colleagues learned a lot about the furniture shopping experience, including what consumers need to feel confident in their decisions.
“Particularly for our Vancouver location, which isn’t really in a high-traffic area, we don’t get as much walk-by traffic so we rely a lot on our social media, influencer activations and event partnerships in the space to let people know we’re there,” Samieian said. Shoppers who discovered the Sundays brand online were essentially “warm leads” that could gut-check their decisions and see the quality of products in person.
A Data-Driven Path to Expansion
Now, Sundays is focused on continuing its growth trajectory. Growing from five to 60 employees within an 18-month period, Sundays has onboarded a new director of marketing and a new art director to help guide the next phase of business growth, especially as it expands further into the continental U.S.
“We believe we’ve proven the concept in Canada and that the products are resonating with consumers,” Samieian said. “Now it’s about pushing into a bigger and more competitive market, which we’re excited about because we think we offer something niche in how we develop and curate our capsule collections and focus on in-house design.”
Samieian noted that physical environments will definitely play a role in the next phase of Sundays’ growth, and the team is using data to design the appropriate roadmap. After launching a successful experiential pop-up in New York City this past summer, Sundays is hosting another in Los Angeles starting Sept. 22, 2022.
Samieian believes that these physical spaces are key to getting to know a brand and that, for furniture especially, they are crucial to building trust. “The showroom has reinforced our appetite to drive ecommerce growth with some type of physical presence, so we have our eyes on a few pop-ups or showrooms in key markets, which would be New York and LA, and potentially Austin, Texas.”
Looking at a combination of population size and density, as well as warehouse locations, Sundays is developing a data-driven roadmap for growth. With warehousing in Washington State and New Jersey, the brand wants to be strategic and provide optimal coverage to ensure it can offer fast shipping speeds and meet customer expectations in those key markets.
Data also helps guide product expansion and refinement. The product team is always listening to customer feedback to find out how to adjust and merchandise its product offerings. For example, some showroom shoppers felt like the Movie Night sofa was a little too soft and unstructured. This feedback inspired Sundays to launch an entirely new, and more structured, product line.
In-store shopper feedback also helps the marketing and social teams determine how to best communicate Sundays’ approach to mixing wood finishes and other materials. “Of course, you get feedback through social and other digital channels, but physically being in stores with customers has been very helpful,” said Samieian.