Online furniture shop turns one, seeks to up Pinoy craftsmanship to next level

The shopITOOH founding team (from left): Jules Veloso, chief executive officer; Andrew Orlan S. Bercasio, chief operating officer; and Enah B. Igual, business development head.

BUYING a furniture is like purchasing a car given the buyers’ mindset of having the need to see, touch, feel and test it out first. With the ever-evolving e-commerce landscape, however, it has paved the way for consumers to now shop for furniture pieces at a push of a button.

“It happens in Europe and in the US. People just click and add to cart whatever furniture [they like to buy]. So we are looking for that transition here as well,” shopITOOH Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Andrew Orlan S. Bercasio told reporters during their recent briefing in Makati City.

ALON Lounge Chair from Jed Yabut Furniture & Design.

Together with his colleagues, they established and started operating such e-commerce platform for anything and everything homestyle in July 2021, the time when mobility of people was highly restricted amid the government-imposed lockdowns at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Seeing that more Filipinos were turning into the digital space for their daily necessities, they realized also their need for some home improvements to make their living space more healthy and conducive to stay or work in as they were stuck at their abodes due to community quarantines.

“What we know so far is that there are 26 million households in the Philippines, growing at an average rate of 2.6 percent per year. And in 2025, we’ll hit nearly 29 million households. Fifty-two percent are those in the lower middle income to upper income households, including the rich. These are households that have increasing disposable income, and they represent our serviceable, addressable market,” shopITOOH Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jules Veloso said of the computations from microdata of the family income and expenditure survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

This holds true with data from Fitch Solutions, which show that furniture spending in the Philippines is expected to grow faster at 8.1 percent than any other key consumer goods category; and Euromonitor International’s sales projection for local home furnishing retail to increase by double-digit in 2023, reaching a total of $4.6 billion. Despite these positive outlooks, however, consumers still experience several pain points, including the lack of assortment, poor vetting, and slow delivery.

“With our online showroom of carefully-curated furniture pieces, shopITOOH has transformed the way Filipinos shop for their homes. Our culture of product obsession coupled with industry trends will help us grow further and even expand our reach,” she said.

Elevated home shopping experience

THE Filipino-owned vertical e-commerce start-up has marked a breakthrough year of changing furniture shopping in the country, with its technology constantly evolving to provide better customer experience and, at the same time, elevate the status and standards, as well as broaden the market of the local furniture industry.

Buyers can now search from a wide array of meticulously curated categories from shopITOOH’s 69 merchants—of which 40 percent are locals—and over 3,000 furniture pieces and home decor handcrafted by local artisans and expert furniture makers nationwide. These products are vetted by designers and artists assuring only the finest and best quality pieces are sold on the platform.

“[So if] you want to finally invest in a dining table that you can use for the next 30, 40 or 50 years that you can pass on to the next generation in your family, we might probably have a piece or two that you can look into. So that’s really where we stand,” Bercasio said.

Changing the way Filipinos furnish their homes, this marketplace offers a comfortable and elevated experience of shopping chic designer home pieces that befit their discriminating tastes and budget. Its photo gallery presents stylish pieces in stunning detail to help consumers visualize how each of them would look in their homes, complete with descriptions, exact measurements, and even maintenance instructions.

“Like how they have done the curation, how they have presented all their furniture pieces in their web site is actually very, very well thought out, which to me is also a burning experience because I just launched my new web site as well,” said Jed Yabut, CEO of Jed Yabut Furniture & Design, one of the local furniture makers onboard the platform.

“That’s how we actually do it for furniture e-commerce business. There’s a lot of things that can be improved in my side in terms of the merchant side which have already fulfilled on their end, and I think that’s what we need in the Philippines as well.”

Impressive milestone

CURRENTLY, shopITOOH caters mostly Bohemian or eclectic designed furniture pieces to customers between 25 and 45 years old in the National Capital Region and Greater Manila Areas.

“They’re really those people who are transitioning, meaning settling down, moving up in the corporate ladder, moving to like a bigger apartment, or looking for like a more investment pieces,” the COO said of their main target markets considered as digital natives who are adept in using their online shop and a variety of secure payment gateways, such as Paymongo, Paymaya, and Atome.

Open to a broader pocket size market, the web site offers the most affordable item that is a ceramic vaulted candle holder at P40 up to investment-worthy P270,000 bed frame.

“That’s full range. You don’t have to be like on a certain spending trajectory in your life to be able afford what we have on the web site,” Bercasio said. “What we’re trying to do is essentially put together all these very unique brands and sort of give people that option and opportunity to shop for one place.”

While the platform services individual consumers, corporate clients looking for the best quality of furniture pieces for their offices, hotels, and other establishments can also find well-crafted designs suited for every room.

“We are now getting a lot of organic orders. We haven’t launched B2B [business-to-business] yet, but obviously we’re now getting inquiries from B2B and it’s about talking to interior designers, talking to procurement officers. So in terms of where we are in this part of journey, we’re obviously profit making. We’re now entering growth phase. We’re now getting month-on-month increase in terms of transactions and also in traffic,” Veloso bared, while citing their 60 percent average monthly growth rate in terms of gross merchandise value.

The most searched home furniture in the portal at present falls under the living room category, which are made out of wood and rattan. shopITOOH Cofounder and Business Development Head Enah B. Igual revealed: “It’s really the accent chair and the sofa. That’s the two most-purchased pieces on the platform.”

Proudly Filipino

AS a homegrown start-up, shopITOOH has made it its mission to support local craftsmen and artisans considering that the furniture industry is now competing head-to-head with Indonesia and Vietnam in terms of exportation.

“Vietnam is really a big competitor and Indonesia is the place to go right now [when it comes to] value for money for furniture for the big, big importers from America,” said Matthew Brill, director of Prizmic & Brill, one of the merchant-partners of shopITOOH. “And what’s happening now is we really all move up to the high-end market. There’s very few Filipino exporters that are selling to K-Mart or there’s only a couple left on the side of the Target. We‘re really super high-end now because we can’t beat cost-wise and in the middle markets.”

While local furniture players are competing with its neighbors—price-wise—they still have competitive advantage to remain ahead of the game, according to Yabut. He said: “In terms of the design, I think the Philippines is very competitive, especially with the young furniture designers that we have right now… I wish that more, with ITOOH, for example, when you’re trying to democratize and digitizing furniture e-commerce, this will lead to more open arenas as well for young designers to at least help and give more pride to the Philippines in terms of competitive advantages in designs.”

True enough, shopITOOH brings a holistic home design experience by working with interior designers, architects, and the best craftsmen. It has also partnered with various groups, like the Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines, to ensure that each piece of furniture showcased is the best in the market. This portal also offers interior design services in partnership with Grupo Santamaria.

“If more Filipinos know the value of locally-designed furniture pieces, then more and more young generations will be interested to get into that space because they see the value for it. So, hopefully, as we work with local merchants we become like the conduit for them,” Igual pointed out.

Future endeavors

TO continue to reshape the Filipino furniture shoppers’ journey, shopITOOH keeps on providing them a hassle-free and frictionless customer shopping experience.

One of which is its soon-to-be-launched enhanced catalog that will provide 3D product visualization and image scripting. Customers can also look forward to its upcoming venture into arts, gift registry, and product customization.

More Filipino craftsmen and artisans are poised to join the platform that will soon serve beyond Metro Manila and Luzon as it’s set to expand to other cities like Cebu, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro.

“We are excited to roll out our growth plans and strategies. We believe that there is a huge demand for our service in many parts of the country and we’re targeting to bring shopITOOH to  key cities in the Visayas and Mindanao very soon. We also have an ambitious goal of expanding our reach to other territories in the region,” the CEO said, while sharing their target to hit 100 merchants by end of the year and 250 in 2023.

“In the next three to five years, we also plan to take over the world as we do because that’s what millennial start-ups think. But that’s something that we feel strongly that we will be able to fulfill,” Bercasio added. “I think Europe is particularly very attracted with anything that’s essentially made of wood or Southeast Asian-like furniture. So we’re looking at that for B2B in particular for the buying market. But the expansion for B2C [business-to-consumer] is definitely Southeast Asia.”

To celebrate its first birthday, shopITOOH is offering up to 50-percent off on select products. Installment options are also available for shoppers on a budget.

“Our first anniversary is a celebration of design, our local roots, and our ambitious goals. We are excited to bring in more partners into our platform and provide more products and services to our shoppers,” the COO stressed.

Image credits: Contributed photo


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