During the height of shutdowns and increased unemployment due to the pandemic, a nationwide consumer survey by Sullivans Home Furnishings revealed more than a third of Americans were still spending money on home decor.
“They wanted a change in scenery, they couldn’t go outside or they wanted to improve their emotional state, so those things we learned in the survey were really interesting on just how important home decor is in people’s lives,” Sullivans Director of Marketing Tawni Buhler said.
Sullivans began in Sioux Falls in the 1960s and is now a major distributor of home décor in the United States.
“Our clients consist of 10,000 independent retailers that are mainly of mom and pop shops around the country and then we also have national accounts that consist of some of your bigger box stores,” Buhler said. “Things you would see in Hobby Lobby, Wayfair, QVC, we have a much larger footprint than I think most people would expect.”
Many of Sullivan’s 6,500 home décor products are designed in house and sourced from all over the world.
“We have artists that work with us in China and the Philippines and in India are our primary markets, occasionally we go into Vietnam,” Sullivans Vice President of Operations, Digital Marketing and Sales Tim Thune said.
The company recently started producing its own line of canvas art at its massive Sioux falls facility, but the majority of its business is shipping its décor items all over the country.
“Where are you going to go when you can’t leave the house? You’re going to go online and that really benefited us tremendously,” Thune said.
In March, Sullivans facility started furloughing some of its 80 staff members in preparation for a major drop in sales, but by May, they saw a huge shift.
“We are having a second shift in the evening just to try and keep up with demand,” Thune said. “We’ve been able to keep business operational, we’ve been able to keep people employed but a lot of our competitors are in tougher markets where there are a lot more lockdowns a lot more inability to ship.”
They’ve been back at full staff since May and are now hiring more. Throughout the pandemic, Sullivans is constantly changing the way they do business.
“Everyone has to be really adaptable right now so we’ve revolutionized a lot of the things that we’re doing from eCommerce sales to creating new distribution channels and direct consumer markets,” Buhler said.
Because of the increased demand in online shopping during the pandemic, Sullivans also added some limited direct consumer sales. For the first time ever, individuals can go on to their website and make a small direct order from the Sioux Falls warehouse.