The kitchens have been renovated. The living rooms have had a new look thanks to new furniture. Now that the “pandemic madness” is over, traffic is less at furniture stores, retailers confirm. And over the past year, sales have declined by 7.4%, according to Statistics Canada.

“We went from a market where people came to renovate the kitchen to a market where people come because the washer or dryer is broken,” observes David Larivière, executive vice-president of Germain Larivière stores.

If more expensive products like “reclining leather sofas” are still popular with consumers, since they want to buy more durable furniture, “popular” products like $1,000 couches and household appliances find much less takers. , supports the one who manages three stores in Saint-Hyacinthe, Brossard and Laval.

It’s not quite a return “to normal” compared to pre-pandemic years, he observes. “Due to inflation, sales are better than in 2019. But traffic is lower. It’s quieter than in 2019.”

In Quebec, Denis Croteau, general manager of Meubles Croteau, also recognizes that it is no longer the “madness” of the pandemic in his two stores. For his part, however, he feels like he is returning to a certain normality.

“We’re doing well,” he says, adding that his clients are perhaps a little less affected by the current economic context. “We still have a clientele made up of elderly people who have just sold their house, who no longer have a mortgage to pay. »

Furthermore, to attract more consumers, Germain Larivière is currently offering more discounts, a strategy which contrasts with that adopted in 2022, where many retailers who wanted to “secure their stocks” and who faced price increases in the Some suppliers offered few sales.

Not so long ago, “discounts were rare,” recalls Mr. Larivière. But currently, suppliers are offering us a lot of promotions. And for our part, we are cutting into our margins. We are on sale at the moment. We have more than we had in 2019.”

“It’s a good time for people to buy. They no longer need to wait for post-Christmas sales. We have continuous promotions. »

The BMTC Group has also reviewed its strategy in recent months. In the spring, Marie-Berthe Des Groseillers, president and CEO, recognized that times were tough for furniture retailers. And that they also had to fight against the Wayfairs and Amazons of this world.

The company invested in its online business and converted its 11 Brault stores in May

“It is difficult to predict future consumer behavior, however the results of recent quarters demonstrate a significant slowdown,” we read in the press release published by the company when unveiling its results. We can therefore expect a significant drop, if the trend continues. This is partly explained by the high rate of inflation in food, the cost of oil and the rise in interest rates which considerably reduce consumers’ wallets. »

“In addition, the company is aware that the increase in its results over the last two years comes in part from the fact that it has benefited from a transfer of consumer spending linked to the restrictions imposed by the different levels of government due to COVID-19, more specifically travel restrictions, the closure of restaurants and all forms of cultural and sporting entertainment, it is also stated. With these restrictions no longer placed on consumers, the company expects to see a shift in consumer spending toward these types of spending. »

Furthermore, as in many sectors, the labor shortage is harming the expansion plans of furniture retailers, confirms David Larivière, who, in these circumstances, is not ready at the moment to open a fourth store.

In March 2023, the company Gagnon Frères, which announced the closure of its store in Forestville, on the North Shore, notably mentioned the difficulty of recruiting employees, reported Radio-Canada. The retailer also closed its La Malbaie store in 2021 for the same reasons. It currently has two locations on the North Shore, three in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and one in Quebec.