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Out with the New, in with the Old

Used and antique furniture is sustainable, unique and affordable, and auction houses are gaining traction as viable alternatives to big-box stores.

Photo by Rob Brink

Furniture helps turn your house into a home, and online markets have made it easier than ever to find that perfect piece that pulls a room together. Purchasing new furniture may be convenient, but buyers are coming around to the idea of used furniture as a sustainable and stylish alternative. Furniture sales listed on Barnebys in 2020 increased over 137% from the year before, with most interest coming from users aged 65 and up.

There is a good reason for this interest. So-called ‘fast furniture’ generates tonnes of waste every year, and pieces are often made with light, inferior materials like particleboard to reduce overhead and shipping costs. Buying used or antique furniture has a significantly lower environmental impact, and keeps serviceable pieces from ending up in the landfill. Although stores like IKEA or retailers like Wayfair are inexpensive, higher-quality, used pieces are available at every price point, even under £100. Buying from second-hand markets also means that you can find unique pieces that add character to your home, rather than joining the ranks of thousands with identical, mass-produced furniture.

Even with all these benefits, auction houses and antiques dealers still have to compete with large chain stores selling new furniture. IKEA is the world’s largest furniture company, with more than 800 million customers visiting their stores in 2020, while Wayfair is one of the biggest online-only home goods retailers, with more than 20 million active customers. Much of their success comes from their convenience – it is easy to search and compare options, look up product pictures and exact dimensions, and read reviews. Furniture ships right to your door, and some companies even offer same-day delivery.

Small, independent companies may not have the infrastructure to compete with these international corporations, but they can offer superior products and services to attract customers. Having an accessible website, clear information on buying and bidding, options for shipping and great customer service all serve to create an unparalleled shopping experience.

Using software such as Skeleton helps auction houses make their sales more accessible to buyers, and streamlines the auction process from cataloguing to shipping. The user-friendly layout makes bidding less intimidating for first-time buyers, and shopping is simple and intuitive. Similarly, browsing and comparing items from different sellers onBarnebysmakes it easy to find the perfect piece in your location and price range.

The online auction market is changing rapidly, offering greater convenience and becoming more accessible for new buyers. The next time you’re furniture shopping, consider purchasing pieces at auction for an affordable and sustainable alternative to items from big-box stores. One final bonus that may clinch the deal? You’ll never have to assemble furniture from an unwieldy IKEA flat-pack again.


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