/   June 4, 2020

‘This year you won’t be buying DTC suitcases’: The Inside founder Christiane Lemieux on why home brands are seeing a boom

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Retail stores are slowly reopening, but Christiane Lemieux, founder of the DTC furniture brand The Inside, still thinks people will want to invest most in the place they’re spending most of their time: the home.

“What you will be doing is focusing your time and disposable spend on making your home into everything it should be — not only for now, but for what the future of our lives is going to look like,” Lemieux said on the Modern Retail Podcast (people are spending so much time in doors, in fact, that Lemieux thinks a baby boom will hit in January).

The Inside meets its demand through a “made to order” model — a piece of furniture isn’t built until a customer buys it online.

“I think ‘made on demand’ is the manufacturing of the future,” said Lemieux. “It’s so much better for the environment. There’s no warehouses full of imported product just sitting there.”

In her case, it’s also made the company more resistant to the supply chain disruptions roiling the world. “Having a domestic manufacturing base has allowed us to continue to produce even during this particular and very challenging situation.”

“We don’t make anything until you place your order. There’s people in my cohort who do the same thing with shampoo and vitamins. It’s in every category at this point,” Lemieux said.

One or two of The Inside’s factories still had to shut down — one on the U.S.-Mexico border, the other in Illinois — until the national policy that deemed manufacturers to be an essential service allowed them to operate again, according to Lemieux.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Note: This interview was recorded before the wave of protests that has swept the U.S. in response to George Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day. The conversation thus does not contain any reference or discussion of the most current events.

Home is where the wallet is
“When you think about home, over the last nine weeks that category has taken on a complete new significance. This year, you won’t be traveling around the world, buying direct-to-consumer suitcases, eating at restaurants, staying in hotels and all of these other things. You probably won’t have the same Uber or Lyft bill. What you will be doing is focusing your time and disposable spend on making your home into everything it should be — not only for now, but for what the future of our lives is going to look like. Anybody who thinks quote unquote ‘we’re going back to normal’ is not coming to serious grips with what normal is going to look like.”

Just-in-time production
“I think ‘made on demand’ is the manufacturing of the future. It’s so much better for the environment. There’s no warehouses full of imported product just sitting there. In a scenario like this particular pandemic, think about the people whose entire supply chain is based overseas. They’re running up against inventory problems now because they actually can’t get their product. Having a domestic manufacturing base has allowed us to continue to produce even during this particular and very challenging situation.”

Investors and pro tips are a package deal
“I didn’t have investors in 2009 [during the financial crisis], and I have investors this time. The really great thing about having investors this time around is the amount of knowledge they provide their founders with. Whether it’s forums or legal help or understanding the SBA or the PPP, it’s pretty extraordinary how helpful they can be and how helpful other founders can be to founders. The difference with the financial crisis and this particular situation that we’re in now is that they obviously affected totally different sectors. Some of the challenges we faced in the financial crisis were access to credit and capital in any way. The banks were like, ‘okay, loans? Done.’ Navigating through this crisis is a little different.”

A new baby boom?
“I joke that I want to get into the baby and kids category as quickly as possible because there’s going to a baby boom, obviously, in January. It’s already sort of trending that way. As responsibly and as quickly as I can enter categories, that’s what I would like to do, just because the whole home is going to be our focus, for all of us.”

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