It’s that time of year when kids are heading back to school, others are graduating or just moving house, and millions of individuals are shopping for new furniture. Increasingly, people are buying stuff like sofas and dressers—things they used to test out in person—on the internet, thanks to the free shipping and low prices offered by e-commerce sites like Wayfair and Amazon.
The stock price of Wayfair, which only sells household goods and only online, provides a dramatic illustration of the I-don’t-need-to-sit-on-it-first trend among furniture shoppers. Since going public in October 2014, shares of the online home goods company have more than doubled.
Founded in 2002 as CSN Stores, Wayfair generated over $1 billion in revenue last quarter, up more than 40% from the same quarter the previous year. The company owns a host of other sites with varying brands—including Joss & Main, Birch Lane, and AllModern—but all effectively cultivate the idea that they are the place on the web to get affordable, attractive furniture. And Amazon is, well, Amazon. It’s on its way to becoming the internet’s general store; furniture is just one of the many items it stocks.
It’s worth considering, once you’ve found that perfect settee or armchair on Wayfair, any of its sister sites, or really anywhere else on the web—are you getting the best price for that furniture? Do you even know what you’re purchasing?
We decided to find out. After analyzing a random selection of items on Wayfair, Quartz discovered that the company often lists what appear to be identical products with different prices across its sister sites, often with completely different names. To make matters more confusing, those same pieces of furniture can often be found on completely different websites, like Amazon, or department store sites like Walmart or Sears, with different names again, and different prices.
Here are a few examples Quartz came across (prices were accurate at the time of publishing, but can often change day-to-day):
Wayfair: Raleigh Fabric Settee ($188.99)
AllModern: Dubin Fabric Settee ($205.99)
Joss & Main: Decan 51″ Settee ($192.99)
Amazon: Dumont Mid Century Modern Fabric Loveseat Sofa Settee (Beige) ($239.99)
Walmart: Dumont Mid Century Modern Fabric Loveseat Sofa Settee, Beige ($239.99)
Wayfair: Bryson 5 Piece Dining Set ($194.99)
AllModern: Bryson 5 Piece Dining Set ($194.99)
Joss & Main: 5-Piece Delano Counter Dining Set ($189.99)
Amazon: Simple Living Delano Two-tone 5-piece Wood Dining Set by Simple Living ($172.91)
Sears: Target Marketing Systems Delano 5 Piece Dining Table Set ($230.82)
Walmart: 5-Piece Delano Dining Set, Natural (
Wayfair: Avey Platform Bed ($94.99)
AllModern: Charlotte Platform Bed ($112.99)
Birch Lane: Avey Platform Bed ($108.99)
Joss & Main: Ivy Platform Bed ($106.99)
Amazon: Zinus Modern Studio 14 Inch Platform 1500H Metal Bed Frame / Mattress Foundation / Wooden Slat Support / with Headboard, Twin ($95.00)
Wayfair: Revere Computer Desk with Hutch ($169.99)
Birch Lane: Revere Computer Desk with Hutch ($218.65)
Joss & Main: Verona Computer Desk & Hutch ($224.99)
Amazon: Sauder Shoal Creek Computer Desk in Diamond Ash ($184.99)
Sears: Sauder Shoal Creek Desk ($188.76)
Walmart: Pemberly Row Computer Desk in Diamond Ash ($218.99)
Wayfair: Maui 81″ Arched Floor Lamp ($117.49)
AllModern: Dycus 81″ Arched Floor Lamp ($118.99)
Joss & Main: Sophia Floor Lamp ($109.99)
Amazon: Milton Greens Stars Sophia Adjustable Arc Floor Lamp with Marble Base, 81-Inch, Black ($98.95)
Sears: Milton Greens Stars Adjustable Arc Floor Lamp with Marble Base in Black ($144.01)
Walmart: Milton Greens Sophia Arc Floor Lamp ($98.95)
Wayfair: Adrienne Sleeper Sofa ($447.99)
AllModern: Adrienne Sleeper Sofa ($499.99)
Joss & Main: Adrienne Sleeper Sofa ($429.99)
Sears: Dorel Sunset Hills Grey Linen Convertible Futon ($447.99)
Walmart: Dorel Home Sunset Hills Futon, Gray Linen (
Wayfair: Gilliard Ladder 72″ Leaning Bookcase ($102.45)
AllModern: Gilliard Ladder 72″ Leaning Bookcase ($102.45)
Birch Lane: Gilliard Ladder 72″ Leaning Bookcase ($102.45)
Joss & Main: Stoneham 72″ Leaning Bookcase ($105.99)
Amazon: Convenience Concepts American Heritage Bookshelf Ladder, Black ($67.35)
Wayfair: Doylestown Blue Area Rug ($87.99)
AllModern: Doylestown Blue Area Rug ($91.57)
Birch Lane: Doylestown Blue Area Rug ($91.11)
Joss & Main: Claire Rug ($83.77)
Amazon: Traditional Persian Vintage Fancy Blue Runner Area Rugs, 2 Feet 8 Inches by 12 Feet (2′ 8″ x 12′) ($95.00)
Wayfair: Broadridge Round End Table ($65.99)
AllModern: Broadridge Round End Table ($76.99)
Birch Lane: Broadridge Round End Table ($76.99)
Joss & Main: Cheyanne End Table ($69.99)
Amazon: Golden Finished Sleek Glass Surfaced Alsager End Table ($81.99)
There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason behind Wayfair’s branding and pricing decisions across its companies. Sometimes a product has the same name on different sites, sometimes it does not; sometimes Wayfair is more expensive than its other brands, sometimes it’s the cheapest. A representative for Wayfair told Quartz that each of its brands runs its own independent merchandising and pricing strategy “to create a unique brand experience,” and that things like the average order value or basket size is taken into consideration when pricing goods.
Wayfair explained the difference between a few of its brands to Quartz:
We have brands in the mid-range that focus on different styles—for example Birch Lane features traditional home furnishings while AllModern features contemporary furnishings. And we have one brand that is very broad-based across many price points (Wayfair).
Wayfair said its brands set pricing strategies similar to how traditional retail chains do. TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Home Goods, for instance, sell many similar items, but they are all owned by the holding company, TJX Companies. Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, which force shoppers to physically drive between locations to price shop, internet retailers can’t obfuscate their prices through inconvenience. People can look on one website, open a new tab, and check a product’s price on another site. Online retailers can, however, change around their products’ names, or hope you won’t bother cross-checking their other brands’ sites.
It can be quite difficult to find the same product on other sites, especially when the names are changed. For this story, I chose a dozen random items from Wayfair, and scoured its sister sites until I found an identical picture of another product. Occasionally, when stumped, I ran a Google reverse image search to see if items popped up anywhere else.
That’s how I first noticed that many of the same items were available with different names elsewhere across the web. I was even able to search product descriptions I’d found on other sites to find the furniture listed on Amazon, as was the case with the dining set above, which appeared for sale from five different retailers on Amazon. Wayfair doesn’t claim its products are exclusive—it is no digital Ikea—but there’s a certain lifestyle aesthetic it seems to be pushing that suggests a world of quality and class above Walmart or Sears.
Much like when Quartz uncovered that Amazon sells items from dozens of house brands that it doesn’t make clear are Amazon properties, it’s not always obvious who makes the products customers buy online or where they are produced. In the case of this furniture, it’s likely that many products are available on so many sites because they’re produced by a few low-cost distributors in China or another exporting country and are repurposed for each retailer’s needs. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, it’s worth researching whether your retail site of choice is selling you what you want for the lowest available price, or if it’s really all that special.
Then again, you could just go to a regular old store and sit on it.