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Unexciting is good – we won’t see virtual furniture for some time

I happened to notice a tweet from Inland Valley Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen. (For those who are not familiar with the newspaper, it is based in my hometown of Ontario, California.) Allen said the following as part of his tweet:

Former Borders Books in Montclair gets a new, if unexciting, tenant: a furniture store.

Allen then linked to his column, “Furniture replaces fiction in Montclair.” The new tenant is Ashley Furniture, and the store is expected to open in April. Ashley Furniture will occupy (#OccupyFurniture) the space formerly used by Borders and by a Sport Chalet.

In the column, Allen (an avid reader) makes a comment regarding the change from a bookstore to a furniture store:

It’s good news for Montclair to fill such a high-profile vacancy, even if a furniture store isn’t going to add much to Montclair’s cultural standing.

I’m sure that many of you know the story of Borders Books, a company that started back in the day when people purchased physical books sold in bookstores. Borders, unlike other companies, was unable to successfully adapt to the new environment, in which virtual books are sold from web pages.

Despite Allen’s cultural concerns, the switch from bookstore to furniture store is actually a good thing. While it is possible to replace a physical book with a virtual one, it is difficult to replace a physical table or chair with a virtual one.

I say difficult, but not impossible. You can go to a website and order a chair or a table without ever setting foot in a physical store. The furniture that you receive, however, will be physical and not virtual, and it will take some time to arrive at your home (unlike a virtual book, which you can receive in seconds). And it’s certainly conceivable that you can use a 3-D printer to print a chair or table; again, the resulting furniture will be physical.

That having been said, it’s apparent that a brick-and-mortar furniture store may potentially enjoy better success these days than a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Even though the Ethan Allen (no relation) store in Montclair has also closed, along with the Borders and Sport Chalet. It’s fair to say, however, that Ashley Furniture enjoys a larger addressable market than the expensive furniture from Ethan Allen. Although if you’re so inclined, Ethan Allen has an online store also…

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