The biggest furniture brand you’ve never heard of but probably seen

If you’ve ever purchased or researched furniture from a major national retailer, you’ve probably come across the Four Hands brand without even knowing it. But make no mistake, Four Hands is a major name in the furniture industry, generating nearly $500 million in revenue in 2021, surpassing the previous two years combined. Although best known as a “brand behind the brand”, or a brand praised by interior designers, due to social media they have become much more consumer-oriented in recent years.

Based in Austin, Texas, Four Hands employs a team of nearly 700 employees. There are additional distribution centers and showrooms located in High Point and Las Vegas, as well as offices in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Vietnam.

Originally founded as an international importer of antiques and crafts, Four Hands has grown to sell thousands of products in a variety of categories at many major national furniture retailers as well as boutiques in line such as Kathy Kuo and Paynes Gray. It has become a brand that stands out for its unique, high quality pieces that simply don’t look like a copycat of anything on the market.

I recently spoke with CEO Matthew Briggs, who joined Four Hands in 2001. He has played a major role in shaping the brand over the past two decades into the powerhouse it is today.

Amanda Lawrence: Four Hands currently has over 2000 different products, which is a very large number. How do you maintain such a large inventory with such an emphasis on quality and design?

Matthew Briggs: In 2006, Four Hands was just importing, finding things we liked and creating a look. But [then we started to realize] we were intermediaries, and that was not a formula for long-term success.

We realized that we had to become the creators of the supply chain. So we started hiring great product specialists and partnering with great designers. We have over 40 people working in the United States and we send them to all international trade shows in Paris, Cologne, Milan, Guadalajara and Mexico City, Miami, High Point and Vegas. And we have people who love furniture, who love the industry, and who are just looking for what’s interesting, and trends in their infancy.

The other thing is due to the longevity of the industry, the scale and the way we operate as a company, we have managed to partner with the best and most creative factories in the industry. Then do [nearly] all design in house.

We basically create the product from the first step. And that’s a huge differentiator in the industry, because there are a lot of people who don’t do any product development or research. They just copy what we do or what other creators in the industry are doing.

Lauren: How has social media influenced Four Hands to be more consumer-focused?

Brigg: Originally, we were sort of this brand behind the brands. But once we were on social media platforms like Instagram, everything was very organic. Designers would start calling us and tagging us because I think the whole industry has become more transparent.

I think it’s a great example of how the industry has evolved in a really good way. When I started, it was all about secrecy, that is, hiding your sources and protecting the markets. What I mean by that is if you were a local retailer, in a city, you didn’t want anyone to know where your inventory was purchased. Store owners didn’t even tell their salespeople, they hid the brands. And then they went to everyone they bought from and insisted on exclusivity within a radius of about 25 miles. So it was about owning that market. And at the national level, we have experienced this. One of the amazing things the design community has done for the industry is they’ve swept it all away. They are much more transparent.

Lauren: What is it like to be essentially a non-consumer oriented brand that some consumers are very aware of?

Brigg: We like to have a more people-oriented personality now because we put so much effort into our own look. We do a lot of our own photography and create digital assets. We believe that no one represents our brand better than us. So we like the fact that we don’t rely on a national or regional retailer to represent our products in photography or printing.

Lauren: Do you think the average consumer has any notoriety when it comes to home furnishings?

Brigg: The average consumer doesn’t necessarily know this, but if someone builds a house and they start getting into it, they’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. Who are the best people who make wallpaper? Who makes the best paint colors etc?

Maybe not everyone in the country knows who we are. But if people have been actively interested in the design space or the furniture space, certainly know who we are.

Lauren: Driven by demand, all major furniture brands have experienced pandemic-driven growth over the past three years. What else has helped Four Hands grow in recent years?

Brigg: Growth was pretty strong before we went into the pandemic because we were so focused on bringing new, quality products to market. We have improved a lot over the past ten years and have started to see our growth accelerate. Much of this was related to the ease of doing business with us – digital assets, operational excellence, product development, etc.

Another aspect of that, honestly, is just our scale, which is so much larger than most of our competitors. These are the resources that we can put into the technology and the product. We travel and spot trends far more than our competitors, if not all of our competitors.

Lauren: Supply chain issues have been a major challenge in the furniture industry, if not the biggest challenge in most industries. Other than that, what do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing the furniture industry as a whole?

Brigg: One of the biggest issues in the very short term right now is an oversupply of products in the market. Everyone is stocked up because everyone kind of anticipated that the party would go on forever. So what we’ve seen across the industry is that almost everyone has a lot of inventory. We start from an environment where there was almost no discount for people, they have to very quickly readjust their way of thinking about their product and their way of thinking about the sales process, and accept the fact that there is going to be have a promotional environment that can enter.

It is extremely uncomfortable. For many people, those few years have been so amazing for business because price wasn’t the deciding factor. And I think we’re back in an environment where people are going to get creative again and find whole new ways to sell products.

Lauren: Four Hands will soon launch new product categories?

Brigg: We are launching some very nice high-end table games. Then there are areas like outdoor umbrellas, which is a very specific market, and outdoor fire pits. We don’t consider them huge markets individually, but we do consider them to be really big. For our customers, we put our mark on that look and bring a product that looks like Four Hands to that part of the market.

The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

About Oscar L. Smith

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