Pottery Barn and Wayfair have competed against each other for consumers’ decorating dollars since Wayfair was founded in 2002. Although Pottery Barn had been around since 1949, the company's leaders had to step up their game and their business strategies to compete with the quickly rising e-commerce shop that was determined to take over.
Today, both retailers offer quality, stylish furniture and home decor, and they both receive their fair share of praise — and criticism — from customers. Ready to explore what each of these companies has to offer? Let’s take a deep dive into the details of the best overall shopping experience, products and costs. Pottery Barn versus Wayfair — keep reading to make your pick!
The Upscale Experience Offered by Pottery Barn
Pottery Barn was founded back in 1949 by Paul Secon and his brother, Morris, in West Chelsea after Paul was offered a deal on three barns full of discontinued pottery made by a nearby factory. After acquiring the pottery, the brothers opened a shop to sell the collection and eventually expanded into upscale pottery and other furnishings. The chain grew to seven stores under the brothers’ ownership. Since the Secons sold out in 1968, Pottery Barn has been owned by several different companies, including The Gap and the current owner, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
Shopping for Home from Home at Wayfair
E-commerce company Wayfair technically hit the scene in 2002 as a much smaller company, but it now sells millions of items from more than 11,000 global suppliers. It was founded by entrepreneurs Niraj Shah and Steve Conine, who first recognized a huge opportunity to sell stereo racks and stands online. Starting with just a single website, the two eventually created more than 250 standalone websites to sell various home furnishings, ranging from barstools to birdhouses. In 2011, they combined all the sites to create one major destination for home goods and named it Wayfair.
Differences in the Shopping Experience
Although Wayfair now has a brick-and-mortar store, it obviously sells most of its items — even furniture and other large items — online. The potential problem with that format is customers can't see and examine the furnishings before they buy. Looking at photos on a website isn't the same thing as seeing and touching a real product. Because of that, customers don’t always like their purchases when they arrive and have to follow the steps for utilizing Wayfair's return policy.
More Value for the Cost
Shopping at Pottery Barn and Wayfair comes with a few cons as well. Both companies have a limited 30-day window to return defective or unwanted products (for certain purchases), and neither company offers additional warranties on your purchases. If you choose a popular, ready-made sofa from Pottery Barn, the company gives you seven days to return it for a full refund. However, if you choose a custom upholstered sofa, it can’t be returned unless it has a manufacturer’s defect.
Final Verdict: Pottery Barn or Wayfair?
While Pottery Barn may be preferred by those who like to shop in person, Wayfair appears to have more pros than cons overall. Wayfair mostly sells online, meaning the company doesn't have to pay high costs for real estate and the overhead that goes with physical stores, and that allows them to keep their prices low. Although it’s hard work to assemble furniture and risky to purchase without seeing it in person, you really can't beat the prices and benefits that Wayfair offers.