When purchasing outdoor furniture, consumers usually have to choose between sustainability and affordability, but two-year-old startup Yardbird has found a way to offer both. Launched in 2016, the brand’s 2017 pop-up store sold $1 million in inventory within its first four weeks of opening. With over $4 million in sales, they’ve exceeded all expectations for a seasonal product.
Affordable Eco-Friendly Furniture
All of Yardbird’s wicker furniture is literally made from garbage. In 2018, the company purchased over 30,000 pounds of intercepted ocean plastic, turning it into wicker resin to frame four of their collections. The other styles are made from aluminum and Grade-A teak.
These pieces are high quality and designed to last for years. But, when consumers are ready for a new set, they can do it with minimal environmental impact because every piece is 100% recyclable. Yardbird maximizes sustainability practices by purchasing carbon offsets and using eco-friendly packaging among other things.
However, despite all of these efforts, co-founder Jay Dillon markets Yardbird’s affordability before sustainability. “We try to focus on our design, quality and price, as these seem to be the first priorities for our customers and then sustainability is an added benefit,” he says.
Customer feedback has shown that the environment isn’t a primary concern when choosing outdoor furniture, but rather it’s something that becomes appealing after the fact. “Interestingly enough, though, we have a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, and they disproportionately bring up our sustainability, so we think our customers share this with their friends after the purchase,” Dillon explains.
But, product development didn’t come easy. “We went upstream with a lot of our suppliers (foam, fabric, wicker, aluminum, etc.), and they often didn’t know why we were looking to make these changes to their processes,” says Dillon. “For example, to a final assembly factory, it is easier to package the product as they always have, erring on the side of more material as a precaution, than to challenge the need for all of this unnecessary packaging.”
He even traveled back and forth to Manila for two years to work with collectors and recycling facilities. “[The supplier] thought I was crazy. I convinced him to stick with me, and he is now very excited about what we have created with this plastic.”
Contrary to what some might believe, making furniture with recycled materials is actually less expensive than using entirely new components. This savings is passed onto Yardbird’s consumer, who are mostly suburbanites in their 40’s.
While Yardbird competes with brands such as Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, their product is priced well below those retailers. A basic bistro set with a table and two chairs starts at just $825. Love seats, sofas and sectional sets are available from $1500 to nearly $4000. Yarbird also has several dining sets and even fire pit table sets. A total of eleven collections will be available by the end of April 2019.
The popularity of each style varies by location. Luna and Colby, which are more modern designs are top sellers on the West Coast. In the South and Midwest regions, Waverly and Langdon, which have a more traditional look, reign at the top. “East Coast is all over the place,” says Dillon.
Each set can be customized with a choice of two different neutral-colored Sunbrella fabrics. Yardbird partnered with Sunbrella not just because as Dillon says, they are “the gold standard for outdoor fabric.” But also because Yardbird researched and tested the fabric for water/stain resistance, fading and longevity. After all, fabric designed to last longer is a more eco-conscious choice. Because Sunbrella is also focused on sustainability, this partnership is on point with the values of both companies.
Yardbird currently has one showroom outside of Minneapolis but plans to open more locations in the future. In the meantime, they also offer free design consultations. After submitting the necessary information, an in-house designer creates a mockup. This service, particularly because it’s free goes beyond what much of the competition has to offer. Additionally, there is also access to a catalog of customer photos for inspiration.
Setup is also easy because, with the exception of a few tables, everything is already assembled. Orders over $1500 ship free.
All Yardbird pieces are cleanly, but beautifully designed with neutral colored frames and fabrics. These styles won’t look dated years after purchase and can be brought up to trend seasonally with the brand’s newly launched pillow line as well as outdoor rugs and other decor.