All I want is to buy a light-colored leather sofa and loveseat with removable cushions and rolled arms, so I can retire my old furniture to my son’s apartment and the basement respectively.

Sounds simple? Guess again.

Searching first online to see which manufacturers and retail stores offered products matching my criteria, I narrowed my choice. And that’s where my difficulty in furniture buying began.

I selected a line from a major furniture manufacturer, with a large retail network. It looked good on screen, but because I cannot bring myself to spend a goodly amount of money on something viewed only via the web, I set out to see it in person. Old fashioned I may be, but especially for furniture, I need tactile – i.e., touch the leather upholstery, test the comfort of the cushions, the depth of the seats, etc. (And, in case my computer monitor isn’t calibrated correctly, to see what the heck color “oyster” is anyway.)

I went to one store in the manufacturer’s retail chain – didn’t carry it. I called six other stores within a 75-mile radius to see if they had the pieces — or anything in the collection — on the showroom floor. No such luck, though all said they would be happy to order it for me, still "sight unseen."

Now I understand that space is often at a premium in showrooms, but am I really atypical in my buying habits that I want to see something in person before spending a large amount of money?

If you are a manufacturer or retailer, is online shopping your new reality for growing sales? And if so, any suggestions for someone like me?

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