Your Reading List & recommendations Where ecommerce meets great design

Julien Callede had a big idea. He wanted to “make great design available to everyone”.  We were back at The Business Show today at ExCel London to see how Julien turned that idea into the internationally known and rapidly growing furniture brand,

In the eyes of Julien Callede and his co-founders, the furniture business contained two major disconnects and one big opportunity. The first of these disconnects was the abundance of talented designers who lacked access to the buying public. The second being the swathe of talented craftsmen unable to get their work in stores. The opportunity?

Connecting these dots as an online furniture retailer meant needed to be a slick ecommerce operation. They built the business on a presales model, which enabled them to keep their margins and prices low. The presales, direct from the manufacturer model has streamlined the design process. With, a traditional 18 month journey from design to store takes just 3-6 months. This means more opportunity for designers and manufacturers and a massive range for the consumer. In the UK alone there are 2000 items available and this is growing rapidly.

Julien is proud of both arms of his business: “People tell us we’re an ecommerce business, but we’re also a design and product business.” The question is, has it always been plain sailing?

Ever any doubt?

Veterans of the furniture business told him he was stupid but, despite opposition, Julien was entirely confident from the start. “So many people said we were wrong – that told us we had a market to go for.” He was right. had customers from day one and the feedback was good immediately. One of the things that proved incredibly helpful was their story. The press loved the direct from the manufacturers, design to delivery angle.

Key to success?

Julien explained that when their team made mistakes they learnt from them and changed. Relatively new to this world they taught themselves as much as they could but if something was outside of their expertise they would hire someone. The key ingredient in Julien’s eyes is one that competitors have failed to emulate: “We built a sexy brand.”

Challenges faced hasn’t escaped challenges – a disrupted supply chain almost had Julien delivering furniture in a fleet of Addison Lee cabs – but so far so good. “We skipped the two main challenges facing new business. We had cash and customers right from the start.” Julien explained, “It’s not about reinventing the wheel, just ask your customers what they want and deliver.” For, feedback has been the best way to confront certain challenges, but, Julien warns, if you ask for feedback you have to address it and change.

The Future

This was a simple answer. “To make one of the biggest furniture brands in Europe.” While IKEA have a hold on this title, Julien thinks the two retailers are very different. “IKEA is functional furniture and is beautiful furniture.”



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