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INTERVIEW Furniturebox “customers should not have to wait eight weeks for a sofa”

Image © Furniturebox

DeliveryX sat down with the co-founders of Furniturebox to discuss how they transformed from “keen eBay traders” to building a successful D2C furniture business.

For the first three years of the Furniturebox Monty George (MG) and Dan Beckles (DB) managed all operations between them, whether that was production selection, unloading containers or answering customer calls. “That was pivotal for the rest of the business because we then understood how every single aspect worked,” explains Beckles.

Initially selling via marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, Furniturebox soon launched its own website. With “people stuck at home and improving their houses”, the retailer witnessed substantial growth during the pandemic, which resulted in a “big boom” for the growing company. 

George explains that while they had the infrastructure in place, it was not ready to cope with the amount of orders received during the pandemic. “In reality, it meant a lot more hard work and finding answers,” he notes but credits their culture of “putting the customers at the heart of everything we do” for delivering during a challenging time.

Challenging deliveries is something that the company is fully focused on. In October last year, Furniturebox announced that it is offering the 8pm next-day delivery cut off for most parts of the UK, thanks to a technology-powered, well-placed, warehouse next to the M4. 

Q: For shoppers going online for furniture is speed an important factor or is it more about the convenience? How do you find a balance there? 
MG: The customers should have a choice. If we’re able to do it, which we are, we want to constantly push that. If a customer wants it tomorrow, if they want to order it five minutes to eight in the evening, they’re able to do that. Furniture is not a cheap item. We obviously try and make our products as best value as possible. But if someone’s spending a couple of hundred pounds they not only want to know that the product is exactly what they wanted, they also don’t want to wait. 

We don’t believe our customers should have to wait for eight weeks to be using a sofa.

DB: It’s breaking down the conventional norms within the furniture industry. You see the likes of Amazon, Argos, pharmacies as well, that have already done so and it is now the customer expectation. 

We are here to break the mould. Our customers often don’t think they could get furniture delivered the next day, let alone order up until 8pm in the evening. We want to make that the standard and the norm within the industry because it can be done and it is feasible. 

Q: Does technology play a key part in this nex-tday delivery promise? Is it due to the fact that warehouse automation has gotten smarter? Could this not have been done before simply because the technology wasn’t there?
DB: It is a mix of things, but a lot of companies don’t feel they need to do this. They feel that customers are happy with large bulky items being delivered over a longer time period. But, technology is crucial and it wouldn’t be possible to do this without the technology we have in place. Our warehouse management system is incredibly important, as is the speed of pick and pack. 

The pick and pack needs to be incredibly efficient to run this sort of operation. The technology that goes into making the system efficient needs to be there and it needs to be proven. 

Fortunately, with our brand new 88,000 square foot warehouse that we built just off the M4, we have the transport links, we have the third party courier links, and we also have a fantastic staff base. 

While technology is very important, it could have been done by a lot of companies before, but maybe that’s not been their ambition. 

MG: Just to add on to that, it’s a combination of not only software but also the hardware, the actual infrastructure that we put in. We designed the warehouse from the ground up. Having spent a lot of time in our previous warehouse, we knew exactly how we wanted it. We built it for heavy bulky items – the hardware, the software. 

There was a lot of scenario planning. It didn’t just happen overnight. We did a large test last summer to prove the concept. Our team and everyone involved really bought into it. And, yes, we’re grateful to everyone within the company for giving it a go. 

There has been a positive upshot. People actually like some of the new shift patterns. The customer service team had more agency to be able to send replacement parts off later into the evening. It has actually been beneficial all round. 

Q: As you look to expand, potentially going into the US and to different geographies, are you ready for the complexities of cross-border? 

MG: We’re quite fortunate that we’ve already got some key partners that we work with overseas. To actually physically establish an overseas premises in the US or in Germany requires a huge amount of investment. 

As a business, we’re not quite there yet. We think we will be eventually, but at the moment we’re very much focusing on using partners. We have very good relationships to build in those markets, which is a far quicker and a far more cost effective way of growing. We’ve never taken on any investment, we’re very proud of growing organically and we want to maintain that. Using the partnerships we have built within the UK, that maybe also have overseas trading to expand is the way that we’re going with it. 

For any business thinking of going into a different geography, I’d urge them to try and find a partner to minimise some of that risk. Partners have quite a lot of the expertise, so you don’t come undone with legal elements. It is far easier to utilise an existing framework. 

This interview is one of three featured in the DeliveryX Warehousing 2024 reportwhich is available to pre-register for now.

Other interviews include B&Q discussing how its utilising its store network for fulfilment, while Pets at Home talk through their future-proofing new facility.

There is also a look at the slow down in demand for warehouse space, an increase in solar potential and how Boots’ staff work alongside robotics.

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