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Q&A: Monty George and Dan Beckles, co-founders of Furniturebox

Here Glynn Davis catches up with Monty George and Dan Beckles, co-founders of the fast-growing Furniturebox retail business. Can you tell us about the creation of… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE NEWS

Q&A: Monty George and Dan Beckles, co-founders of Furniturebox

Here Glynn Davis catches up with Monty George and Dan Beckles, co-founders of the fast-growing Furniturebox retail business.

Can you tell us about the creation of Furniturebox?

Monty: I started selling items online when I was 12 and my eyes were opened to the realisation that I had a virtually unlimited market at my fingertips. By the time I was 17 and deciding whether to pursue university, I could see the untapped potential for online furniture retail. I decided it was time to really invest into that idea and roped my best friend Dan into joining me on this venture, and Furniturebox was born. At the beginning, it was just the two of us, literally doing everything from sales to customer service, picking orders for dispatch and loading/unloading containers. Things have changed quite a bit since then, but the can-do attitude has stuck.

Was there a gap in the market?

Dan: A huge one! We realised back in 2015 that online shopping was getting bigger every year with customer expectations growing with it too, especially for fast and free delivery. But buying furniture online hadn’t caught up with that. Customers could expect to wait weeks for their furniture to be delivered. When we launched Furniturebox we had a view to designing trendy furniture which didn’t break the bank and would be delivered the next day for free. There really wasn’t anyone else in the UK offering that at the time, not for large bulky items. That unique selling point enabled us to really stand out against the competition.

What’s the USP – how do you differentiate yourself in the marketplace?

Dan: As with spotting that gap in the market for free next-day delivery when we started, we’ve continued to be industry disruptors for furniture e-commerce. One of our key USPs and a core ethos is providing exceptional customer experience throughout their journey with us. We’ve got a 4.9 rating on Trustpilot from over 6,000 reviews, which we’re incredibly proud of. A huge part of that is down to our phenomenal, hardworking teams. We run a seven-day customer service proposition so we’re always on hand to respond quickly and resolve any issues quickly for customers.

Another massive element of that top-tier customer experience is our new 8pm cut-off for next-day free delivery to mainland UK addresses. Some exceptions for made-to-order items do apply, but most of our stock can be ordered right up until 8pm and be out for delivery the very next working day. This was a huge expansion for us. We’re yet to find a company that can do the large parcel and multi-box next-day delivery quicker than we can. We can’t be certain that we’re the only ones, but we’re definitely part of a small number at the innovative cutting edge of e-commerce especially for the bigger bulkier items.

Who are your major competitors?

Monty: We’ve got really broad appeal and we’re expanding our product ranges to suit a lot of tastes. We take on-trend designs and make them affordable for everyone, so we compete at a few different ends of the furniture market and are in a bit of a unique position – no one is really doing what we are on the service proposition. Perhaps a competitor in terms of experience would be someone like Argos or Amazon. And even those that aren’t direct competitors can always be a source of inspiration.

What have been the major challenges so far?

Monty: Our warehouse move in 2022 was by far our greatest challenge. We came up with the concept for our innovative five-floor pick tower ourselves to massively increase efficiency. We brought in some warehouse experts to consult and supply the racking, who agreed with our pick tower concept and then provided the schematics. And then there were all the logistics of the build-out of a 88,000 square metre, 15 metre-tall warehouse and company HQ, then implementing our new cutting edge Warehouse Management System.  And when we finally moved in, in September 2022, we stayed fully operational and dispatching orders every day without pause. It was a monumental achievement and a huge effort from the team to deliver this project and we’re incredibly proud of it. The opportunity to grow and expand with more space has made it all worth it.

How much of the business is DTC versus selling through third-parties?

Dan: 30% of our sales currently come from our website, with 70% being from other channels. Of our channels, 45% are wholesale and the rest are still DTC just via another website, such as Amazon.

Have you considered physical stores?

Dan: It’s something we’ve thought about, sure! We’re very focused on being an online brand at the moment but we’re seeing more e-commerce brands branching out into physical stores. GymShark opened a store in London on Regent’s Street last October, for example, which is focused on giving customers an incredible shopping experience unlike many other stores out there. They’ve taken the concepts of online shopping, optimising every step of the customer journey, and applied that to their store, as well as making it very “Instagrammable”.

Can you share some metrics – annual sales, volumes, number of customers etc…?

Monty: We currently have just over 17,000 product-level SKUs (ignoring parent products). At the time of writing (start of November 2023), we’re getting around 4,500 visitors a day to our website but this is likely to increase over our peak period. We see 150k-200k visitors a month on average. In 2021-2022, Furniturebox made £16.1 million net revenue and in 2022-2023, we saw a 33% year-on-year increase to £21.5 million net revenue, which was seen from a mix of existing channels growing and new channels coming on board.

What’s your most successful category?

Dan: Dining room furniture remains our biggest category by far, with probably around half our website sales falling into this category. But outdoor garden furniture has become a huge seasonal category for us annually, and is our second largest category overall.

What are your big opportunities for the future?

Monty: We’re always striving to improve and stay on that cusp of innovation when it comes to e-commerce. I think speed of delivery really has been a huge thing for us and it’s definitely going to be a deciding factor for customers across all areas of e-commerce, but it should never be at the expense of quality or that customer experience. We’ve recently launched in the US and mainland Europe via Wayfair, with America in particular looking to be a huge area of growth for us. We’re really looking forward to seeing where that can take us.

What are your sustainability/environmental values/credentials/initiatives?

Dan: Taking care of the planet is hugely important to us, as it should be to everyone. We’re really pleased to announce that we’re now a certified FSC® retailer. Our FSC® certified wood and wood-derived products come from sustainable and responsibly managed forests. These products will show the FSC® logo beside them. We strive to work with sustainable materials and FSC-certified suppliers.

We also work with Earthly Carbon Accounting to invest in ecological projects and offset our carbon footprint. We’ve helped fund tropical forest protection in Keo Siema Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia and Mai Ndombe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as mangrove restoration in Maroalika, Madagascar. We’re in the process of renewing our Climate Positive Business certification and looking at all areas of the business, including our direct emissions, energy consumptions, transportation and waste.

We’re also on a mission to become fully plastic-free with our packaging, too, and we’re working with our suppliers to reduce this wherever possible. We also use Ebay to resell our returns and donate a lot to a Wiltshire charity called KFR to avoid these items ending in landfill. Our new warehouse facility is also run on solar power.

What is the arrangement you have with the charity KFR?

Monty: KFR (Kennet Furniture Refurbiz) sell second-hand furniture and white goods at discounted prices, with further discounts available to low-income households and vulnerable people. They’re a vital service to the Wiltshire community and one we’re honoured to support. We donate our seconds and returns to KFR for them to re-sell, rather than they end up in landfill. We’ve donated around £120,000 worth of returned items in the last year, with a carbon saving of around 40,000kg. Each month they come to our warehouse and fill up their lorry with as much second-hand stock as they can take, and it’s such a nice feeling knowing it’s going on to help other people who really need it.

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