HOW TO DRAG A COMPANY OUT OF THE RED: TEMPLE & WEBSTER'S NEW STRATEGY

Written on the 30 June 2017 by David Simmons

HOW TO DRAG A COMPANY OUT OF THE RED: TEMPLE & WEBSTER'S NEW STRATEGY

'GO high or go home' is the mentality of Temple & Webster CEO Mark Coulter.

Since taking over the role of CEO in April last year, Coulter has made a number of big plays in order to drag the furniture and homewares retail site out of the red.

Coulter was brought on as interim CEO of Temple & Webster and was made permanent in October.

While Temple & Webster has not yet experienced a year of profit, Coulter believes that's all about to change.

Under Coulter's direction the company has made significant improvements to become Australia's biggest online retailer of furniture and homewares.

If the group continues to improve, he is confident Temple & Webster will be in the black by the end of Financial Year 2018.

Business News Australia spoke to Coulter about Temple & Webster, and how he plans to keep the company afloat.


This quarter will be the strongest Temple & Webster has ever had ... how was that achieved?

The program goes back to when I first took over, on an interim basis in April last year and full time October. The last 12 months have been a very busy period.

We've integrated three businesses into the one site which is Temple & Webster, we've done a lot to improve our catalogue, improve our marketing efforts, improve our delivery times and delivery experience.

I think the culmination of a lot of those works has really started this quarter and will continue to extend into next year. It's no one thing, it's a lot of hard work across a lot of area, but so far so good.


Since the company has listed on the ASX, what changes have you seen in the business? Did the injection of cash help propel any projects you wanted to see done?

I think in general e-commerce is a scale game; bigger is better. You look around the world and there are usually one or two winners that emerge in each category. Homewares and furniture in Australia is not going to be any different.

We knew that this is a 'go high or go home' kind of play we needed to be the biggest. The IPO allowed us to combine the first second and third players to really create the only player in our category at scale, so we are quite significantly bigger than our next biggest competitor online.

And that's really what the proceeds allowed us to do, fund that ambition to be the biggest player, make sure that we have the biggest catalogue, the best content team, the best marketing teams, the best technology to really put distance between us and the next player.


\What have been some of the challenges you've faced being a pure-play furniture retailer, given that online lacks the tactile element of people coming and trying furniture?

So really there's only two categories where that plays out and that's sofas and mattresses; particularly high-end sofas and mattresses. That's the minority of what we sell. Across our range of 130,000+ products we sell everything for the home. And a lot of furniture, most of your kitchen, everything for your bathroom, wall art, rugs, you don't need a tactile experience.

Yes, on some of the bigger ticketed items like sofas and mattresses it's nice if you're spending a certain amount to sit on a sofa or lay on a mattress. But it's not generally a barrier to purchase in our category.

The mattress in a box companies are proving you can solve the tactile issue by making sure your delivery experience is great and your returns policy is generous.


Are you concerned about the entry of Amazon into the Australian market?

Well I think in general Amazon coming into Australia is a good thing for the online retail industry. More people buying their items online is great for us because they buy their general merchandise online and the next natural extension will be everything for the home.

Amazon, specifically in relation to Temple & Webster, you look at the US and the UK it doesn't tend to do furniture; furniture and bulky items aren't its main focus. We don't see why that would be different here.


So you're getting back on track, what's the next play?

Now that we've done the big integration plays, it's just making sure we're delivering exceptional customer experience. We already have the biggest range in the country but it's about getting better ranges in some of our key growth categories.

It's about continuing to make sure we have the best inspirational content services. The next horizon where we see ourselves differentiating is around that delivery experience. Making sure that the delivery experience that our customers are receiving, particularly around bulky items, is first in class, and that's what we're doing a lot of work on in the next years to come.

 

 
Author: David Simmons

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