Online furniture sellers have hit back at retail veteran Gerry Harvey’s recent comments that Harvey Norman had barely recorded any online business for furniture products and that customers don’t want to buy bulky products on the web.
Smart50 winners Fidarsi Furniture and Milan Direct have come to the defence of online furniture retailing, saying customers are willing to buy bulky products if they are given enough information.
“If you have great photography, product videos and other information, it takes the guesswork out of everything,” Milan Direct founder Dean Ramler told SmartCompany this morning.
Harvey told Lateline last month “there is no internet business in furniture or bedding”.
However, Smart50 winner Fidarsi Furniture turned over $2.6 million as of September last year, after 60% growth in the previous 12 months, while Milan Direct is on track to make $12 million this year, after Ramler confirmed to SmartCompany this morning sales had doubled in the past year.
Fidarsi Furniture co-founder Neil Singh told SmartCompany this morning Harvey is “struck in an archaic model”.
“I do understand the comments, because the model is completely franchised. He has franchisees to answer to.”
“But there are two types of customers: Those that have purchased products online before, and those that are completely new. And we love the second category because they provide us with a challenge to give new information.”
Singh says while some customers are hung up on the fact they aren’t able to touch or feel the product before buying – a traditional argument against bulky goods sold online – businesses have an opportunity to prove that isn’t the case.
“You can combat that with things like a seven-day money back guarantee, giving people the option to try before they buy. We’re very transparent about that, and it really puts the customers’ minds at ease. Especially some older buyers.”
Ramler agrees, saying the company provides enough photography and videos to show the customer the product as much as they can without touching it. But he also goes a step further, saying he understands the efficiencies of online better than Harvey.
“I think it comes down to the fact he doesn’t understand the efficiencies of the modelling,” he says.
“Whether it’s efficiencies in online, the efficiencies of communication, and so on. If you leave a Harvey Norman store the company has no way of getting in touch with you, so they have to use radio ads and television ads.”
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“Whereas at Milan Direct and other good online retailers, any customer that makes a purchase from our store, we know how to get in contact with them again.”
Singh also suggests the growth of online furniture sales is also associated with an age gap.
“We target out generation, Gen X and Gen Y, because our company is run by Gen X and Gen Y. That’s who we are playing to.”
“I understand why Gerry makes these comments but, all in all, people are looking for good value and to get that they’re going online, and for furniture as well.”