The spectre of Amazon may be looming menacingly over Aussie retail, but Catch Group co-founder Gabby Leibovich says he’s been taking plenty of inspiration from “Jeff Bezos and his mates”.
What started in 2006 as daily deals website CatchoftheDay, the Catch Group is now a business that offers 30,000 products for sale at any one time and has annual revenue of more than $300 million. Along with CatchoftheDay, the group also operates Scoopon and GroceryRun.
Leibovich says the growth of the site means now is the perfect time for CatchoftheDay to transition into a “marketplace” that includes deals for third party sellers.
“No matter which way we look at it, there’s no way we can sell everything — but having learned from Jeff Bezos and his mates, he says marketplaces are leading the world. The consumer wants variety,” he says.
The new marketplace, Catch.com.au, has already signed merchants including Lorna Jane and Speedo, and comes after the group’s chief executive Nati Harpaz told SmartCompany the group is open to future acquisitions after scooping up collapsed retailer Pumpkin Patch in March.
There are no illusions that any player can beat the Amazon machine at its own game, but Leibovich says that isn’t the goal for Catch.
“We’re not that cocky, we understand Amazon is a monster and they’re going to be the largest player when they arrive,” he says.
But keeping Catch’s original ethos of opportunities for retail value will only help elevate it above traditional retail models that Leibovich says are predictably starting to crumble.
When asked whether he believes the doom and gloom messages about the future of local retail, Leibovich agrees there is still long-term fallout to come.
“We’re going through a major shake here, and my opinion is that those companies that are struggling today, which are not profitable today, will probably not survive. A lot are on the brink of extinction,” he says.
However, for every story of retail woes there is another potential beneficiary of the conditions, and Leibovich believes Catch is perfectly placed to serve the consumer in a time when shoppers want the chance to buy a broad range of products.
“Tough times create opportunities for some companies, and I believe we actually rely on that,” he says.
Leibovich is confident Catch can chase Amazon from the moment it arrives in Australia and reap the rewards, even if it doesn’t beat it. But he says online retail in Australia is still in its infancy.
“There’s currently only about 7% of trade being done online,” he says.
“Amazon do bring a lot more people to online shopping, and I mean, not a single person can shop all in one place. I don’t, my wife doesn’t, people just don’t.”
The arrival of the Jeff Bezos-powered machine Down Under will only help legitimise the online shopping experience, which Leibovich says is already so radically different from when he started in the game 11 years ago.
“Back in the early days, so many people would be asking, ‘Is it safe to buy online?'” he says.
“In the early days, people were so uncomfortable shopping for apparel online — but now, it’s like, you know your shoe size.”