Matt Blatt: the name on the lips of every interior designer from Cairns to Hobart. Over the last decade, Matt Blatt has gone from a humble store on eBay to one of the coolest retailers in the country.
Co-founder of Matt Blatt, Deborah Drexler, has certainly learnt a thing or two about how to succeed in the Australian market in her years building Matt Blatt into the household name it is today.
Business News Australia spoke to Deb about how the brand has transformed over the years from a small showroom in Marrickville to the dominating Australia-wide and online force in furnishings.
How did you go from selling on eBay to establish a bricks and mortar store?
Most people don't know that Matt Blatt began as a small-time manufacturer of office furniture, and very early on we discovered a new platform eBay and chose to take a chance on it. I think we were actually the first Australian furniture retailer selling on eBay back then.
For us the transition really happened organically; we sort of ran out of room! You work out what your needs are as you go along. We started to import more product and then we didn't have any room so we were looking at a place across the road and thought it was a no brainer. We just didn't know what we were doing half the time. It just felt like the next thing we had to do.
My advice would be to see what you need and you calculate the risk and what's the worst that's going to happen. The worst for me would be I would go back to teaching.
You moved from manufacturing to importing overnight, how did that happen?
We literally packed it up overnight, held an auction to sell our machinery and we were out of the manufacturing game and into furniture importing, just like that.
That was a big risk. We were supplying a lot of big stores at the time and it was really frustrating and quite unpleasant.
So we just thought okay we're going to have a big auction, sell everything on the floor. If we thought about it too seriously we wouldn't even have done it. We just thought we had to give it a go.
You were an early adopter of online retail with mattblatt.com.au. How have you seen the online retail sector change over the years?
When mattblatt.com.au came to life most of our competitors weren't online yet, so we stood out, but we also spent plenty of time talking customers through the process.
They would call and need to be walked through how to place an online order. They asked so many questions and this went on for quite a few years. Even though we would bring different products in over time, people weren't used to buying like that.
Now people buy sofas without sitting on them. We're in a really unique position. We are selling online, and we also sell online without customers actually looking so there's a lot of different options that we're exploring and offering to our customers.
Everything seems to be working because it just depends on what suits people.
You say the best risk you ever took was about impulse buying, do you think entrepreneurs should lead with their guts more?
When it comes to sourcing new products, it's really about instincts. There's never a guarantee when we're choosing a new range.
We don't know whether something I might fall in love with on a buying trip will have the same impact on our customers. We call it the royal order of the tummy compass.
I think it's a balance. You need to be instinctive and aware that if something doesn't feel right it's not right. It's a bit of everything. It's what we call the holistic approach. You can also apply that to doing things in your business. It's got to feel right on all the levels.
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