Brendan from Homeline Furniture was started by his father by creating a bricks and mortar store in 1991 in County Tipperary, Ireland and evolving into the world of eCommerce multi selling covering your house needs from top to bottom.
Some thoughts from the interview
“We started in 1981 with a bricks and mortar store. We went through the good times and the bad times and back to the good times again. About 8 years ago we decided to give online a shot which took off, it got very good. Irish people got used to it but I don’t think it has reached its’ full potential in this country by any means, it’s probably a lot bigger in the U.K. but there is still a lot of potential in this country so we are studying it.”
“We offer free nationwide delivery. We sell everything from single mattresses to super king mattresses, we sell suites of furniture, tables and chairs, bedroom collections and basically cover the house from top to bottom.”
“The number has helped but what we do find is having a bricks and mortar shop behind the website is an asset to us as you can imagine with furniture there is a thing of wanting to feel the product and touch the product and see it in the flesh and also a feeling of security for the customer.”
“If they are spending a large quantity of money as you can appreciate, the average price online people are spending online is €500 to €600 up to a couple of thousand euro depending on the product. So they have the security that you are in business, they can look you up on google plus, they can look you up on street view they can see you are physically there and not some fly by night, that you have been going since 1981 and they are more comfortable handing over their money.”
“The big disadvantage with online selling, even though Ireland is a small country, it is nowhere as big as the UK. It is a long trip from where we are in Tipperary up to the top of Donegal so if you are delivering a table and 6 chairs and everything is perfect and they are taking the last chair out of the box and there is a mark on the corner, that chair needs to be replaces. That chair would be too heavy for a courier so we would have to send our own lads back up. It is all expense, that is the disadvantage with furniture it can be damaged in the box.”
“We do our best and we always exchange our product if it is damaged.”
“We used Fastway Couriers for a simple little box for a lock for example, but they will only take up to 30 kg and the majority of furniture would be far over 30kg. We have our own fleet of trucks and vans on the road, we have 7 vehicles on the road covering the country so all our deliveries are done through our own company.”
“We do a lot with google ad words and social media and organically but the best advertising we have are the vans out on the road and customer reviews and customers speaking to friends and family spreading the word.”
“The vans are a massive part of the business because when you are driving around the heart of Dublin or Dundalk, Drogheda or Donegal all they see is Homeline Furniture, they can look it up and from then they can make their own decision, have a look and give us a call.”
“8 years ago I was of the impression; build a site, put it up there and just watch the orders come in. By no means is it like that when it comes to furniture. They want advice, they want to know how it is finished, is it a stain finish or is it a lacquer finish? If it’s a mattress they want to know if it is pocket sprung or how much memory foam is in it? Do you have it stock? How long is delivery going to take? It is almost a full time job for 2 sales people of the phone 9am to 6pm, seven days a week.”
“Customers like to know, when I speak to people whether it is in the bricks and mortar shop or whether it is online and you get chatting to them and you get to know their name, there is a lot more trust and they feel that you are not out to sell them any kind of product but to find a product that suits them.”
“If you sell it to the once and they know you the next time around when they are think of buying furniture they think of Brendan in Homeline Furniture. They are drawn back to that person without even thinking of it, there is the trust which is massive in online selling.”
“At the moment we are doing Ireland, the southern counties and the Northern Ireland counties. We do get an awful lot of enquires from the UK but we decided not for the time being because we want to go at it in a big way and we don’t want to go half-hearted at it. It is an expensive stretch of water.”
“The problem is that there are two or three courier companies involved. If I am in in Clonmel most of the courier companies are based in the North. That is one courier service from Clonmel to the north, then form the north across the water is 2, and maybe one from wherever it is in England is 3. So you are talking 3 couriers on a product that is maybe only worth €400 to €500 which is making it very expensive.”
“When we started and we were green to the idea we just set it up and put x amount of money into it and watched it dwindled away. As we got more savvy to it and we got a great company in Dublin managing for it we don’t search for general words as furniture as there is no return in it. You want more key ranges or key terms and brands you know are going very well in the bricks and mortar shop so you focus on them online.”
“If they are searching for furniture they are just browsing they don’t know what they want at the time but when they are searching for oak table and chairs you know they are looking for dining so you focus in more and more on that.”
“We got into banner ads for 6 months and we have found that extremely good. They’re not cheap but they get the name out there and they are constantly on people’s computer and in their face that they see this name coming up and reminding people that we are there. It’s all about brand awareness.”
“We do a lot in SEO. Ad words is a fast way of getting up there but SEO is the long term way and building up the organic traffic to your site which is the cheapest way to get people to your site. It takes a fierce amount of time and google is always changing how they rank you so there is always work in refreshing it.”
“Social media would be massive for us. Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and all that sort of thing. It is good to get the name out there and just post tips, or new products, or competitions and people to see who we are and about us and general things like that, it is a good way to promote us.”
“We use Facebook ads. Over the course of the year we would use it as much as possible.”
“You learn by mistakes and you learn by listening to people. It’s something that is very complicated google and how it works but it is very interesting.”
Best Advice: “Just stick at it. There will be good times and bad times but if you stick at it and work hard you will get through it. Business comes in roundabouts, it will be good and it will be bad but if you treat your customers well and look after them have the right advertising, there is plenty for everyone.”
What do they offer?
Pretty much everything you would need to make your home of your dreams! Including beds, mattresses, bedroom furniture, bedroom collections, kids & nursery, living room, dining room, bar stools, relax chairs, home office and sofa beds.
How to contact Homeline Furniture!
Check out my list of resources, free tools and great advice: Resources Here
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