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Top 50 Q&A: Mark Coulter, Temple & Webster

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2019 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. You can find this year’s Top 50 report here, and see our previous Q&As here.

This week, Internet Retailing interviews Mark Coulter, chief executive of furniture retailer Temple & Webster. Mark ranked 36th on our list this year.

Short on time? Here are the three key takeaways from the interview:

  • Coulter is particularly pleased with Temple & Webster’s recent profits when stacked up against the industry at large.
  • The brand is expanding into new product categories, such as private label and home improvement.
  • A New Zealand expansion is still on the cards, but a growing focus on Australia makes more sense in the long-term for the business.

Internet Retailing: What does an average day look like at Temple & Webster for you? What are your daily concerns?

Mark Coulter: An average day for me at T&W is pretty varied. It’s often filled with team, supplier and shareholder meetings.

My favourite days are days I get to spend talking to the T&W team and thinking about the future of the business.

IR: TPW recently announced it reported its first profitable year. Congratulations! Can you give us a bit of an insight into what changes took place over the last year or so to make this a reality?

MC: Our maiden profit was delivered by our strong (41 per cent) year on year revenue growth. We are especially happy with this growth given the broader retail market woes.

Our focus on the customer proposition and our clear strategy around having the largest and best range combined with the most inspirational content and a great delivery experience and customer service is working.

IR: You’ve said the next stage of the business plan is to refocus on the Australian market – to capture more of the local furniture market. Can you run us through the plans for that?

MC: We want to keep improving our core proposition, including adding to our range both through our drop-shipping partners and private-label ranges. We are expanding into adjacent categories such as home improvement.

We want the 70 per cent of Australia who have never heard of Temple & Webster to know who we are and what we can do! We also see improving the delivery experience, especially for our bulky deliveries, as key to our customer experience.

IR: I understand you’ve also placed your plans to launch into New Zealand through TradeMe on hold. Was that a difficult decision to make? Do you have a time-frame as to when Temple & Webster may be ready to go international?

MC: It was a difficult decision as we still firmly believe in the international opportunity and were very close to launch in NZ.

With both of our B2C and B2B Australian customer groups growing so fast, we made the decision to ensure we deliver the best experience for our Australian customers before looking overseas.

It’s all about focus! International is still on the cards but timing is TBD.

IR: One of the things you said you’ll be investing into in the near-term is building a Temple & Webster mobile app. What have you found is important to an app that you didn’t realise before the building process?

MC: iOS is a whole new world! We made the decision to go a bit slower and get the app right rather than rushing out an MVP and potentially not delighting our customers.

IR: What are some other e-commerce brands that you look to for inspiration? Who do you think are the leaders in the space?

MC: I think The Iconic are doing a great job at the customer journey and experience, including how they display and merchandise a big range. Appliances Online has a best in class delivery experience for bulky products.

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