in store e online
Furniture is sold both in brick-and-mortar and online stores according to the omnichannel strategies of two Italian brands: Design Republic and Arredatutto
For furniture manufacturers, omnichannel is a well-tested strategy. For retailers, the situation is quite different. To talk about it, we have chosen two case histories: they are as Italian, innovative, and successful as their young Milanese entrepreneurs. Marco Mornata tells us how, along with his sister, he has opened Design Republic stores (www.designrepublic.com) and the e-commerce platform famous for Scandinavian brands (Design House Stockholm, Muuto, Nomess Copenhagen). Demetrio Triglia and Alessandro Andreazza of Arredatutto (www.arredatutto.com), after ten years of only online sales of turnkey domestic solutions (including bathrooms and appliances) have decided to open their first physical store.
DesignDiffusion: How was Design Republic born?
Marco Mornata: “My sister Giulia and I belong to a family that has been selling furniture in Milan for generations, with our surname on the shop sign. In 2015 we opened the first Design Republic store, in Corso di Porta Ticinese, and, encouraged by its success, shortly after, we also opened the e-shop DesignRepublic.com. In 2017 we inaugurated the store in Piazza Tricolore, a 500 sq m space set over two levels. The first year was that of the startup, in 2016 and 2017 we focused on growth and strengthening, our goals for 2018 are a further expansion and the introduction of many new things. We will set up the 300sq m back storehouse for pop up events. In March we will start selling the Hay Kitchen Market collection by Hay as its exclusive retailer, and Normann Copenhagen will present the new products at our store in Piazza Tricolore during the FuoriSalone.
DD: What’s more important: the physical or the online store?
MM: To us, basically, physical stores are more important: you know, being on the road, having our items on the floor – maybe because we have it in our blood. However, the online store brings us important benefits, in terms of visibility and more. We all know that Italy is behind in the e-commerce of furniture, yet we are recording a three-digit growth. Perhaps, in a short time, the trend may be inverted. We sell also big pieces of furniture such as sofas, as if they were complements, a Scandinavia-inspired idea. We are helped by the fact that many items are partially mounted and flat-packs. Via our website we sell mainly objects, but we also sell individual pieces of furniture – the average bill is about €270. The two channels are two complementary jobs that we have divided in this way: Giulia is more focused on the shops while I dedicate myself to the online store and the brand. We observe that people are reassured by the physical presence of a shop in the city center. We have traditional customers, online customers, and others who use both channels. They are relatively young customers, with a metropolitan style and a design culture that goes beyond the knowledge most famous brands.
DD: There is also a great competition in the center of Milan, it looks like a continuous showcase of furniture, doesn’t it?
MM: Rather than many shops, there are many monobrand showrooms, which is different. These are luxury shops mainly addressed to foreign customers, while we want Milanese customers in our stores. A strength of ours is represented by affordable prices in the quality/price ratio – I think that industrial design has to be affordable. People enter Design Republic for a chair or a table and discover also our objects and vice versa, creating a turnover. Our store, of course, also offers an advisory, design and installation service.
DD: If you were to open other shops in Italy, what cities would you choose?
MM: I think Turin and Rome.
DD: How is your offer organized?
MM: The 60% is represented by Scandinavian brands, the rest by Italian brands, and we are expanding our private label (expanding the range of products with our name, we’d like to capture the foreign market). We want that those who visit our stores do not feel like they were in a traditional store, we want them to live a real shopping experience. This is why we have also many decorative objects and we choose convenient graphics (we have big posters of two Danish brands, PlayType and Paper Collettive, but, since we also appreciate good Italian design, we also have Danese’s posters). We aim at a varied offer within a brand rather than a varied offer of brands.
DD: How would you describe your website DesignRepublic.com?
MM: We wanted it to be simple, clear, immediate, similar to Yoox. I think that Italian online furniture stores, on the contrary, tend to have too many pages and sections. Also our stores are cozy and friendly because they catch the attention from the outside and feature charming paths inside.
The leading e-commerce platform in Italy for furniture (but not only) was launched in 2007 and in 2017 opened an Arredatutto Store in Milan, via Vigevano 32, relying on 30,000 items and 200 brands, including furniture, lighting, small and big appliances, heating solutions, products for the outdoor, office and smart home. There are also many top design brands such as Flos, Kartell, Driade and others. It reaches 90 countries and its main markets, apart from Italy and Europe, are the USA, the Far East and Australia.
Why do you need a non-virtual shop?
“It is like having a little Salone del Mobile all year round – explains Commercial Director Alessandro Andreazza. We want our clients to experience first-hand the excellence of high-end Italian products and other off-the-shelf solutions. This is why we choose the best brands in the field”.
The store is not large – a 140 sq m surface set over two levels – but it regularly alternates the displayed brands and, it aims to be, in addition to a place dedicated to the design of tailor-made solutions, a workshop open to professionals, particularly architects and interior designers. The physical shop is a further step towards multichannel retailing, in addition to the multilingual website and customer service. The company has recently announced the opening of a new business unit in the USA, Arredatutto Inc, with commercial headquarters in Chicago.
Text Lucia Bocchi
Photography in order of appearance:
– Design Republic, store, Piazza Tricolore, Milan
– Design Republic, store, Piazza Tricolore, Milan
– Exterior of the Design Republic store, Piazza Tricolore, Milan
– Pozzetto sofa by Design Republic
– On the lower ground of the Design Republic store, Can sofa by Hay
– Cutlery family everyday Sunday by Hay, Design Republic store
– Arredatutto Store in Milan
– Design station at the Arredatutto Store, Milan