Made.com considers the scouting activity vital for its own design and for the mind. Emerging Talent Award is at its third edition today, that is an annual competition which gives the possibility to young international designers to see their own idea commercialised. For this occasion, Made.com collaborated with Desall.com, a crowdsourcing platform dedicated to design and focused on putting young talents in touch with companies looking for new ideas to manufacture. We were at the award that nigh, and we met Lorenzo Calcagni, head of marketing and Business Development for the Italian market.
Hi Lorenzo, Made.com is very well known, so can you please introduce the basic aspects of the company and tell us why it is different from the other furniture companies on the market?
Made.com was born in 2011 in UK, where the base market is today, the other international markets counts the 35% of the sales volume, and they include Italy, France, Holland and Belgium together, and recently we have added Germany. I take care of the Italian market, me and other country managers are all based in London, and this is already one of the first differentiation from many other companies, because the fact of having the teams all together, that work close to each other (from country managers, to who works on product developments, and also our clients) brings you to have both an efficiency in costs, and an ability to share the information in real time, as well as a speed of reacting on the market that others do not have. This can be done because we are still small, we are a start up.
Another big difference is to have a business model that works, Made.com does not work like the other traditional retailers, which launch a collection every six month investing a lot of money to buy the necessary stock, and then they re-sell the collection eventually getting rid of the remaining stock through sales. Here they have a huge risk since they invest so much money in a collection with a few products. What does Made.com do instead? It does not have an inventory, we launch the product on our website, and then we send it to production when the client orders it, especially at the beginning when we have to test the piece on the market. Once it is sold we manufacture and deliver, in this way we cut out part of the initial costs, without having to buy a stock and leave it in the warehouse.
Another distinction is the cut of intermediaries. We do everything in house because we have internal designers and product development team, there is no mediator who buys from a design company, and the re-sell to us in order to reach to the client. We do everything internally, from the drawing to the sale of the final good.
This showroom in London has just opened, do you have any other in Europe?
We do not have physical shops. In Italy, Milan, we have recently opened a showroom for two weekends each month, but in spite of this we have managed to not make it a cost for the company, since this showroom is born from a partnership with a consulting society which uses our furniture, and in exchange we use their spaces to exhibit for short periods. We want to avoid the typical modus operandi of the traditional retail, which has to maintain staff and shops internationally, and buy from a distributor which in turn buys from a design company that has to manage factories for production etc… If you have a look on our website you can see that next to our prices you also find the equivalent one on the high street, I mean the price for the same product from a traditional retailer (same materials, design and manufacturing country), we sell it at a smaller price because we cut off intermediaries, and because we work in a smarter way involving many different manufacturing companies instead of a single one. For example we buy fabrics in Portugal, and we then produce in China or England. This allows to be efficient. We do not have a single factory which produces for Made.com, a factory takes care of one or two collections because that is the one that our product team managed to find matching our cost/quality standard, later, for another piece, we can use another factory from another country which can manufacture something else according to our standards at a more conveniente price.
What counts more in the choice of the manufacturers?
What counts for us is the craftsmanship first, the ability of the factory to produce our product according to our quality standards, and in parallel also according to our cost limit. That is why the biggest team in our office is the one working on product development, the aim is to spot skilled manufacturers able to realise our goods.
Is this enough to maintain the price competitive?
No, a big part is done also by not having an inventory, therefore we do not have the risk of unsold goods. The first products put on sale online have got a lead time of 12 weeks (for example in the case of a sofa), other products which we already tested on the market, are instead delivered in 10-14 days, and that because they are produced every week and sold when they are still on the ship to the warehouse, which works more as a logistic centre where the goods arrive and are then sold off immediately. There are many best sellers with continuous production, but we do not keep stock because we do no have shops.
How do your clients understand if your products fit their environments?
The first sensation they can get is through the request of fabric samples, we send four colours according to the model of sofa. The second one is the visit to our virtual showroom, Unboxed, where clients take pictures to furniture pieces in their own homes, so that on our website, below the product sheet, you can see the piece in the contest of more than one home, in a variation of different uses.
Do you use catalogues?
Yes, but no conventional ones, in order to not have an excessive expenditure this year we have realised only a digital version available on iPad and website. We do not use photographic settings like the typical furniture companies, which create idyllic familiar scenarios and homes. Our focus is only towards product and price, it is not contextualized because we do not want false photographic settings, which bring you away from real situations. We prefer to use systems such as Unboxed, where our product is shown off in real environments, accessible to everyone.
You have talked about your way to work internally, but how do you work together with external designers who contribute to your collections?
We work based on royalties, paying on commission and sharing the business risk with the designer. We both earn money only if the piece sells. We have collaborations both with rising designers and renown creatives, such as Stewart Padwick. The project is usually valued according to the cost feasibility. If it is difficult to produce, like in the case of particular plastic, or it has expensive materials then we do not go for it. We have preferences on materials such as wood, fabrics, leather and eco-leather. For examples we took one year to find a manufacturing company which could supply a quality leather at an affordable price, and we found it in Italy. Moreover we try to maintain the affordability of our prices together with the quality of our products limiting the use of aesthetic materials only externally, inside the furniture pieces instead we work only according to a functionality matter.
The designers who are interested in collaborating with us can get in touch either through our email, which they can find on our website, or through our yearly competition, Emerging Talent Award, which we launch every year. This year we launched it at Salone del Mobile of Milano, with Desall.com.