The announcement this week of an investment of £2.5 million in online furniture selling business Made.com sounds like little for retailers to worry about. It’s an online start-up and it’s a trifling amount.
But this might be a mistake because the investors putting in the cash are Lastminute.com co-founder and mydeco.com founder Brent Hoberman and the less well known John Hunt. Anybody who was around during the dotcom boom will know Hunt’s name was linked to quite a few success stories.
The idea is that Made.com will cut out the wicked middleman – the retailer – and link designers with customers. And by so doing, it will be able to reduce prices on furniture by 50% to 80%.
This is what Hoberman reckons: “From an investment trend perspective we see an exciting transition from retailing to ‘metailing’ where consumers are in control, influencing which designs make it into production and with a more direct connection to the factory. Made.com is good news for talented designers.”
Good news for designers and Made.com investors but maybe not so good for retailers? Before furniture retailers shut up shop it must be remembered that there have been few examples so far of retailers being completely cut out of the equation and manufacturers selling straight to consumers.
But Hoberman and Hunt are in the game of disruption and reckon the time is now right for change in an established market where they reckon the margins grabbed by retailers is too high.