Addressing structural changes in interior design industry

Andrew Martin bespoke fabrics

Interior design has undergone something of a revolution as digital technology has given consumers access to products and the ability to create ‘looks’ through the likes of Pinterest and Instagram. This has reduced the number of interior designers and undermined the position of retailers that supplied them with product.

Andrew Martin is one such operator, which has focused predominantly on trade customers, and seen its revenues fall from a peak of £24 million 10 years ago to a current £10 million. Mike Durbridge, CEO of Andrew Martin, is tasked with turning around the fortunes of the business having recently moved from B&Q where he was involved in its omni-channel transformation.

Mike Durbridge, CEO of Andrew Martin

“We’re still very trade focused and this market is now so much smaller. We’ve not adapted and we need to rebalance the model and so appeal to both the trade and the end-consumer,” he says, before adding that there are in fact some parallels with what needed to be done at B&Q.

In early September a new mobile-optimised website will be launched that will seek to address the issue of the company achieving only “negligible” online sales. “We’re moving to inspirational imagery, telling the story behind the products – how it’s sourced and manufactured, and images of the product in a room set,” says Durbridge.

The plan is to double the size of the business of which the majority of this extra revenue will be generated online. This online development of the business will go hand-in-hand with a rebranding of the overall business and a move to making the organisation more multi-channel.

Physical stores are very much a part of this. In the UK they include a central London flagship, a six-month-old concession in Harvey Nichols, and a soon to open unit in Harrods. Overseas retail consists of franchised outlets in Russia, Dubai, China and India.

Knightsbridge, London

The digital transformation of Andrew Martin will include having visibility of customers across channels and collecting data on all customers including those in its own stores: “We’ve not got great visibility of customers. We’ve not captured any data even in our own shops. We’re only just starting to collect this data.”

Durbridge admits to finding the challenge of developing all aspects of the business appealing. Unlike at B&Q though, he acknowledges the ability to call on significant capital and resources will not be possible. This is being reflected in the IT approach he is taking. Everything is open source – whereby applications can be “plugged in and given a go” – and the majority of the infrastructure will be run in the cloud.

This will enable all the websites to be integrated into the store-based systems and for each sales assistant to be equipped with an iPad that will give visibility of the full range of stock. This should have a dramatic impact as no more than 20% of the company’s available offer is on show in its stores at any one point.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider