FROM LOCKEDOWN TO LOGGED-ON: HOW AN ONLINE STORE GAVE BEDSHED A BOOST

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Q&A with Bedshed’s Gavin Culmsee

Bedshed is one of Australia’s largest specialist mattress, bedding and bedroom furniture franchises. Now celebrating 40 years in business—the very first Bedshed store opened in Western Australia in 1980—the retail empire now has a network of 36 stores across Queensland, ACT, Victoria and Western Australia.

Far from slipping into their 40’s with a ‘business as usual’ approach, Bedshed has been evolving their brand, embarking on a full refurbishment of their stores and launching an online retail store.

Business Franchise magazine spoke with Bedshed General Manager Gavin Culmsee about how franchisees adapted to the new full service e-commerce site and how the unexpected global health crisis impacted their brand evolution.

 

2020 has been a tumultuous time for business franchises struggling to cope through COVID-19. How has Bedshed fared this year?

Well, back at the start of the year we were getting a lot of franchise interest and our retail bedding business was very strong and then, with that first lockdown, everything changed. We quickly implemented a COVID-safe plan so we could continue trading during that time and provide our customers and our team members with a safe environment. Our stores have a large footprint, so social distancing was pretty easy for us, but we also introduced hygiene protocols like disposal pillow covers for customers testing out the bedding.

During that time, we saw a lot of customers coming in with an almost desperate need for something ‘right now’: bedding for additional family members coming to stay with them during lockdown, that sort of thing.

Then towards the middle of the year it was a different story. Customers were looking for more luxurious home furnishings to ‘resortify’ their homes. They have all this disposable income because they’re not going on long holidays or travelling overseas, so they want to make their homes as comfortable as possible. This kind of business is still very strong for us.

 

During all this, Bedshed launched its online e-commerce store. With more people wanting to make purchases from the safety and comfort of their own home, the timing for this platform was perfect.

We had been developing the ecommerce platform for a couple of years and rolled it out across all our stores in June. It’s been a win-win for our customers and our franchisees. Our customers can shop online direct from any Bedshed warehouse and enjoy the convenience of a contactless delivery experience. We have stock in our warehouses all over the country that our customers can now buy direct from, so there’s more choice than ever before.

For our franchisees, the e-commerce platform means they might come into work in the morning and find thousands of dollars of sales have come in overnight, the goods are already allocated in the sales system, and all they need to do is organise delivery. So, it really has provided a tremendous sales boost to our store owners.

 

Were there any challenges setting up the online store?

Fortunately, we had been developing the system for a couple of years, so had lots of time to build it, but when it came time to launching around June we very focused on that. Even with the team working from home this was our number one priority, we put everything we had into building the online store. Nothing was more important than getting that up and running.

The key to getting it right is that we went into the project with a really clear objective: to sell direct from our franchisees’ warehouses to consumers and make sure the funds got into our franchisees bank accounts straight away. Just a simple, clear objective. It’s really important to get that right from the outset and avoid things like project creep.

Because we put all that groundwork in, when it came time to roll it out across all our stores, training the franchisees on the new sales system was quite straightforward.

 

What advice would you give potential franchisees thinking of a retail proposition like Bedshed – especially during these uncertain times?

When you’re starting out, it’s all about understanding what kind of business it is you’re looking for. A food business that might have a high turnover of young staff members is very different from a retail business like ours that usually employs a handful of more mature, reliable workers. So, consider that lifestyle aspect.

Also look for a business that’s going to trade well into the future and try to understand what the business will look like in 5-10 years’ time. A retail franchise like Bedshed is a long-term proposition, so it offers stability. When a business has thrived for 40 years it shows it can stand the test of time.

But you can’t predict the future (and this year has been proof of that!) We’ve seen great trading periods and tough trading periods and stayed strong through it all. It’s about having a business model that can make it through all of those ups and downs and survive.

 

Taking the next step

If you’re the sort of person who’s excited by a challenge and is driven to succeed, franchising could be a smart career move. It offers the right balance between exciting and challenging opportunities, and a steady, safe and secure investment.

Have a question? Just want to have an initial conversation? Contact Bedshed’s National Business Development Manager, Greg Prussia 0447 891 158.

Or visit bedshedfranchise.com.au