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  • #986601
    Mahesh_M
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    Hi Everyone,

    First time poster here. It is nice to see all the knowledge sharing that goes on in this forum. I am glad to be a part of it.

    My brother and I are thinking of starting an online furniture business. The idea is to import furniture from China, and sell it here. The idea and workflow looks quite straight forward on paper, once we sort the shipping agents, AQIS, website and warehousing. But I know that it is usually everything but that.

    We both have full time jobs with a decent salary. We just want to branch out of mainstream employment and start “flying solo”.

    Can you please share your experiences or any potential challenges that we will come across if we go down this path? How effective is an online furniture business? I can imagine the local freight here would be a challenge, for starters.

    Thank you for reading.

    Cheers,
    Mahesh

    #1158596
    arrowwise
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    Hi Mahesh,

    Will you be storing popular items locally for fast delivery? If so, you’ll need a decent sized warehouse to store furniture. There are plenty of similar stores that will drop ship the furniture direct from China, with your 2-3 month turnaround time as it travels by SEA. Which model are you adopting? 3 months is a long time to wait for a couch to arrive if you’re an internet impulse buyer.

    Then there’s quality control to consider. The bulkier the item, the more risk for damage or other issues at each point in the supply chain.

    #1158597
    John Romaine
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    Why not save yourself the headaches and find suppliers here? Or better yet, just dropship.

    #1158598
    Cat – GLC
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    Hi Mahesh,

    There are quite a few online furniture businesses floating around flying solo that would have some great advice. I’m sure one of them will give you some advise shortly. *Cough* Jason *Cough* :D

    Cheers

    Cat :)

    #1158599
    Dave Gillen – Former FS Concierge
    Keymaster
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    Hi Mahesh,

    I can’t help with the furniture, but I want to welcome you to Flying Solo! Feel free to ask plenty of questions and best of luck!

    Dave

    #1158600
    eWAY
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    Something to be weary of on dropshipping is that it basically limits you to PayPal or Bank Deposit as a payment option. The banks will not issue an Internet Merchant Account to businesses dropshipping as the chance of chargebacks due to delivery delays is high.

    What are your aspirations for the business? Are you going in with all guns blazing and ordering $100k worth of stock or are you going to order in 3-5 products to start off with? Starting small will allow you to test the water and you can just store the flatpacks in your garage.

    Maclean

    #1158601
    LucasArthur
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    Hi Mahesh,

    Firstly, welcome…

    May i lead in with a question or 2, if that is ok?

    1. Do you plan on retaining employment plus running the online business?
    2. Do you intend on outsourcing warehousing or having own warehouse?
    3. Why have you considered furniture? because of current trends, genuine interest or you know someone in the game who can assist?
    4. How far along are you with your business plan, your SWAT and other components?
    5. What budget are you allocated to commence, to operate and to get started?

    Whilst you have already received some great advice, as always on FS, from people such as:
    Arrowwise: requirements of large warehouse for stocking – keeping stock on hand as opposed to dropshipping
    John Romaine: finding local suppliers – although if being online merchant only you will come across many local suppliers unwilling to deal with non bricks and mortar though – so note this
    Cat – Global Logistics: Actually, no advice here just a lil coughing fit! LOL.. although i must say she is a great resource if you need a freight forwarder.
    eWay (Mr Maclean): considering your position that will also affect your merchant abilities..

    On top of all those, and as you have asked such a general comment about feedback on the industry i am really unsure you will get much more specifics as i know personally this business took me many years to get a handle on, to develop and to get to where it is today..

    Things you will need to identify will certainly be that online furniture retailers experience many hurdles in trying to become successful and most cease operations within 12 months due to poor planning, underestimating ongoing costs and shortfalls in stock (transit/build times) and creating a space in the market for themselves as opposed to all the competition that already has a good standing in the online community.. The latter being the BIGGEST hurdle, how to differentiate yourself amongst the many overnighters that dabble in this space? its not easy! believe me…

    What will be your strategies? how will you market? who are your intended customers? do you have existing customers ready to go? how much time can you sit waiting for your initial investment to even land at an Australian Port?

    Things you will need to focus on is things such as costs, speak to a decent freight forwarder in order to have an accurate figure that you can calculate what every item you buy will cost with all fees incorporated into that figure. Then you can work backwards from the RRP you intend on selling for and see if there is a profit to be made..

    Again, i am unsure on what else to add as the reply will be dependent a little on how you will operate and questions 1 – 5 will help get more specific.

    Another point to consider is, how much stock will you be able to hold? From my experience, furniture and other, you will need to hold 3-5 months worth of stock on hand, so if you wanted to flip a $million a year you may need to hold RRP of approx $250-400k in stock.

    One further comment on quality, you will also need to ensure you are on top of quality along with your ability to ‘repair’ items that come from overseas not in a sellable condition – although if tweaked is ok…

    Sorry, i have typed lots.. hopefully nothing taken negatively as it certainly is not intended in that way, although there is LOTS AND LOTS to consider and ponder and discuss between you and your brother… Its a very tough business, one that has families that have been bricks and mortar for many generations and the online retailers are trying to poach those avenues with direct imports and, in all honesty, mostly inferior quality products. Most people buying from China dont even visit the factories they buy from and ‘pray’ that everything will be ok, and being unscrupulous then offer this inferior product to consumers who then get burnt in the process.. This then has a domino effect and hinders the growth of reputable online retailers (rant over)…

    Anyways, if your keen drop back a reply and if i can assist i and others will certainly avail themselves – without disclosing too much, of course ;)

    Cheers
    Jason

    Jason Ramage | Lucas Arthur Pty Ltd | E: [email protected]   P: 61 3 8324 0344    M: 61 412 244 888
    #1158602
    AmberS
    Member
    • Total posts: 66
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    Hi
    From the marketing / online / website side of things – talk to a marketing person BEFORE having a website designed. When you know who your target market is and how you will differentiate from the others in the market – then look at what you need in a website to really work for you. Too often we have clients come to us wanting marketing AFTER getting a cheap website and we usually only have bad news for them.

    Often people setting up an online store or drop shipping just go with the cheaper, easier shopping cart options and then find that they can’t be found on Google, can’t easily add extra features and spend a lot of time administering the process.

    I’d really recommend taking the time to find the best website solution for your business needs and future plans. Your website is the centre of your marketing, customer service, your primary public presence etc… it will make or break your idea.

    Under our marketing company, we’ve done a lot of work with clients setting up businesses like yours with their strategy and online setup / website design and I’d be happy to have a chat if you wanted to PM me or get in touch.

    Good luck with everything, you’re in for an adventure.
    Amber

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