Brosa breaks new ground in furniture retailing

Melbourne-based online furniture brand Brosa has opened its first bricks-and-mortar showroom to the public, following in the footsteps of e-commerce pioneers, such as Warby Parker and Bonobos, that have gone offline to grow their business and allow customers to touch and feel the product.

The showroom, located amidst a cluster of furniture retailers including Great Dane and Matt Blatt on Johnston Street in Melbourne’s Fitzroy neighbourhood, features a curated range of living room, dining, bedroom and outdoor furniture sourced from the brand’s network of global ‘makers’.

Each piece is tagged with a QR code, so customers can look up specific details about the product on their smartphone, and so Brosa can keep track of which items are trending in-store and swap out less popular products. There is also a touchscreen showing a live feed of the products people are looking at online, and digital ‘mood boards’ where customers can see what different products look like together.

Interior designers are on hand to guide customers through the showroom, give styling advice and, for those who opt-in, provide value-add services, such as 3D visualisations of redecorated rooms in their home.

“It’s a culmination of retail as it should be,” Ivan Lim, Brosa’s founder and CEO, told Inside Retail Weekly.

Brosa has tested this concept over the past two years with appointment-only showrooms in Melbourne, where the business is based, and Alexandria in Sydney.

But the new showroom, called Studio+, allows the retailer to scale up the experience and reach a new demographic of offline shoppers who have never heard of the brand before.

“The other showroom was hard because people were getting in each other’s way [and] you could only take one or two appointments,” Lim said.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here for us to make it a hub for customers to experience the brand,” he said about Studio+.

“We’ve talked about doing workshops and collaborating with other brands.”

Tapping into industry experience

Lim started Brosa, which means ‘smile’ in Icelandic, in 2014 to provide designer furniture at an affordable price point. The business works directly with manufacturers – whose faces and stories are featured across its website and showroom – cutting out the middleman and associated markup.

Over the past five years, Brosa has raised $8 million from investors including AirTree Ventures and Bailador, which it has put into its underlying technology, building up a team of delivery trucks and drivers and making several key hires.

The business last February appointed Flipkart’s former head of private label Rushabh Sanghavi as its chief merchandising officer. While at Flipkart, Sanghavi was responsible for building up the company’s entire furniture private label supply chain from scratch.

And in July, Anna Stockley, former head of marketing and online at cosmetics retailer Mecca, joined Brosa as COO. Before Mecca, Stockley worked at US online fashion brand Bonobos, where she was responsible for rolling out its bricks-and-mortar showroom strategy.

At the same time, Brosa has been improving its backend technology and operations to enable many of the digital integrations in the new showroom, and to handle the growth it is anticipating off the back of it.

As a ‘digital-first’ business, Brosa builds its technology in-house, a key differentiator between Brosa and most other furniture players in Australia, according to Stockley.

“Coming from a bricks-and-mortar business, it’s just jaw-dropping to me what we can do; the ease with which you can then respond to the customer’s needs,” she told Inside Retail Weekly.

“Other categories have been disrupted. We’ve got fantastic apparel players like The Iconic. But the furniture sector hasn’t had that player. We’re it.”

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