Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Interview with Braden Richter, LuxeYard
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
How do you leverage your years of experience manufacturing and designing furniture for stores like Ikea and Crate & Barrel into the online world, and harness the interest of consumers to purchase their furniture online? That's what Braden Richter, the CEO of Los Angeles-based LuxeYard (www.luxeyard.com) is looking to do with the new startup, which combines the world of home furnishings with the concept of flash sales.
How did you end up at LuxeYard?
Braden Richter: I've been on the manufacturing side of the business for twenty years. I started a couple of different manufacturing companies in the home furnishings industry, primarily a manufacturer of products for stores like Ikea, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and Restoration Hardware. As a designer of those products, I've seen in home furnishings over the last twenty years lots of cycles. What has evolved over the past year or so, is I've been seeing that the e-commerce business is very strong. I had taken note of that, saw that sales were spiking, and then almost by pure serendipity was approached by a former customer of mine, Amir Mireskandari, who is the founder of LuxeYard, who asked me if I'd be interested in running it. It seemed like kind of a crazy notion, having been so heavily involved in manufacturing, and owning one of the largest furniture manufacturers on the West Coast, to jump careers on such short notice. But, I was intrigued by the flash sales world and the opportunity, and really felt like it was time to try something new. I resigned as CEO of my manufacturing company, and about four months ago we put the plan together to create LuxeYard.
For those who haven't heard of your company, what is LuxeYard all about?
Braden Richter: LuxeYard is a flash sales site. Looking at it initially from a manufacturer's point of view, it's an incredible win-win for everybody. Our focus is on maximizing the expectations and providing a quality product. We have great relationships with all of the vendors in the home furnishings world, and want to absolutely bring great value and great products which are not typically on other e-commerce sites, and are definitely not on flash sales sites. LuxeYard also includes the concierge buying concept. Because of our understanding of the home furnishing industry, we have a feature I don't think anyone else has, which is users can post pictures of the product you'd be interested in, and our buying team will be able to source those products for the individuals. Say, you're walking down Rodeo Drive, and you see a sofa in the window for $12,000. You can take a picture, upload it to LuxeYard, and we can assist in finding that product, or something very like that product, for a fraction of that price.
Why would flash sales be so interesting to the furniture industry?
Braden Richter: Furniture is fairly similar to the fashion business, to an extent. It's all about trends, like apparel, although it's does not evolve quite as fast. We've all noticed over the last decade or so things like the Home and Garden Network, the popularity of designers, which has really brought furniture to the forefront of design. But, there has been a legacy in the home furnishing market, which is the very slow speed that it takes for products to make it to market. We're going to change that. That's the nature of a flash site, which is to get you the latest and greatest, very quickly.
How have manufactures received the idea?
Braden Richter: They love it. I was actually one of the first manufacturers on the flash sales sites. When I was first approached, the idea was to clean out my warehouse all of that product just sitting there. I agreed to that, hosted a sale and participated in an event, and quickly had my warehouse cleaned out. I was really blown away. I came back again, did another sale, and instead had to make product. A typical furniture store might get a 100 people a day, but with flash sales, you can drive a million people to have a look at the store in a day. As far as manufacturers go, because it's members only, and as far as pricing goes, they are comfortable wit how we are pricing to a great extent. A few might prefer not to discount as heavily, and in that case we might not do events with them, but over the year, we've seen that more and more manufacturers have become excited about flash sales, and have changed their minds from a year ago.
Switching topics, what's the biggest lesson you've learned so far starting up the business?
Braden Richter: That's a good question. I've started up several businesses over the years, but not in the tech industry. Probably the thing I've learned most, is the complexity of the marketing involved in the digital world. It's certainly not like traditional marketing for manufacturing. I'm learning lessons every day, but lucky I've got people helping me with this, with a full team. We've put seventeen people into an office, and the cohesion of the experience from different industries has been an incredible process.
Finally, noting that you just launched this week, what is next on your radar?
Braden Richter: Obviously, the launch was our first hurdle. If you have a look at the site, there are lots of amazing features that will be coming into play as we launch. There are things like our concierge buying, room planner, and other little things anyone interested in the home would want to play around with. After that, we're going to continue expanding on the home, and other categories in the home.