Don’t Ditch The Bricks Just Yet

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In bucking the trend to flee online, Castlery is living up to its name by building its castle on the ground, rather than in the cloud. Will we see more businesses adopting a two-pronged virtual and bricks-and-mortar approach to better engage their customers? By S. Sakthivel

The quest for a piece of furniture led Declan Ee and Fred Ji on a merry chase through Vietnam and China and the eventual realisation that they should set up Castlery.

Ee and Ji were fixed on finding that sofa to make their house a home, until an ‘a-ha’ moment led to the realisation that there was a business opportunity in their endeavour. And what sealed the concept into a reality was the fact that it would be disruptive — the in thing these days.

Declan had initially intended to call his new venture “castle.com”, to embody the saying ‘a man’s home is his castle’. After finding out that the owner of that particular domain name was asking for an exorbitant $1.5 million for the name, he settled on “castelry.com” instead. Which goes to show there should always be a Plan B handy.

From modest beginnings in a basement in Ubi, where they uploaded a catalogue of good-looking furniture at knock down prices (as much as 70% cheaper than their competitors, is the claim), the duo soon realised the benefits of bringing the tactile element of quality into the hands of their customers. “People started visiting our dump (of an office) to come in and swim through the rubbish to just look at and sit on a sofa,” Ee explains.

Creative designer Edoardo Arricale says that while they have had success online, sometimes there is no better way to communicate product details to a potential customer than through a physical store. “Things like firmness (of a seat or cushion or sofa) can’t be described online.” The physical presence of the products has increased in-store sales closing rates by almost 70% with customers coming in with their research done online and requiring just a gentle nudge to make the purchase.

Seeing is indeed selling. Castlery discusses its strategy on STORM V26, available at Allscript, MPH, and Kinokuniya.

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