From his earliest days in the furniture field selling second-hand wares from a shopfront in Eastlakes to his role today at the helm of a rapidly growing network of 14 stores – and counting – Adam Drexler has always done one thing: listen to his customers.
So far, it’s a winning strategy. Like any retailer with longevity, Matt Blatt has had its moments, but with the designer furniture and homewares business celebrating 18 years and opening three new stores before Christmas, Drexler’s customer-centric philosophy, and eye for the eclectic, has served him well.
From manufacturing tubular steel chairs and tables in the early 1980s to almost not surviving the influx of imported furniture from China, Drexler has been quite the chameleon, evolving with the industry and his customers to become the major player Matt Blatt is today.
How has Matt Blatt survived so long?
“There have been several turning points for our business over the years. One was when we realised it was cheaper to buy a finished product landed in Australia from China than it was to buy the raw materials we needed to make our product here – a revelation that almost overnight shifted our business model from manufacturing into importing,” explained Drexler.
“Another was the internet, initially eBay, then our first Matt Blatt website selling direct to the public. The next major move was opening our first sizeable showroom, where customers could see our products and we could seek feedback on the products they wanted – which led to us sourcing and importing quality replica furniture before many of our competitors. Perhaps the final key turning point was around five years ago, when we appointed an Advisory Board to help us manage our rapid expansion and instill a more corporate discipline into our management and back office functions – one of the smartest business decisions I’ve ever made,” said Drexler.
Since those early days, the business has added several stores in Melbourne and Sydney, two in Queensland and one each in Adelaide and Canberra, with three more to come before Christmas in Melbourne’s Oakleigh and Blackburn, and in Balgowlah in Sydney. Drexler plans to open 3-4 stores a year over the next few years to bring the unique Matt Blatt showroom experience to as wide an audience as possible.
The grown-up Matt Blatt looks different from its formative years, but at the business’ heart things haven’t actually changed that much. Approximately 70% of the company’s product range today is original design, with replica pieces now accounting for around 30% of the range. It’s certainly a more corporate operation, but it’s still very much a family-run company with Drexler’s wife Deb still heavily involved, his daughter Avril designing rugs and prints for the brand and his son Joel the current General Manager.
The brand’s ethos hasn’t changed much either. “We like to say we’re not in the furniture business, we’re in the entertainment business,” said Drexler. “There’s nothing better than seeing the look on people’s faces when they enter a Matt Blatt showroom, of hearing them say ‘Wow’. We’re constantly striving for ways to ban bland – and to brighten up people’s homes, and their lives, with great design.”