Start-up spotlight

MöbelFirst - digital support for retailers

How can the stationary furniture trade be made more successful digitally? Christoph Ritschel and Dennis T. Franken also asked themselves this question. Their answer: the online platform MöbelFirst. A lot has happened since the start-up was founded in 2016, and recently e-commerce-specialist "The Platform Group" joined Möbel First. Christoph Ritschel explains more in an interview.

Jul 20 2021

How would you describe your MöbelFirst platform in a tweet? 

MöbelFirst, that's the online platform for strengthening the stationary furniture trade. Stop by and find your favourite designer furniture at a fair price.

You and your colleague Dennis Franken founded MöbelFirst in 2016. How has the platform developed over the past five years? 

We are third-generation furniture retailers and in 2015 we thought: "How can we help stationary furniture retailers do business on the internet?". We then built a closed platform, connected retailers to it and started selling products through it. This means we don't have our own warehouse. Many products in our assortment that we sold at the beginning were not available on the internet before, for example products by Rolf Benz. 

In addition, we concentrated on dealers who are in the brand and design sector. This had the advantage that we could do targeted online marketing and generate margins that quickly led to profitable sales in the millions. We were thus able to grow by an average of 50 percent every year. We will continue to push this growth.  

How do you manage that an average shopping basket with you has a merchandise value of around 2,600 euros? 

We already focus on retailers in the consumer and luxury segment during onboarding. We start with brands like Musterring, for example, and also have items from Minotti, where a sofa sometimes costs 20,000 euros.  

What impact did Corona have on your business model? 

The furniture industry in general has benefited in 2020. This is shown by the results of our stationary retailers as well as internet retailers like Westwing and Home24. For us, the year was challenging. Why? The furniture retailers were able to sell extremely well on site and our business model is mainly focused on the goods that are in stock, so we had problems meeting the growing demand with the stock. 

With great effort and creative ideas, we finally managed to grow strongly in 2020 as well. The stationary furniture retailer can be described as rather conservative. In addition, companies have often existed for many generations and the "war chests" are correspondingly well filled. However, the past year has made it clear to all furniture retailers that they cannot avoid digitalisation and should use it for their own benefit. 

Most recently, you made headlines when the "Platform Group" invested in your start-up. What do you hope to gain from the merger? In which fields do you want to invest in the future? 

On the one hand, we will significantly expand the number of dealers and further push marketing. We will also expand the range and add new categories, such as office and garden furniture. We are working with a specialised outbound team there and various multipliers such as brands, associations and other industry service providers are at our disposal. 

As part of The Platform Group, we are all united by a common vision: to make the stationary specialised trade successful on the internet. This inspires us and drives us. On the other hand, we bundle joint know-how and build up new teams of employees. This is often a big challenge for start-ups, as many big companies pull talent out of the market. 

Christoph Ritschel, born in 1989, is a 3rd generation furniture dealer. After an apprenticeship at Nobilia Kitchens, he studied business administration at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, among others. After working at Roland Berger in Berlin and Munich, he founded MöbelFirst together with Dennis T. Franken in 2016. In 2021, the company was sold to The Platform Group. Alongside his co-founder, Christoph Ritschel continues to work for the company as managing director and shareholder.

Author: Bernadette Trepte

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