The latest in Furniture News’ e-commerce interview series introduces Daniel Fairburn, director and founder of pure-play e-tailer www.outandoutoriginal.com

Out & Out Original specialises in designer home and garden furniture from around the world, and works with designers and design companies to offer well-crafted furniture and accessories for the British home.

Launched in 2013, Out & Out Original offers around 276 products, and attracts an average of 8789 web traffic sessions per month. According to Daniel, the company aims to break the £1m mark this year.

Out & Out Original is committed to supplying ethically-sourced and produced furniture, some of which is available for pre-order. Although an order may take longer to be delivered, customers can be reassured that the shipping is more environmentally friendly, and their patience is rewarded with a substantial discount.

Why should I visit your website?

At Out & Out Original we work with some exceptional designers and talented design companies to bring our customers beautifully-crafted furniture and accessories for the British home. From modern sofas and hand-made breakfast bar stools to wicker garden furniture and retro side tables, Out & Out Original provides contemporary designs for the eclectic British tastes.

We know the business, we know the industry, we know what looks great and what doesn’t work – and we’ll help our customer find those hidden gems that will make their house a home.

How did you enter this industry?

After graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2005 with a first-class honours degree in Business and Marketing, I relocated to Saigon in Vietnam, where I started working for Danish garden furniture giant ScanCom International.

During my six years there, I rose up the ranks quickly from a marketing assistant to head of product development, working with a number of high-profile clients including Laura Ashley, Ikea, BoConcept and the Home Retail Group.

Not only did I develop numerous successful product ranges, but the relationships I cultivated with suppliers and skilled producers proved invaluable for when I took the leap into business on my own in 2013. The strong relationships I’d built up over the years meant I continued to collaborate – and was able to secure UK exclusivity – with these partners.

Who is your e-commerce hero?

Although not a pure e-commerce platform, Google takes the prize. Their vision hasn’t really changed. They started with the aim to improve and even change the way we live our lives – just look at the innovations they have created and then given to the world for free, such as Google maps. Most online start-ups cash in at a certain point and become much more capitalistically driven, but Google innovates with honesty because it’s what they believe in – and the irony of it is that they make a mint in the end anyway.

“Google innovates with honesty because it’s what they believe in – and the irony of it is that they make a mint in the end anyway”

I run our entire business from Google applications, and I’m honestly grateful each day I can use those applications for very little financial outlay to help create something in Out & Out Original.

Describe a typical working day

I just became a father for the first time, so my typical days have dramatically changed from a few months ago. In terms of business, I am always excited to check if we have received any orders overnight, and still today I check each order and customer address so that I can get an instinctive feeling for our customers.

I used to process orders, but the business has grown somewhat since then, so I will troubleshoot in the morning and then work on our numerous marketing campaigns and social media channels in the afternoons. I also spend a lot of time thinking – some would call it daydreaming, but each day I think about the future of the business and plant seeds to get us there.

What part of your job would you prefer to avoid?

I would prefer to avoid shipping and logistics, simply because I take each customer and element of the business incredibly personally, and when deliveries are late or there are errors in our international shipping functions I get unbelievably frustrated.

Saying that, I wouldn’t at this point have anyone else do it, because I’m still the only one who lives and breathes the business … maybe that will change one day.

What has been your greatest challenge to date?

Despite travelling the world and living abroad for several years, the single greatest challenge to date was setting up Out & Out Original. I approached four banks with my business plans, and one point-blank refused to even meet me. The bank manager in question said “let me know what HSBC says, and come back to me” – I won’t say which bank it was.

The team at NatWest took the time to read my business plan and were constructive in their feedback. I felt that they had confidence in my ability to run a successful business. We worked with the NatWest director of business banking to get a £50,000 loan under the Government’s Funding for Lending scheme. The loan gave us working capital to buy stock and launch a marketing drive to establish Out & Out Original.

How much do you invest in making your site more visible?

The vast majority. As a startup, you live and die by your ability to attract passing trade, so we work closely on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), editorial press and advertising. As a company policy we don’t use pay-per-click advertising like Adwords. I simply don’t believe it gives you a fair representation of your business’ marketability, as that only really comes with word of mouth and organic referrals.

What’s your take on how the relationship between online and physical retail might develop?

I could write a dissertation on this. Life is becoming more complicated, and there is less and less time for roaming the high street. Long term, online business will be the only way to buy, with physical stores acting as collection points or a means to verify credibility for customers purchasing from a retailer for the first time – or to discuss customisations, perhaps.

“As a company policy we don’t use pay-per-click advertising like Adwords. I simply don’t believe it gives you a fair representation of your business’ marketability”

Technology has an insatiable appetite, and the physical experience will continue to evolve and will continue to develop in an online form. In furniture you need both, in my opinion, but there are many ways to create that. When we grow internationally I have an idea that will transform how furniture is physically retailed – which I will, naturally, not divulge.

Do you have any plans to grow your business?

Despite the business only starting a year ago, it has gone from strength to strength and we aim to hit the £1m mark next year, which will be a fantastic achievement for a startup company.

We are looking to grow internationally and are keeping an open mind about that. We have developed the platform, the collections and the brand to grow, so we can either grow organically or grow with partners who want to take our concept to new countries. We will probably end up doing a bit of both.

If you had to impart one piece of advice for an aspiring e-tailer, what would it be?

In the prism of furniture, I would say don’t be afraid to invest. Too many e-tailers are simply platforms, and avoid getting their hands dirty in the supply and distribution side. We develop, produce, stock and retail, all organically, which means our products are original – it also means we become very focused in a world with too much choice.

I would say focus, invest in that focus area, and then work the hardest you’ve ever worked. Then, who knows what’s possible?

This article was published in the January issue of Furniture News magazine.