We want to create an atmosphere, both online and in store. Show that we know the story behind the products.

Geert-Jan Smits founder of Flinders.

Flinders wants to make design accessible to everyone, and this furniture store is also one of the fastest growing companies in the furniture industry. “Furniture stores tend to be quite traditional, even old-fashioned,” explains Geert-Jan Smits, CEO of Flinders. And for years, that's also how the industry was perceived. But from day one, we had a completely different vision: we are disruptors. We have a multi-channel strategy that takes us to where the customer is. It may not sound very innovative, but it's completely different from furniture stores that just exist hoping for customers to arrive.”

We have a multi-channel strategy, which takes us to where the customer is.

Geert-Jan Smits founder of Flinders
Flinder's store has beautiful furniture

“We can’t sell you anything”

Avant de créer Flinders, Geert-Jan avait une société de conseil sur Internet, Jungle Minds. Mais après dix ans de conseil, l’heure était venue de faire quelque chose de nouveau. “Je suis un homme d’affaires, donc j’ai commencé par chercher ce qui n’avait pas encore été révolutionné par internet”, explique Geert-Jan. Résultat : les meubles de designers. “Les gens disaient que je ne savais pas ce que je faisais, mais plus on me le disait, plus j’étais content”. Tout ne fut pas facile pour autant. “Je me suis plongé dans les marques pour déterminer celles qui étaient les plus recherchées sur Internet, et donc celles que l’on vendrait. Aucune ne m’était familière, alors je les ai appelées. Et les mêmes questions revenaient à chaque fois : “Combien de mètres carrés votre magasin fait-il ? Où se trouve-t-il ? Oh, vous voulez vendre sur Internet ? Dans ce cas nous ne pouvons rien vous vendre.” C’est pour cette raison que nous avons dû chercher, par pure nécessité, un endroit pour ouvrir un magasin physique – et que nos Flinders Cafés ont vu le jour dans des endroits très fréquentés. Les gens peuvent entrer y boire une bière ou un café, et tous les meubles qu’ils voient et qu’ils utilisent sont les nôtres.”

Today the physical store is a central part of the Flinders concept “I now fully support this idea of having a physical presence, explains Geert-Jan, because it is important to give people the opportunity to see to touch the products. Selling in a café is not that simple, and the people behind the bar are not always able to give advice in terms of interior design. That’s why we opened a fantastic store in Zaandam in 2015.” Flinders, however, kept his cafes: “Café De Bajes on Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam is ours, it’s just that people have no idea.”

Geert-Jan Smits — founder of Flinders

“Le magasin moyen est extrêmement ennuyeux”

What Flinders has understood is that it is not easy for its customers to buy furniture. “A lot of people I know or meet say to me, ‘I wish I had some cool design stuff in my house, but since I don’t know where to find it, I just go to IKEA,’ says Geert-Jan . The average store is also extremely boring. We only see product packshots, which does not help to imagine the product at home. That’s why we try to create an atmosphere, both online and in store. We want to show that we are specialists and that we know the story behind each product.” And why is it so important? “Because we sell very high-end products. A chair like this (he points to a Vitra fiberglass chair) doesn’t come cheap. People are saving up to buy this kind of item.”

This strategy, Geert-Jan based it on his own experience. “When I started Flinders, I knew nothing about designer furniture. I had never heard of these brands and found them ridiculously expensive. But you only need to visit the factory to learn the story behind the brand. We discover, for example, that Fermob garden furniture is produced for the Luxembourg garden in Paris. They are made of an aluminum which is very light and will stay looking great. This is how I came to appreciate this kind of furniture. But I also understand what kind of niche they are targeting and how expensive the items we sell are. That’s why you can read their story on our site, but you can also come and sit on our furniture, touch it: that also helps.”

The average store is also extremely boring. We only see product packshots.

Geert-Jan Smits founder of Flinders

“We don’t see it as an expense”

Such experiences influence the way Flinders views business. “Having an online store may seem easy, but for us, every order is preceded by many contacts with the customer”. It is for this reason that Flinders uses all possible channels to reach its customers. “And when I say all the channels, I mean all of them, insists Geert-Jan. We have the online store, cafes, store, and we can also come to you for a consultation. In practice, nobody does it because it costs a lot of money. We also sell in marketplaces, via chat, email and phone. We don’t see that as an expense, because that’s a big part of our pre-sales.” But that’s not all: “We have a dedicated project department, which takes care of business customers, and our social networks also play a very important role. We ask our customers to tag their purchases with the hashtag #myflinders. On Instagram, we received more than 500 messages in which people say really nice things to us.

Flinder's homepage

“What sets us apart from the average furniture store, what makes us successful, is how we reach our customers through all these channels,” observes Geert-Jan. In addition to this, we have set up a stock system. We are one of the first companies in the furniture industry to offer next day delivery. Before that, waiting eight to ten weeks to get your furniture was normal – but that’s not the case anymore. From day one we decided this was not acceptable.”

Plus rapides et plus intelligents que la concurrence

Everything is centered around the customer and their experience, which we want to be as good as possible. And payments are also part of it. “At the end of the day, while payments are only a small part of the customer experience, it’s a really important part, not only for the customer but also for me,” explains Geert-Jan. Such an essential part of my business that I wouldn’t trust anyone who came along.”

“Le fait que votre fondateur, Adriaan Mol, ait remporté le Loey Awards est très parlant, continue Geert-Jan. Comme je viens du domaine de l’internet, cette récompense m’a donné la confirmation que je cherchais. Votre histoire, et le fait que vous soyez une vraie entreprise de la Tech, vous rend plus rapides et plus intelligents que la concurrence. J’aime la façon dont on peut changer les paramètres et, à côté de ça, avoir une combinaison de technologie et de personnes qui pensent avec vous. Les échanges avec Mollie sont toujours agréables, et c’est un facteur important. La stratégie de Mollie va nous permettre de nous développer plus avant, par exemple dans d’autres pays, et d’envisager de nouvelles possibilités.”

The fact that your founder won the Loey Awards speaks volumes

Geert-Jan Smits founder of Flinders

Une entreprise complètement différente

Speaking of the future, Geert-Jan spends a lot of time thinking about it. “What will be my added value in the next 5 years? We must continue to ask ourselves questions constantly, otherwise we can become obsolete in a few years – that tells you how quickly things are changing. Flinders could be a completely different company in five years, we don’t know how it will evolve and I think that’s really cool.

“Thinking about the future of the business is, I think, one of the most interesting things. What also helps me is having a lot of people around me who like it, who know how to be critical and who want to think along with me, notes Geert-Jan. This year we won the award for “Best Furniture Store in the Netherlands” at the Thuiswinkel Awards. We are extremely proud to have come this far after nine years in the business. We know that we are no longer a start-up but I would like to keep this type of culture within the company. In fact, we are just getting started. We want to dominate the world, that’s how you do great things.”

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