California dreaming: Why the Golden State is key to Coco Republic’s growth
Australian designer furniture brand Coco Republic has opened its first bricks-and-mortar location in the United States. The business originally entered the US as a wholesaler, but now has its sights set on building its own omnichannel offering. In addition to its first store, which is located in San Francisco, it plans to open two more in California in the next six months: in Culver City, a neighbourhood in Los Angeles, and Orange County. Coco Republic’s creative director and co-owner Anth
r Anthony Spon-Smith told Inside Retail the store rollout is a dream come true.
“It’s so exciting. It’s pretty rare for an Australian brand to go to the US full stop, let alone in the furniture space,” Spon-Smith said.
“Most of them, if they’re doing that, will wholesale through Space Furniture or other brands like that. So that’s really unique, and our outdoor lines are already selling very well in the US, so it was a no-brainer.”
The US is currently the largest single market for furniture in the world, according to Spon-Smith. This makes it attractive, especially compared to a market like Apac, which houses myriad cultures and styles.
Spon-Smith is confident Coco Republic can perform well in the international market because it is a design-led brand, which is less common in the US.
“There are some larger brands that are a bit more old-school and bureaucratic, and they’re not innovating very much,” Spon-Smith said.
“We’re a dynamic business, and a playful brand. We have a very Australian way of doing things that we think will resonate in the US.”
Coco Republic’s creative director and co-owner Anthony Spon-Smith.
Golden State of Mind
Alongside the physical launch, Coco Republic is launching a new brand campaign, ‘Golden State of Mind’. A reference to California’s nickname as the Golden State, the campaign aims to present the similarities between the Californian and Australian way of living.
To start with, Coco Republic’s mission in the US is to conquer California, and this campaign will be instrumental to achieving that, explained Spon-Smith.
“Obviously there’s the logistical side, where it’s easier to focus on logistics and inventory across one major part of the market, but we also feel that the Californian lifestyle is very similar to that in Australia and New Zealand – it’s very coastal, casual, aspirational, and they love a blend of indoor and outdoor living,” Spon-Smith said.
“That’s the DNA that we want to run through our brand, and even when we take it to Miami or New York, it’ll be the same message. We’ll find sites that speak to that.”
One thing that is different between the two markets, however, is the level of e-commerce penetration. In Australia, Coco Republic’s online sales make up around 15 per cent of the business’ sales – whereas its US arm is expected to have online sales approaching 30 per cent of sales.
This expectation is based on competitors’ performance, with some US furniture chains seeing online sales reaching 50 to 60 per cent of sales following the pandemic.
“I think the biggest difference right now is that the US customer is much more comfortable buying online – they definitely like to know you have showrooms, but they’re more about being a destination and driving consumer confidence,” Spon-Smith said.
“We’ve soft launched our online offer in the US, but with the world environment as it is right now with the pressures on supply chain and staff, our official launch will probably be in mid-October.
“Really, I think we won’t be holistically up-and-running fully until early next year, but online is going to be a huge focus for us in the US.”
Coco Republic’s San San Francisco flagship
Backing from the locals
Helping facilitate the international launch is US private equity fund Story3, which has entered into a financial and IP partnership with Coco Republic to support Spon-Smith’s vision.
“We’ve had a lot of success in the past five years or so, so we didn’t actually need the money,” Spon-Smith said.
“However, we wanted to go big. We had offers from other local private equity firms to help expand the brand around Australia, but we really feel that the US is where it’s at.
“Story3 is our equity partner, and they’re providing a great leg up in a market where you don’t want to start from a standing start – you want to get a bit of a run up before you launch, and they’ve got the experience and people to help support us in that.”
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