Why mattress disruptor Koala is getting in bed with homewares

ast furniture’, so the challenge of revolutionising the industry excited us,” Taylor said. “We’ve been able to change how Aussies enjoy cushions, rugs, and throws, with pieces that are sustainable from the start.”

The launch into homewares is just the next step in the business’ evolution into a fully fledged furniture retailer, chief commercial officer Rory Costello told Inside Retail, as Koala gears up for more new product launches in the coming months.

“This is just a natural extension for us, and customer feedback is critical for us to decide whether an opportunity is there for us as a business,” Costello said. “For example, [previously] when customers shopped through our social channels, they’d want to buy the cushions and rugs that would be dressing our sofas, but we didn’t sell them.”

Like its sofas, Koala has designed its homewares to be a part of the lives of its customers – including being dirtied and cleaned. All of its homewares are machine washable and made to last. Additionally, any homewares that get returned to the business will be put back into circulation through charities or resale, like its larger pieces.

The homewares range, which is priced between $89 and $449, is also available at far lower prices than its other products. This, Costello says, creates more opportunities for shoppers to interact and shop with the brand, rather than just when they need a new bed or desk.

A global opportunity

The business launched in 2015 with a single product – a compactly boxed mattress that could be delivered within hours of ordering – and has since sprawled out to cover more parts of its customers’ homes. From bed frames to sofas, launching its own take on various home staples is key to the business’ growth plans, Costello said.

“We’ll continue to expand into [more] furniture lines,” he said.

“We see some opportunities for disruption in other industries, but in the short term, it’s really about doubling down on that furniture opportunity and getting more people to consider shopping online for those kinds of purchases.

“People have started to move online more in the last number of years, but there’s still a long way to go, and it’s a big opportunity for us to capture here in Australia, as well as overseas.”

Koala operates across Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea – markets that offer the business huge potential for growth, Costello said.

“A lot of people don’t know that we have businesses internationally. We believe there’s a global opportunity, so [further international expansion] is part of our plans.”

Winning against supply chain woes

The pandemic affected most of the retail industry and subsequent supply-chain disruptions have led to months-long waiting times in several parts of the furniture industry; however, for the most part, Koala has been able to stick to its promise of same-day delivery.

Costello says this is a boon of the business’ vertically integrated, direct-to-consumer business model, as well as meticulous planning and hiring procedures.

“This is where having an integrated model really benefits us, and having excellent people in our sales and operations,” Costello said. 

“We understand the demand that’s there for any given product line pretty well at any point in time, so when we need to make orders for products months in advance, we’re able to get those quantities right and make sure that we’re in stock in the places where we need the stock.

“It’s not always perfect, but our stock availability is in the high 90s for most of the country.”

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