Now, new ownership is driving growth, with United Furniture taking over the reins in February of this year.
“They immediately wanted to introduce elements that could improve the operation and grow the business,” Doyle told Inside Retail Weekly. United Furniture owns Beds Online and Furniture Online, with Dare Gallery now comprising the largest component of its retail stable.
The opening of new stores is being ramped up over the next 18 months, initially on the eastern seaboard.
“Over the next 12 to 18 months [we’re aiming for] potentially four more stores – including one in the new Maroochydore Homemaker Centre – mainly in Queensland and New South Wales,” Doyle said.
In Victoria, Dare already has a strong presence, with seven stores in Melbourne.
As Queensland has been a very productive state for Dare in recent years, it’s been consciously targeted as the initial location for new sites.
Accompanying this expansion is a new fitout design, which is currently being trialed. Some of the new elements will be implemented in the Maroochydore store, which is the next Dare due to open, in November.
“It will create a bright and vibrant retail space that we are very excited about, and we are sure that customers will respond positively to,” Doyle remarked.
“We are intending to apply these new concepts to this store and refine the new fitout so we can then run it out to all of our existing stores with the new look. This is a test case for an evolving look in our stores.”
Located on the Sunshine Coast, the Maroochydore store will have a footprint of just under 1000sqm. The size has increased slightly – Dare stores used to typically comprise around 750sqm to 800sqm.
“Now we are targeting around 1000sqm – it is the ideal space to complement our product range,” he said.
The intent of the decor is to keep it simple so the product is the hero. Exposed ceilings and air-conditioning, cement-based floors and neutral-coloured walls give a semi-industrial, on-trend feel. This will be complemented with clever framing of room sets and use of height to attract the eye from one room to the next.
In addition, Dare is changing the store format so that the counter and work station becomes more of a consultation area rather than a processing location.
“This is to ensure that our staff and products meet very seamlessly with the consumers within the business.”
Typically, the Dare Gallery stores are located in homemaker precincts or bulky good precincts with preferred neighbours being other lifestyle retailers targeting similar consumers.
“Even though we compete, we also tend to complement each other, bringing in a similar type of customer,” Doyle observed.
As the stores offer a broad expanse and are very open to make navigation easier for customers, another aim of the new design is to create better ‘precincts’ within the stores.
“Whether they are dining, lounge room or bedroom – creating zones based around the Dare branding, such as Dare to Dream, Dare Kids, Dare Outdoors, and through the use of colours and fixtures, [it’s about] clearly having those zones designated within the stores,” Doyle explained.
The digital area is also a major focus of the business. A temporary website has allowed Dare Gallery to be transactional since around March of this year.
“That was pretty much an immediate success,” Doyle revealed. “This temporary website gave us the ability to dip our toe in the water. It proved successful, so now we’re working on a more service-based site that allows consumers to purchase the product from the comfort of their home and to expand our reach to much more of Australia.”
This online store started trading at a level of around 50 per cent of an average bricks and mortar Dare store.
“When it started, it was our smallest turnover store,” Doyle said. “Now it regularly exceeds the trade of a couple of our bricks and mortar stores. It’s showing significant growth.”
Another target is to increase the database without imposing on consumers, an area in which the new owners have a fair amount of expertise through their previous businesses, as they are predominately based online.
Social media is also a growing focus for Dare. As well as a lot of engagement on Instagram, a strong focus on Facebook has seen numbers swell to over 50,000, from around 500 followers about 12 months ago.
A branded homewares offer is also on the cards for Date, which Doyle said will provide a different edge for the business.
“We’ve made connections with some local artisans and designers in the last six months, and we’re looking at introducing a branded category of homewares products,” Doyle said. “This is set to be introduced later this year.”
Another new category now being offered through the expertise of the new owners is Sealy bedding, introduced in March.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to introduce the Sealy range of bedding into the brand – a very recognised, very trusted brand in bedding,” he said. “So we now have a full range of Sealy products.
“Bedding is very much a focus of where we believe we can achieve growth within the furniture industry.”
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