For those of us who have not started a family or bought our first homes, we probably wouldn’t have guessed that the consumer home and living market in Singapore is worth S$3 billion annually. And with rising affluence comes the demand for a higher standard of living.
This fact, coupled with the ease of reaching out to a huge global audience, prompted serial entrepreneur Danny Tan to start HipVan back in 2013 with the vision to bring well designed and good quality furniture, home furnishings and lifestyle products to consumers in Singapore.
But it wasn’t easy at first.
Originally positioned as a design-centric online store that sells design products, HipVan was focusing on working with independent brands and designers both locally and from around the world to curate well designed products for its consumers. HipVan then was featuring anything from home furnishings and art to fashion and accessories, and even food.
This might sound familiar to some of you: another friend of ours whom we feature extensively is Naiise, a design-focused online store in Singapore. Naiise has since ventured into pop up stores and opened 3 physical stores in Singapore in Westgate, Wheelock Place and most recently at Clarke Quay Central.
While Naiise chose to take the more conventional route of doing pop up stores and physical store fronts over the past 9 months, HipVan started working more closely with experienced manufacturers to develop their own product lines. One of their latest products is LEVITATE, a high quality pocket spring mattress which retails for three times less than brand name mattresses of similar quality. Other than that, they also have their new range of sofas, beds, lighting, and other furniture.
To date, HipVan has featured approximately 18,000 products from 1,200 brands and designers from around the world, with an ambitious goal of reaching around 60,000 products in the next 2 years. This includes its own product line.
900% Growth Last Year
Growing HipVan over the past 3 years isn’t easy and has its own set of problems, namely logistics and inventory. A big part of this is due to HipVan’s business model of bringing in a wide range of products from new and interesting designers. The large number of designers and brands the team works with means it’s naturally harder to control their supply chain. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that they grew 900% last year, which means they have to scale their operations accordingly.
To ensure that operations and delivery speed is of a satisfying standard, the team of 50 at HipVan recently moved into a new warehouse, which increased their warehousing space by 4 times.
“The biggest challenge for us so far is with operations and improving our delivery speed and reliability. This is what keeps me up at night”, Danny told Vulcan Post.
“We’re trying to hold more products in our warehouse to shorten delivery time and improve reliability of our shipments. Other than that, we’re also adding new delivery vehicles so we can handle more of our deliveries in-house and improve our customers’ delivery experience,” said the chief executive officer.
Competition And Online Focus
Naturally, we had to ask Danny who he considers their main competitor. And while we have our own answer to that question, Danny told us that they are less focused on competition and more concerned with improving their own offerings to customers. We dug deeper into their strategy too, and asked why the pure focus on online. Here’s what Danny had to say:
“The main reason why we operate an online business is so that we can create a more efficient business model and pass on any savings to our customers. We’re firm believers that shopping for furniture and home furnishings online can be a great experience with the ability to access products any time of the day, and shop together with your friends and family through sharing them online. With regards to having a brick and mortar presence, we’re still exploring ways where we can operate more efficiently than traditional retail stores.”
While everything is online for HipVan now, Naiise seems to have figured out a nice online and offline model for themselves, as they previously shared that pop up stores has a higher sales conversion as compared to their online store.
Regardless of whatever strategy HipVan is focusing on, we will be sure to keep an eye on the team’s development. After all, we are big lovers of nicely curated design products!