The furniture industry isn’t what it used to be. At least, that’s what Berkowitz Furniture CEO Peter Berkowitz says. And, as the fourth-generation owner of the family business, Peter knows what he’s talking about. He’s witnessed tremendous change over the years, but the biggest has been the competition.
“When I first joined the business, our only competitors were other family businesses,” Peter shares. “As the years went by, many of the family retailers closed or sold their shops, and big corporate companies took their place.”
It’s been a challenge for Berkowitz Furniture to keep up with the big box stores, but with more than 100 years under its belt, it’s clear this Australian-owned furniture retailer is doing something right. For one thing, what Berkowitz lacks in size, it makes up for in agility.
“We’re not as big, so it can be hard to compete with the big guys on certain things,” Peter explains. “But being a family-run business means we can change things relatively quickly. We have the flexibility.”
The premier furniture retailer also offers customisation, so its customers can create a furnished home that’s as unique as they are. “We always say, ‘Don’t compromise, customise,’” Peter says.
“We offer an array of sofas and hundreds and thousands of ways to customise them in terms of fabrics and sizes. We also have staff in our shops who can help advise customers to choose the right customisations for their lifestyles.”
It’s a good move. According to the ‘Global Home Décor Market Report’, the next few years will see a rise in demand for home furnishings thanks to the boom in the real estate sector and increasing disposable incomes.
Even more, the report forecasts that an increasing number of customers will be looking for bespoke offerings to suit their lifestyles. These shoppers will gravitate towards the brands that offer these personalised services, helping them to create spaces that reflect their personalities.
That personal touch is what makes Berkowitz Furniture such a stand-out in this saturated market. A family-run business through and through, everyone who walks into one of the company’s seven stores (six in Melbourne, one in Adelaide) can feel the difference. “We’re personable,” Peter says.
“Our staff truly care. They’re not just selling a piece of furniture. Each interaction is personalised, and we always look for ways to add that personal touch when we can.” It’s a result of the company’s incredible culture. At Berkowitz, the staff is treated like family.
They feel valued, which in turn trickles down to the customer. “Culture is vital to everything,” Peter stresses. “All of our staff can talk to me any time. It doesn’t matter if it’s the weekend or during the typical nine-to-five, they can call me. There are no barriers and there’s no hierarchy. And we’re very hands on. Our culture is simple – be good to people.”
We always say, ‘Don’t compromise, customise.
And that goes for the company’s suppliers too. After being in business for more than a century, Berkowitz Furniture truly understands the value of having partners that are in it for the long haul.
“When you’re family-owned, you really build relationships with your suppliers,” Peter says. “We work with a lot of very small, family-run businesses where we talk to the owner and operator directly.
“There are no rules. We deal directly with them, and if we need something changed or altered, they are always happy to do it. They work with us to come up with new ideas. We work together as one. We have very loyal suppliers who’ve been good to us, and we’ve been good to them.”
Take, for instance, the company’s relationship with IMG. The Scandinavian-influenced furniture supplier was just starting out in Adelaide when it first approached Berkowitz Furniture. “They didn’t even have an office then,” Peter remembers.
“They brought a container of chairs years ago and from that day, IMG became a major supplier for us. The quality they bring very much matches who we are as Berkowitz. We’re perfectly matched, and that’s been the success of it.”
Berkowitz Furniture is revered for its timeless, conservative modern designs. It sources expertly designed furniture across the globe to ensure its customers have the aesthetic they’re after and the value they deserve.
“Our furniture comes from all around the world,” Peter says. “We have a good range of Australian made furniture, but we also have furniture from Thailand, Vietnam, Norway – all parts of the globe. Our aim is to have something for everyone.”
While Berkowitz Furniture has long appealed to its customers, Peter knows that in order to stay relevant in the future, it’s necessary to continue evolving. Disruptive business models and digitalisation simply can’t be ignored. And, thanks to the help of the company’s fifth generation, they won’t be.
“My son just joined about a year ago, and he’s taking on the digital and marketing aspects of the business. It’s not an area I enjoy, but he certainly likes it,” Peter chuckles.
“We’ve started to upgrade some of our computer systems. This new way of advertising is a whole different ball game compared to the traditional ways we used to do it.” But Peter likes that. He loves going into work, not knowing what each day has in store for him.
“I love the challenge,” he says. “There are always things to deal with. Some are good, and some are not so good. But that’s what keeps me busy. And that challenge keeps me coming back for more.”
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