Wayfair describe themselves as an “online destination for a zillion things home”. Sourcing products from more than 7,000 suppliers, the furniture multinational, which employs 180 people in Galway and over 3,500 globally, offers furniture for every aspect of your home or business. Renate Kohlmann, Site Director and Director of Sales & Service for Europe, tells Sandra Coffey that the Galway office has plans to grow further
The way we buy furniture is changing. Thanks to the growth of online shopping, it doesn’t necessarily involve a trip to the showroom.
Back in 2002, Boston-based entrepreneurs Steve Conine and Niraj Shah analysed Internet search patterns and results and saw a market opportunity to sell stereo racks and stands online. The duo founded CSN Stores, now Wayfair, and starting with just one website, grew to become the largest ecommerce destination for home furnishings and décor through more than 250 standalone sites selling everything from barstools to birdhouses.
Establishing an operations base in the IDA Business Park, Wellpark, Galway towards the end of 2008 was an easy decision for the Wayfair team. It was the quality of life, the infectious atmosphere and the pool of talent that sealed the deal for the US-headquartered company, which also has offices in Germany, the UK and Australia.
The multinational is growing rapidly – it has just announced its latest financial figures, showing total net revenue increased to $594 million, up 76.7% year on year. Direct retail revenue, consisting of sales generated primarily through the sites of Wayfair’s five brands, increased to $545 million, up 90.9%.
New customer growth and repeat customer growth continue to accelerate at a “phenomenal pace” according to the company, as it enhances its offering and builds greater brand awareness with consumers, particularly in the lead-in to the busy festive shopping season.
“We are growing very fast at the moment and we need great people to support this,” says Site Director and Director of Sales & Service for Europe Renate Kohlmann. The markets the company are focusing on are European based, mainly the UK and Germany, but they are piloting an email support programme to US customers and this is something that has potential for growth, she says.
The company is currently seeking to grow its Galway team further. Ms Kohlmann says there is a major talent pool right here in Galway. “We have strong links with the colleges and we always look to hiring locally where possible.”
Within the organisation, there is room for staff to grow and, over the last five years, Ms Kohlmann says that 90 per cent of their management team were developed from within the company, with many starting as Sales and Services Consultants.
“In line with our growth we offer opportunities for people to progress from within the organisation and support career development with both internal training and by financially supporting external training relevant to the job,” says Ms Kohlmann. Training for new hires is vital to the growth of the business, she adds. “We take great care in training staff.”
As Wayfair Galway supports the European customer base, languages are important to them. Right now German is in high demand but French, Italian, Polish and Spanish are being sought together with top notch English written and verbal skills.
People who are looking for a change in career, or people looking to move home to Galway to work in a fast-paced ecommerce company, are also invited to apply for positions available at Wayfair, advises Ms Kohlmann. The company is currently recruiting for a range of different roles within their team in Galway and if you fancy a trip to Berlin, London or Boston, you’ll find opportunities there too.
Wayfair employees are people who are looking to make a difference in a customer’s life through first class support, process design and improvement and through a positive ‘can-do’ approach, according to Ms Kohlmann. “That’s very important to us. We pride ourselves on our customer service. Put simply, we are just people who can relate to our customers, people like ourselves, but in a personable way, and we are passionate about what we do,” she says.
As well as furniture and lighting for the home, Wayfair also retail online to hotels, restaurants, schools and bars and more. They employ designers and specialists who contribute ideas across their range of offerings.
The Galway Operations Centre handles all Sales and Customer Support for Europe and all supplier operations and performance management. They deal with queries on products, deliveries and any issues via phone, email and social media.
Focus at the two other European sites, Berlin and London, is on sourcing, marketing, merchandising and setting the trends for products. “In Berlin and London, the team negotiate and establish agreements with suppliers, plan, manage and produce promotional events, and the Galway crew execute to those deliverables,” Ms Kohlmann explains.
One of the perks of being a Wayfair employee is that every member of staff gets equity in the business when they start. “When customers ring and ask to speak to the owner of the company, our staff can say and have the mindset that they actually own a piece of it,” says Ms Kohlmann.
“It gives them ownership of what they do. We like to listen to our staff and value their opinion. If they have an idea on potential improvements or changes, then we want to hear it.”
For opportunities available at Wayfair, see www.wayfair.com/careers.