After much deliberation, Make Designed Objects (Make) has been chosen as Retailer of the Year and will be representing Australia on the global stage at next year’s gia Awards in Chicago.
Make opened its doors in 2003 and over 18 years the business has grown to become one of Australia's finest design stores.
"Winning the award is a thrill and a great reward for both me and my staff but also for everyone who has been involved with Make over the last 18 years," owner Pat Coppel enthuses.
"Any business is only as good as its staff, suppliers, collaborators and customers and I couldn’t be happier with ours. It’s those relationships that have made Make.
"The last couple of years have been unlike any other in my time in business and I’m really looking forward to representing Australia and meeting with other retailers from around the world."
Providing its customers with an ever evolving range of well-designed products is central to Make’s DNA, he adds.
“We currently stock almost 4,500 products from over 150 brands―the work of over 300 different designers, refreshing up to 1,500 products per year.
“This constant curation of the product range is a significant factor in keeping Make’s customers engaged and expanding in number.
“The Carlton store’s six metre wide façade belies the 240 square metres that unfold over seven separate but interconnected spaces. The labyrinthine nature of the Make store experience provides customers with a sense of adventure and discovery.”
Make regularly consults with designers and makers on product development and has partnered with major institutions in collaborative retail installations including the National Gallery of Victoria and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse) in Sydney. A six-month retail collaboration at the NGV to coincide with the gallery’s Nordic Cool exhibition was extended to over a year due to the project’s success.
Make has been an omnichannel business since before the term omnichannel was a part of the retail lexicon, adds Coppel.
“The first Make website was launched on the first day of bricks and mortar trading in 2003. The current website launched in 2016, built from the ground up with no off the shelf platform.”
Pre-pandemic, Make’s online channel accounted for a little over 30 per cent of direct sales and contributed another 35 per cent of sales through online searches leading to instore sales. During the six months of 2020 lockdowns this moved to 100 per cent online with non-lockdown periods now running at approximately 50 per cent online and 50 per cent instore.
Despite the storefront being closed for six months during the 2020/21 financial year, Make had its best year ever increasing revenue by 30 per cent and operating profit by 131 per cent, a significant jump for a business after 18 years of trading.
Though its business model is product driven, the company is also built on regular customer engagement. In 2020 as Melbourne locked down and the online channel became central to the business, Make moved from a monthly email to a weekly model. The emails have a subscriber list of almost 30,000 and a highly engaged readership.
Competitions have also been a feature of Make’s recent customer engagement including a ‘100 Grapefruit and a Free Fink Jug’ competition, asking customers to share their creative endeavours during lockdown, and a ‘What’s Your Favourite Make Product?’ competition asking customers to explain why a particular purchase from Make still makes them smile.
“Responses to these competitions and others have been enormous and heartening at a time when many people are feeling isolated.
"In a digital environment where consumers are bombarded with generic sales messaging, Make’s emails and customer engagement seek to personalise the experience by engaging in a mode that’s humorous and relevant to the reader’s life, rather than simply their purchasing,” says Coppel.