Tatyana Gedike from St. Petersburg worked for eight years as an interior designer, and then she wanted a change. She realized that it was impossible to find furniture from the 50s and 70s in the city, and began to haul it from the UK. In April, she and her partner opened an ATable store.
After six months of work, they were convinced that there really was a demand for such things, but they managed to get a plus only once. Gedike is not discouraged: she is sure that in the first year of the existence of business, you just need to invest.
Field of activity
Vintage furniture trade
April 17, 2013
About 5 million rubles
Co-founder of ATable Vintage Furniture Store
How it all began
I was engaged in interior design for about eight years. Then it bored me, and I decided to do something else. For a long time I wanted to carry something from abroad to Russia. But taking one thing with you is unprofitable. I decided to take more: suddenly someone else will like it.
I borrowed starting capital from friends. So far, they have probably invested about 80,000 euros (3.5 million rubles). We spent 25,000 pounds (1.3 million rubles) on the first purchase - this, together with delivery and customs clearance. We do everything honestly, we don’t carry goods in black, so this is a big expense item.
My partner was Alexandra - my former customer, about four years ago I designed her an apartment. She is a lawyer by training, but decided to change the field of activity, since design and England are very close to her. She lived in London for a year, she knows the language and the city as a native, which helps a lot in our work. It has all the paperwork, the execution of contracts with suppliers, the preparation of documents for customs and accounting.
I mainly deal with selection - I choose what to carry, I am more experienced in this. I attract buyers and communicate with them, with restorers, pick up fabrics, if necessary, for example, drag a chair.
In addition to us, ATable also has a salesperson and a marketer.
Purchases and prices
All our furniture was brought from England, it is original. Some look like new, because we are restoring it, some are left in their original form.
Neither I nor Sasha ever engaged in purchases or sales. Already in England, which we visited, we met with the Englishman John - he is engaged in vintage furniture, brings it from everywhere and restores. Now it works like our buyer. We trust him so much that we can send him money in return for photographs of things - we show what we like and he personally takes everything to the warehouse. This is beneficial because traveling to England every time is expensive.
Most of the things we buy are not in London itself - everything costs a lot of money there - but in the suburbs, we can leave for 400 kilometers
Now we have already established constant contacts with transport companies that collect things and bring them to the warehouse. The container is usually collected with us within a month.
I try to personally take everything away - from individuals, at fairs and auctions. Accordingly, furniture is never repeated, and we never know what we will bring. Usually my partner and I rent a car and drive. Most of the things we buy are not in London itself - everything costs a lot of money there - but in the suburbs, we can leave for 400 kilometers. If you take into account the costs of customs clearance and delivery, the prices in the store are quite adequate: they correspond to prices in London. But for some reason they are surprised anyway. A mahogany and teak chest of drawers, which costs 60,000 rubles, I saw on eBay for 3,000 pounds (155,000 rubles). But I believe that these things have some value and will only go up in price.
Although we can find more affordable things: there are armchairs for 15,000 rubles, and for 45,000 rubles. Anyone can afford to buy some decorative elements from us. We do not plan to reduce prices, we do not have sales, and we do not do discounts either: only when ordering from 100,000 rubles we give 10% discount. For me, a 20% discount already means that the price is very high.
Of course, there are problems with customs: every time you need to provide a specification, which indicates the size and material of each item. Once we bought a retro radio - it was taken just the day after we put it in the hall, but no one knows how the customs tormented us. They asked what year of release, what frequencies, whether it is of any value.
Once at customs, they decided to open our container. They checked the stuffing in the new sofas, as a result, they threw everything back into the truck anyhow - the console broke down on the way, some things had to be dry cleaned. Some old body was found in one suitcase - it was there when we bought it, but we forgot to put it on the table. The broker sends us a photograph and writes: “What is this? This is not in the declaration!” I had to ask the customs officers to keep it for myself, because otherwise the container could be arrested. But in the end everyone laughed, and the body came to us with a suitcase.
In Europe, vintage furniture is very popular. There, many are fond of interiors, mix new and old, and they almost always have some special thing in their house or office. In Moscow, Mobeledom is engaged in the import of furniture. They are so far the only ones in Moscow, and we are the only ones in St. Petersburg; we have no competitors here. This is surprising because there is demand in Russia.
The first customers were, of course, friends and acquaintances. In the first month, a buyer came and assembled a whole room from our furniture: he took all the best and made us a cash register. But usually they buy one thing, as an art object. Then, designers who were interested in gradually began to learn about us. Half of all the furniture leaves for Moscow - recently, the whole batch of chairs was bought by the Garage. At home, they could not find anything and turned to us.
We still do not advertise. While word of mouth works for us. Oddly enough, while most of the clients come from Instagram - we have 5,000 subscribers there. Of course, not all of these people are our potential buyers, basically they are just lovers of beautiful things. I started it five months ago, before that I didn’t know what it was. At first I began to lay out interesting interiors in which our furniture could be present. Then I delved into this story, subscribed to designers - about 400 people - and began to upload photos of the furniture that is available.
We are not yet able to forecast our earnings - in our business plan this is not spelled out. We made it ourselves and did not turn to specialists for help. While we spend all our revenue on new purchases. The monthly turnover is about 700,000 rubles. I believe that the first year should be invested. But once we already managed to get a plus, we got a ridiculous figure: 66,666 rubles. How much we will earn further depends, of course, on the number of purchases. It may even turn out to lower prices and take at the expense of turnover. We work with different brokers for each delivery - they also have different prices, you need to look for profitable options.
Now we are working in a rented premises, but we want to get our own - we need something more. All the furniture no longer fits, and there is no point in storing it in the warehouse, this is piece goods.
I would like to carry furniture from other European countries, but we also need to go there for reconnaissance, but we still do not have time for this. We will grow gradually.
Author: Natalya Vasenkova
Photo: Yasia Vogelhardt