By Claire Reilly
In just a few weeks, Betta Stores Retail (BSR) will have its newest member store spruced up in blue and yellow livery and ready to trade under the Betta Home Living shingle.
The store is Aus-Appliances, formerly Retravision Kingsford, and it comes to the Betta stable with an independent name and a unique take on online retail. Current.com.au spoke to store proprietor Raul Aiello about the birth of Aus-Appliances online just over two years ago, and the brand’s imminent shift to BSR.
“A couple of years back we felt that Retravision was going to collapse, and we decided to do something to anticipate that — it sort of felt like something was going to go wrong," said Aiello. "So the Aus-Appliances name was born.”
The bricks and mortar Aus-Appliances store, located in the eastern-Sydney suburb of Kingsford, was matched with a website showcasing the retailer’s range of electronics, furniture and appliances – including the store’s selection of Miele products.
Although the website is transactional, Aiello said the retailer had found unexpected success in using the aus-appliances.com.au domain as a way to advertise the store.
“I use the site more as an online advertising medium to drive people into the store,” said Aiello. “That’s really my proposition, because to sell a fridge to Perth for us is not really feasible to be honest. So it’s been good, because people have told me for 20 years – we’ve been here for 20 years – that they didn’t know we were here. It’s a good way for us to connect with people that don’t drive down Gardeners Road [where the store is located].
"We’ve also launched Aus-Furniture – we’re a Furniture One store as well – and Aus-Furniture has been doing very well in that regard, bringing people in from all over Sydney to buy Sealy, La-Z-Boy and Moran furniture.”
Although the brand has been advertising in local newspapers for years, Aiello said he wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the store’s rebranding. As a result, he estimated that as much as half of the retailer’s advertising was no directed to online, through services such as Google Ad Words and Getprice. But he still conceded that the online game was tough.
“If you want my opinion, online is killing us, but you sort of have no choice but to do it as well. If you don’t, then you’ve got nothing. I wonder how many [online retailers] are actually making money though. I’ve seen plenty come and go already, because it’s expensive to deliver.
“9 out of 10 of our negative feedback comments are because Allied Express or Australia Post or somebody destroyed the product. There must be a big cost involved in that if you’re not really well set up like a national major. Obviously Retravision should have done that and they didn’t. But Harvey Norman with 180 stores has a fair bit more control because you’ve got a store in every town.”
As a result of some of the difficulties in organising delivery as a smaller retailer, Aiello said the retailer had focused on serving local Sydney customers well, and using the site to prominently display the store’s address in order to increase foot traffic.
When those customers walk in over the next few weeks, they’ll see Betta and Furniture One branding given pride of place on the store (the changeover from the Retravision shingle was initially delayed by Council difficulties), while the Aus-Appliances logo will still attract the locals.
After all the tumult with Retravision over the last few years, Aiello said he was happy with his new Betta home, but also sad to see Retravision go.
“Every person I’ve met at Betta, up to and including Graeme [Cunningham] has been extremely nice,” he said. “But changing the system from something we’ve known for 19 years to something new has been a lot of effort and work. And changing supplier accounts again – I can’t imagine anyone loves that!”
“We were here when the New South Wales collapse happened in 2006 and we joined Victoria. That collapse obviously happened last year in June, then of course we all joined Western Australia. Anecdotally, the difference I’ve noticed – and I think Sydney Metro guys have a different opinion to the country guys on this one – is that the Victorian [Retravision members] hated Western Australia.
“I think 9 out of 10 people in Victoria hated Western Australia. There was an ongoing feud down there.
“I quite liked Retravision Southern and I’m very sad that it’s gone. I think we all hated the Western Australia four month transition, because no one knew what was going on. I’m sad it happened, it’s as simple as that.”