It’s been eight years since Craig Selvage sticky-taped an internet dongle to the window of his self-described “rundown office” and started selling HD Media Servers over the internet. He chose the name ‘Streamaster’ because he had just come from being a project manager for Motorola’s rollout of Streamaster set top boxes into TransAct homes in Canberra. The project was killed off in the mid-2000s but the name was free to register to Selvage swooped.
Six months after setting up the online store, Steamaster expanded into TVs and computers and eventually small and major appliances. In 2010, a new warehousing facility in Warriewood with rudimentary showrooming capabilities was opened so customers could click and collect. When those premises became outgrown, the company relocated to Brookvale, opening the current store in January 2015.
Reflecting on this changes, from an online retailer to a warehouser to having an actual showroom, Selvage said Streamaster was swimming against the tide.
“Whereas a lot of retailers are moving in the other direction — they are rationalising the amount of retail presence they have — we are actually going the other way,” he told me. “We started off in a warehouse and we’ve moved more towards retail, but we are still predominately online.”
Although you can tell from the images on this page that the new premises are definitely an aesthetic improvement on the old Warriewood, Selvage said they were keeping their ambitions in check. This outlet, for example, doesn’t have the size or the fittings to house large kitchen displays or mock loungerooms complete with state-of-the-art home theatres. It’s much more functional than that.
“We don’t have ovens in situ – it’s not like Harvey Norman or The Good Guys – this is a 100-square-metre store. It’s not a huge store but there are certainly items on display. We don’t have a kitchen area per se, although we do from time to time stock various appliances: if there’s a very high volume washing machine, we’ll stock it, but we wouldn’t have one out of the box for someone to look at.”
Appliance brands listed on Streamaster’s website include De’Longhi, Blanco, Euromaid, Chef, Bosch and ILVE. There are also home entertainment products from Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony and TCL. Consumers have the option of paying online and having goods delivered, paying online and picking up from the retail site, and reserving online and then paying in-store when collecting. Selvage promises “great prices without the haggle” but he insists that he’s not following the lead of other wheeling and dealing online traders by parallel importing.
“We don’t grey market anything. It’s all Australian products. We tried grey marketing watches for a while as an experiment, and we sold a load of them, but the suppliers ended up gazumping us by doing it themselves.”
“No secrets that I am prepared to share,” Selvage said with a laugh. “It’s always a case of cost-of-sale. You have to make sure that your business is run as efficiently as possible. I know what the pain threshold is for Harvey Norman and The Good Guys and most of the other retailers, and we just make sure that the cost-of-sale enables us to sell at a low price point; it’s as simple as that.”
Growth is the plan in the short-to-medium term for Streamaster. Selvage is eyeing bricks and mortar outlets nationwide, but he has no delusions of grand suburban store networks.
“We’re not ever going to be and we don’t plan to be a retailer the size of The Good Guys or Bing Lee or anything like that. I don’t believe that that model is sustainable. I think that having two or three points of presence in each capital city would be ideal but obviously that’s a challenge moving forward.”
This author is on Twitter: @Patrickavenell